Shaker Heights – only place in the USA where as many fans come to see the high school marching band as well as the football team

Football was my first love, but I’ll be the first to admit America can be a bit over the top when it comes to ball games. It’s nice to know there is one place on the planet where the drawing card is not just the football team itself, but the band playing in the halftime performance.

The Shaker Heights school system in the Greater Cleveland area emphasizes the arts and education, and is the rare place where spectators attend the ritual fall weekend game to admire both the band and the ball club.

Julianne, Doug & Rachel

Julianne, Doug & Rachel

Shaker Heights has largest marching band in Ohio with over 370 members.  The band is so large that five field commanders are strategically deployed across the field so that all band members have visibility to a student director to keep the entire ensemble in unison.

The school has long been recognized for its strong academics. It is also the only public school in Cuyahoga County to offer the international baccalaureate; a degree recognized by universities worldwide that was established by my school here in Geneva. Shaker Heights, considered a feeder school for Ivy League colleges, regularly churns out National Merit scholars.

Like athletes, band members train hard and are highly committed to their team, the Pride of Shaker Heights. Band camp begins a week before school. Band meets as a regularly scheduled class during the first period of the day and during the fall meets outdoors to prepare multiple halftime shows for the season.

Until I began following my niece, Rachel, and nephew, Mark’s high school career, I had little understanding of the amount of practice and precision that goes into marching band.

“Not only must the music be technically correct,” my niece explained, “but the footwork must be perfect.”

Timing is everything!

Mark, friend and Rachel play the sax

Mark, friend and Rachel play the sax

Rachel, a senior, is the section leader for the tenor saxophones. She has fun ordering her younger brother, a sophomore around as part of her 5-member squad.  All the music must be memorized. Drum line, symbols, base, snare drums and quads….

Imagine the organization involved to pack up 13 buses full of band members and all their instruments to travel to away football games?

A platoon of parents keeps things run smoothly under the orchestration of my sister-in-law Julianne, who is Co-President of the volunteer parent Band Boosters organization. She manages a regiment of volunteers who help with the cleaning, mending, and distribution uniforms as well as trip planning and fund raising.

Every 3 years the band travels internationally, combining cultural education with performances abroad. During her freshman year Rachel traveled to Austria, Italy, and Germany to march in Venice, Innsbruck and Salzburg. This year Mark and Rachel and their band mates will be traveling to Turkey and performing in Istanbul and on the site of ancient Roman ruins of Ephesus.  My brother and sister-in-law have courageously agreed to chaperone the group.

Unfortunately since I live so far away I never have had the opportunity to see the band live, but youtube offers a glimpse of the action, so every Saturday, I step to the beat in Switzerland! Rachel and Mark featured with tenor sax in the last song, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.

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Take me out to the ball game. I don’t want to miss the halftime show. Gosh, I miss America!