Heights High Musicians Mix Hard Work and Fun at the State Fair

August 7, 2012
Cleveland Heights, OH

L-R: Joe Mullen, Ben Mesh, Abby Rinaldi, Evan Radivoyevitch, Alex Perlec, Oleaser Johnson, Gretchen Drushel, Anne Zackari.

The All-Ohio State Fair Band (AOSFB) has been in existence since 1925. This summer it included 8 students from Cleveland Heights High School.

In mid-July, 200 high school musicians from across the state gathered at the State Fairgrounds in Columbus. Under the direction of Donald Santa-Emma, they promptly started learning nearly 60 pieces of concert music and marches representing some of the best music in band repertoire. They also improved their skills through a number of clinics and sectionals under the batons of numerous professional conductors.

After three days of rehearsal, the students auditioned for, and received, their seat assignments. Gretchen Drushel noted that “the Heights High musicians all got really good seat placements, and we learned how good our IMD (Instrumental Music Department) is compared to a lot of other schools. We are very fortunate at Heights.”

A trip to the Ohio Statehouse at the end of the week gave the band the opportunity to expand their knowledge of the state's judicial system and politics. It also gave them the chance to meet Governor John Kasich, who tried his hand at conducting the young musicians in John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” a national, and state fair, favorite. 

The next day meant the start of the AOSFB’s demanding task of entertaining thousands of fairgoers for 11 days straight. All told, they played nearly 100 concerts and marched in a daily parade. The rigor of the performances was balanced with the fun of the state fair. According to Ben Mesh, “playing Stars and Stripes while riding the giant Ferris wheel was totally awesome!”

Mesh is a veteran state fair musician. “AOSFB is the highlight of my summer,” he said. “Being there is like being with my third family, after the Heights IMD and my actual family.”

Such enthusiasm prompted Oleaser Johnson to apply for the AOSFB, even though she didn’t know what to expect. “I had never been to the fair, or stayed away from home for an extended period of time,” she explained. “This type of adventure was only something that I saw on television or in movies.”

Evan Radivoyevitch, also a first-time AOSFB member, reflected on his two weeks with the group. “Now that AOSFB is over for the summer, I realize that it was really a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too. I know that I came home a much better musician, and I liked meeting other high school students from all over Ohio. It was nice to learn that we actually have a lot in common with each other, not just our love for playing music.”