Shaker Heights Band Gets Down

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.

For more information:

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

Posted in education, family, inspiration, relationships, social view.


  1. Pat, this is truly splendid — I wasn’t aware high schools had band that huge, accomplished, and well-traveled! Colleges, yes, but not high schools. What a wonderful experience your niece and nephew are getting (their parents, too!). I rather miss chaperoning band — the energy and enthusiasm of the young people is positively uplifting — but colleges don’t need parents to accompany the students the way high schools do. I hope your niece and nephew plan to continue with band at the college level!

    • Thanks Debbie. Were you a band member at Old Miss? I am sure they will continue at the college level as music is such an integral part of their lives.You can truly appreciate all the precision and energy that goes into each performance.

      • As a matter of fact, Pat, yes, I was in the Ole Miss Band — a scholarship paid ALL of my out-of-state tuition plus most of my book fees. I even considered majoring in music, but my nerves at solo performances would have done me in, ha!

  2. Pat, Thanks for sharing this spectacular halftime show. How great you can keep up with your niece and nephew through YouTube. Congratulations to them both. I’ve never seen a high school band this large. I can see why they draw the crowds. It’s interesting, as I was reading your post and viewing the video, I thought of Debbie and how much she would enjoy this so I was happy to see she was the first to comment. I’m so happy you two have connected!

    • Yes, thanks so much for connecting us! At family reunions Mark and Rachel always play us a few of their latest pieces. I am grateful for youtube so I can see them perform, even if only vicariously.

  3. Pat, Thanks for sharing Doug’s kids’ activities and particularly, their band accomplishments. Perhaps if you look back in your old year books you will see that your high school, too, had a large and gifted band program. While not quite as large as Rachel and Mark’s band, the Sterling High School Marching Band traveled to competitions at various Illinois colleges and was selected to be one of the Illinois schools marching in the Oktoberfest parade (all 5 miles of it) in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. And every Friday evening in the fall, the band provided a halftime show and music for your sister Sue’s group (no MP3 players and boom boxes in those days). Throughout the year, the band gave performances at various locations as it wasn’t until the late 70s/early 80s that the school even had an auditorium. Thanks again for the wonderful post and for enlightening your readers with the hard work and dedication that musicians have. Keep playing Rachel and Mark! Proudly writing this note after playing my oboe in a community orchestra performance this afternoon some 40 years after I played my first piece in 3rd grade, Kathy

    • Kath, yes, I do indeed remember SHS marching band; however, I was unaware that they traveled to competitions and paraded in the Oktoberfest! Wow! They should do a feature about it in the Blue & Gold. I have to laugh at your line MP3 players didn’t exist, so the band backed up the Pom Pom performances. Sterling really was a fabulous town to grow to up in and Sterling High School, a great place to be educated at. Oh and of course the E.19th Street was the finest “hood” on the planet!tee hee

    • Kathy,
      thanks for bringing back SHS marching band memories! great to hear you are still sharing your talents in community orchestra!will have to come listen to you in person one of these days!! How often are having to replace to those replace those Oboe reeds these days??

  4. Sis,
    love it! love it! Yes, the down side of living in different countries and states is not being able to witness these cool performances by Mark and Rachel! The youtube pieces are the next best thing though! Thanks for sharing the “Art of Music”!

  5. No worrie Pat, you represent America very well! I loved the marching bands back in high school and couldn’t wait for half time to see the beautiful performances of the team colors, instruments & choreographed marches of the band.

    I’m glad its still a part of schools.

  6. Bravo on the great article and to the Shaker Heights band. I was lucky enough to see them perform last fall and I was totallly awed by their talent and impressive half time performance. There is no doubt that the musicians bring great pride and enjoyment to the community.

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