Enjoy the Sounds of Ohio’s Blind Marching Band

members of the marching band hold up banner and play instruments during a paradeWhat? You didn’t see the Ohio School for the Blind (OSSB) Marching band leading the Outback Bowl Parade on New Year’s Eve? I didn’t, either.

I have an excuse,though: I can’t see!

I can tell you this, though: the world’s only blind marching band sure sounded fabulous, and if you missed it, don’t fret:you can see – and hear – highlights here.

Comprised of 7th through 12th graders from across the state of Ohio, the OSSB marching band not only marched in the parade but also performed with other high school bands during the halftime show on New Year’s Day.

Community volunteers act as marching assistants to guide the musicians while on and off the field. “They know their steps already,” a marching assistant named Sandy Wilson explained in a Bay News story about the OSSB marching band. “We just sort of help them make sure they stay in line.”

The Music Intstruction page on the Ohio State School for the Blind web site explains their emphasis on music:

Music is an essential part of the education at OSSB. Since most of our students have little to no vision, music takes on added significance as the most approachable art form in which they can participate.

All students at OSSB take music classes, and students learn to play by ear and read music Braille as well. Guests from the Artist in Residence program present lessons that expose the students to music of other countries, allowing educators to promote cultural diversity and tolerance. The emphasis of music at that school is obvious from their scheduling:

  • Private lessons occur once a week
  • Multiple students with disabilities have music three times a week
  • Jr. High Students have music five times a week
  • High School Choir meets five times a week
  • High School Marching Band meets five times a week, holds a marching practice once a week during football season, and Participants must also attend a week long band camp during the summer

The blind marching band plays at area football games, performs as a pep band at the Ohio School for the Deaf basketball games, and travels to events in and outside of Ohio –they marched in the Rose Bowl parade a few years before appearing at this year’s Outback Bowl. A 14-year-old drummer in the band did a beautiful job expressing the importance of performances like these in that Bay News story: “Some people think that even though we’re blind that we’re not capable of performing,” she said. “I want them to be happy and amazed after our performance, I want them to think like, ‘wow, they really are the only blind band in the world and they can play music and they can do everything just like any other band.'”

Back in high school I was in the marching band.

Back in high school I was in the marching band.

I was in my high school marching band back when I was a teenager. I was a pretty gawky teen, never had a boyfriend, never went to prom. But I had a ball in the band, especially on bus rides to and from performances at other schools and in other states. Many of my closest friends today are kids I met in marching band, and I trust the same will be true for these kids from Ohio. March on!


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