Doctors didn’t expect Wayne Magee to live to see 2 years old. Not only was he in and out of the hospital because of a heart defect and respiratory issues, but he was also diagnosed with a rare genetic skeletal disorder called cleidocranial dysplasia. His skull wasn’t forming fully around his brain; he was missing teeth and a collarbone.
At 4 months old, he was placed in the foster care system with his eventual adoptive mother, Ida Magee. Growing up, he became the target of bullying since he had to wear a big white helmet. But bullying wasn’t an issue when he joined Troop 42 in Youngstown, Ohio.
“Scouting was a refuge,” Magee says. “It was a chance to get around men who were leaders and solid family men, and see their example — something I lacked at home. It was a place for me to learn from father figures. It was a place where I was accepted. I felt like I was one of the guys. At school, I felt singled out and different.”
In Scouting, Magee found not only leaders to admire, but also opportunities to grow as a person.
“The one that saved me was knot-tying,” Magee says. “I really gravitated toward that. I had a rope with me all the time. It was something I was good at. I’d do it with speed but also teach it to others.”
Another interest he developed was music. In the sixth grade, he bought a trumpet from a family friend’s yard sale. He took the instrument with him to campouts and meetings, serving as the troop’s bugler. That blossoming talent morphed into a career.
Magee, who earned the Eagle Scout Award in 2002, works as the director of bands, honor guard and drill team at Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, Mass. There, he leads a 40-member band, which, before the COVID-19 pandemic, typically played at about 50 events across the country every year.
“What I bring to the classroom is what I got from Scouting,” Magee says. “I get to see that Scouting experience played out here. It’s a nice group to work with, and a lot of them are Eagle Scouts, too.”
Wearing their uniforms, the regimented military band has performed in parades honoring veterans, at school events and for private engagements. The job combines his passions for music and leadership, which he imparts to his students.
Magee wrote a book titled Tough Blows: A Lifelong Journey of Defying the Odds about his life and overcoming struggles. In the book, he credits his involvement in band and Scouting as driving forces that led him to where he is today. He wrote it also to honor his mother, who fostered 130 children. She died in 2015. It additionally honors his brother Lee, a teacher who died in 2017.
“They’re the reason why I’m who I am,” he says. “They pushed me to believe I could do it.”