They're the leaders of the bands

Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Whether playing a traditional fight song or rousing fire-up tune, the true spirit of a high school football game begins with the band.

But the music that pumps up the team and half-time shows that entertain the crowd are the result of hours of hard work, beginning in the summer.

First-year Sandusky Central Catholic School director Sheila O'Connor said a band's effort before the final product on the football field is monumental.

"In early August we have a one-week band camp," she said, noting the week-long preparation is nothing like the outrageous American Pie version. "We meet at the football field from 8 to 5 with a one-hour break."

O'Connor said the band students work hard to learn the basics of marching and how to move their feet properly, in addition to playing their instruments and learning drills.

Edison High School marching band director Denise Reilly said her students get their music in May and learn 25 or more songs over the summer.

Ken McFarlan of Sandusky High School, who is in his 33rd year as a band director, said his students meet two to three times a week during the summer to prepare music for the first game. Sandusky has its band camp during the two weeks before school opens.

A 7- to 10-minute half-time show goes fast, but Reilly said the thrill of the performance makes all the hard work over the summer seem worthwhile.

"It's so exciting (to be out on the field)," she said. "It's a very charging feeling (being under the lights)."

Along with learning the required music, many of the band directors give their students the opportunity to choreograph dance routines for the half-time shows.

"The kids make up all the dances and the moves," Reilly said. "When they've got it down, we get together over the summer and they show me what they've come up with."

Some consider marching band to be a sport due to the amount of time, energy and endurance put into a show. Not only do the students play instruments, but they must do so while marching to fast-paced, memorized routines. They stretch beforehand and rely on teamwork.

The directors said band members should be cooperative, motivated, able to work well with others and able to lead other people to success.

"Most often," O'Connor said, "leaders are naturally drawn toward band, and I'm not sure why. Most of the kids push themselves pretty hard to be involved in several activities. Since we're a smaller school, kids want to be involved as much as possible."

Sandusky Central Catholic

Director: Shelia O'Connor

Age: 23

Years as a band director: First year

Instruments played in high school: Clarinet and violin

Favorite marching band song: Malaguena

Best part of the job: Interacting with the students

Worst part of the job: Staying organized


Director: Denise Reilly

Age: 45

Years as a band director: 24

Instruments played in high school: Trumpet; was also head majorette

Favorite marching band song: GImme Some Lovin' and Basin Street Blues

Best part of the job: The most favorite part of my job is the students. I really enjoy the kids when they are so proud of their personal successes in the music department. Whether they are playing a band instrument or singing for a concert, they always strive to do their best efforts. Their faces shine when they know they have achieved their goals with their music.

Favorite memory: My most favorite memory is a very recent one and also very dear to my heart. The Charger band was recently selected to perform on the Fox 8 TV morning news broadcast. We loaded the buses in the parking lot at Edison High School at 4:30 a.m. and took off for Cleveland. We had just gotten on to State Route 2 near Vermilion, and our first bus of the three broke down along the side of the road. The band made the best of the trip and crunched onto the two remaining buses and forged on to Cleveland. We arrived in the parking lot of Fox 8 Studios at 6:20 a.m. We were due on the air by 6:35. The band stepped up to the challenge and made their first ever television local performance in flying colors. I was so proud of their efforts and outstanding behavior throughout the entire show.


Director: Kenneth McFarlan

Years as a band director: 33

Instruments played in high school: Clarinet, sax, baritone

Favorite marching band song: Aztec Fire

Best part of the job: Students achieving success is always the best part of the job.


Director: Craig McKenzie

Age: 45

Years as a band director: 22

Instruments played in high school: Trombone

Best part of the job: The best part of the job is watching the students grow up over a seven-year span from elementary students to young adults. Most teachers do not get the benefit of getting to know their students over a long period of time.

Favorite memory: After 22 years of teaching in four school districts, there are many fond memories to choose from. The most memorable may be the performance trips to Disney, Hershey Park and a cruise to the Bahamas.


Director: Adam Reardon

Age: 26

Years as a band director: 5

Instruments played in high school: Trombone

Favorite marching band song: In the Stone

Best part of the job: All the hard work that goes into the final product, which is either a Friday night show or a concert.

Favorite memory: Helping a student who is struggling to grasp a concept and seeing them finally accomplish it.


Director: Tom O'Shaughnessy

Age: 49

Years as a band director: 28

Instruments played in high school: Trumpet

Favorite marching band song: The Perkins High School Fight Song and the Alma Mater

Best part of the job: Watching the growth of the students as they mature from not knowing anything about playing an instrument to becoming fine musicians as seniors, with many continuing to play in college.

Worst part of the job: The incredible amount of time it takes to do it well.

Favorite memory: My absolute favorite part thing about the job is having graduates return to attend performances and state competitions, expressing how much the program meant to them. It is very humbling to realize the high standards they helped us establish for this program are still important to them years after they graduate. It is important to them that "Traditions of Excellence" continue and they support the current members in that goal.

Port Clinton

Director: Rod Miller

Age: 42

Years as a band director: 20

Instruments played in high school: Tuba

Favorite marching band song: Louie Louie

Best part of the job: The kids

Worst part of the job: Getting older

Favorite memory: Seeing any of my graduates march at the college level.