Shaker Heights HS marching band is Spain-bound

Posted at 8:36 PM, Mar 11, 2016

There is the story of a pied piper, who with his music, played so well as he played his way through European towns that people of the community began to follow him.

That will be the case in Spain, but there will be nearly 400 high school pied pipers from the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights who will play music enticing enough for townsfolk to turn out and join the parade of musicians.

The marching band of Shaker Heights High School, the largest marching band of any other high school or any college in Ohio, is practicing daily for its trip to Spain.   Although the high school football team has concluded its season, the marching band is still filling up the field.

"Who takes 450 people on a trip to Spain over Spring Break to perform at the 2,000-year-old Roman Aquaduct and to perform in front of the Madrid Royal Palace?" asked Daniel Crain, one of the band directors.  Without a hesitation, Crain answered his own question.  "There are several dozen school administrators, parents, and others in the Shaker Heights community who will accompany the band."

The band has long had a following because music is held in the highest regard in the Shaker Schools system. 

"A lot of these kids have been playing since they were in fourth and fifth grades, so they have already bought into the discipline required in music," said Ken Leegrand, a band director.

Every student in the Shaker system must study a musical instrument in elementary school.  Many students continue their lessons.  The music is part of the fabric of the Shaker Heights education.

The Spain trip, set for a week beginning March 23, is another in a long line of international performances. 

"This is my seventh international tour," said Crain.  "My first was to New Zealand and Australia."

The students are understandably excited about playing five cities in Spain. 

"The greatest feeling in the world is just hearing that opening chord of 'Star Wars' when it is blasted at you," said Matthew McMillan, a band member.  Certainly, that piece will be on the list of songs played.  As well, the students, many of whom will be accompanied by their parents, will enjoy the sights of Spain.  Each student and each person who goes pays his or her own way.

"Overall, the band program is basically a family in the city and how it can bring families together," said Will Clawson III, a sophomore trumpeter. 

Spain is set to roll out a red carpet for the marching band.  When the band begins to play, it will do so on a thoroughfare leading to the plaza where the actual concert will be performed.  But as the bandsmen walk through the community, they will be playing, much as a pied piper would do.  That will draw in the crowds which will follow along. 

"Oh, absolutely," said Jason Clemens, co-head marching band director.  "We'll practically close the city down."

High school marching bands are not widespread outside North America.  In Europe, most high schools have nothing to compare to many dozen students playing for their schools. 

"It will be a big show in Spain," said a parent who stood on the sidelines of the Shaker Heights football field where the band was practicing.  "A big show indeed."

The Shaker Heights kids will play in Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Segovia, and Toledo.