Teenage Hempfield musician doesn’t let Crohn’s change his tune |

Teenage Hempfield musician doesn’t let Crohn’s change his tune

Stephen Huba
Robert Kosko playing trumpet for the Hempfield Area High School marching band.

Robert Kosko is used to 15-hour days, incessant practices and performances that require equal parts physical strength and mental acuity.

The discipline and endurance necessary for a regular member of the Madison Scouts is taxing enough. For someone with Crohn’s disease, it can push a young man to the limits of his ability.

But Kosko, 18, of Hempfield feels he is up to the challenge.

“The physical aspect is immense, but some people say the mental aspect is the hardest. You’re constantly doing it for months and months, so that gets draining,” he said this week while on his way to a performance in Cincinnati.

Kosko and 150 fellow members of the Madison Scouts performed Thursday night at Moon Area High School as part of a 26-city tour across 15 states.

The competitive drum and bugle corps based in Madison, Wis., tours as a member of Drum Corps International and will participate in the DCI World Championship in Indianapolis from Aug. 9-11.

A trumpet player, Kosko started showing an interest in competitive marching bands as a freshman and kept his eyes on the prize throughout high school, said his father, Paul Kosko.

Despite a potentially debilitating diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, Kosko auditioned three times for drum and bugle corps before the Madison Scouts accepted him this year. He signed a contract in March.

“He’s had a lot of struggles,” Paul Kosko said. “We’re just honored that he was accepted.”

Paul Kosko also credited the support of Brian Tychinski, Hempfield’s band director, and Building Principal Kathleen Charlton.

“The Madison Scouts are one of the oldest and most prestigious organizations in the drum and bugle corps community,” Tychinski said. “I and all of my staff are incredibly proud of him.”

Kosko said he sometimes practiced six hours a day, all while struggling with fatigue and undergoing treatments for Crohn’s disease.

While the Madison Scouts practiced Thursday at Freeport Area High School, Kosko was at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC for a periodic Remicade infusion treatment.

“Not many people get to achieve their dream,” he said. “Some aspects of (drum corps) are even better than I imagined. … The relationships you get here are as firm as in the military.”

The strain on the body can be like that of a marathon runner.

“It can be difficult at times,” he said, noting that he consults with his doctor and the band’s diet and nutrition staff. “You have to deal with it.”

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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