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Published: Wednesday, 6/18/2008

Marching band at Clay twirls to tune of high school's tradition

BY MEREDITH BYERS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Jerin D'Anniballe beats his drum during band practice at Clay High School in Oregon. The students in the high school's marching band keep the beat alive for the school, and musicians start learning in fifth grade. The band travels every other year. In April, the band marched down Main Street at Disney World. Jerin D'Anniballe beats his drum during band practice at Clay High School in Oregon. The students in the high school's marching band keep the beat alive for the school, and musicians start learning in fifth grade. The band travels every other year. In April, the band marched down Main Street at Disney World.
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Darla Bohland had tears in her eyes as she watched her son march down Main Street at Disney World.

Ms. Bohland's son, Stephen, 17, plays the trumpet in the marching band at Clay High School.

In April, Clay's band traveled to Disney World in Orlando, continuing its tradition of taking its show on the road every other year and following up its 2006 performance in front of the Statue of Liberty in New York City. When the band isn't on the road, it practices year-round and performs at each of Clay's football games.

"It's such a proud moment to see your son play," said Ms. Bohland, a former clarinet player at Lakota High School, who encouraged her two sons to participate in band for the learning experience and memories that accompany being part of a musical ensemble.

The traditions of Clay's band run deep.

Shannon Novin, left, and Danyna Ferguson play the bells. Shannon Novin, left, and Danyna Ferguson play the bells.
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Students who join the band make a year-long commitment to practice and then perform at numerous events over the course of a year. This season begins with band camp that starts on July 31 and lasts for most of August.

On Saturday, the band will perform in a parade at the Northwest Ohio Volunteer Firemen Association gathering in Upper Sandusky. At the event, bands will compete in a parade according to school size - a competition Clay has won in its division for the last two years.

Brian Gyuras, a 1987 Clay graduate, has served as the Oregon Schools' head band director and has been responsible for the band program in all seven of the district's schools since 1999. Oregon school students begin their band education in fifth grade with Mr. Gyuras teaching them how to play instruments and read music.

Students in sixth through eighth grade play in a concert band, which plays music but does not march. For ninth through twelfth grade students, band is taught as a class, with practices being held during the school day and occasionally after school.

"My favorite part is seeing the kids mature from their playing from fifth grade up to high school and seeing them get that adrenaline pumping on Friday night at a football game," Mr. Gyuras said. "It's a natural high - and anyone can catch it by playing."

Drum Major Sean McGee makes a high-flying leap at band practice at Clay. Drum Major Sean McGee makes a high-flying leap at band practice at Clay.
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Mr. Gyuras is the third band director in the school's history.

The first, Nancy Bricker, was also the first female band director in Ohio. Known by her students as "Teach," Ms. Bricker was beloved in the community.

She died of cancer at age 36, and the band wing of Clay is named in her honor. The wing will be rededicated with an official plaque this fall.

The second director, Chuck Neal, was band director for about 35 years. Mr. Neal was a mentor to Mr. Gyuras.

Clay's band has several special traditions.

One includes a 'double time' style marching, which includes a drum major who leads the band, and majorettes, a group of high school girls who twirl batons.

The high school's band tradition is so vibrant that its former members - now graduated and in the real world - return to Clay every two years to play in the alumni band. It is the largest high school alumni band in the state, boosters say.

The alumni band plays every other year. When it performs, they play classic tunes such as "Georgia on my Mind" and "Basin Street Blues."

The Clay High School Alumni Band will perform on Oct. 10 during the halftime show of the Clay Eagles and Scott Bulldogs football game.

Clay's student band program is funded primarily by the Clay Band Parents, and is also funded by the district. Even though the band has its own booster's program and raises money by selling concessions and holding fund-raisers, it isn't immune to the district's budget concerns.

Alison Williams, the assistant band director, is leaving Clay to become assistant band director at Sylvania Southview High School.

There is some concern that the position will not be filled. Two parents and Mr. Gyuras spoke at last week's Oregon Board of Education meeting and encouraged the board to fill the position.

To parents, Oregon's band program and its leaders are invaluable.

Shawn Badik has two daughters, Nicole and Megan, who participate in Oregon's band program. Nicole, 13, plays flute at Eisenhower Middle School, and Megan, 16, plays clarinet and tenor saxophone and participates in the flag corps.

Ms. Badik said the band provides a good social atmosphere for students.

"It's a good group of kids to be with," Ms. Badik said. "It's not so much learning how to play the instrument, but it's also the discipline and socialization. Megan does so much better in school while she's in band."

Sean McGee, 16, the drum major, leads the Clay band during performances, and said he loves performing during Friday night football games.

He recalled an event a few years ago in which eight bands performed.

"When I was twirling, I had seven bands wanting me to do more," he said. "I got a standing ovation. It was a pretty great feeling."

Contact Meredith Byers at:

mbyers@theblade.com

or 419-724-6101.



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