68 total, 13 brass, 13 percussion, 11 woodwinds, 2 banner carriers, 29 Marching Assistants--sighted individuals who march alongside OSSBMB members. These marching assistants range in age from junior high through grandparents ages. All are volunteers..
The Hathaway Brown Upper School Orchestra directed by Linda Simon-Mietus joined forces with OSSB to present a concert in April 2009 including one selection by both groups together. Here is Linda Simon-Mietus' article about that experience:
Ohio State School for the Blind Band. It proved to be an experience of a lifetime. In 1998 music teacher Carol Agler joined the Ohio State School for the Blind faculty to teach music K-12. Seeing instruments longing to be played, Mrs. Agler envisioned an Ohio State School for the Blind Band. Winning "Opera Columbus Educator of the Year" in 2003, and "Columbus Symphony Orchestra Music Educator of the Year" in 2008, Mrs. Agler worked tirelessly to make her dream a reality.
In 2005 Mrs. Agler acted on the Ohio School for the Deaf's request for a band at their football games and turned the band into the only blind marching band in the nation. Joined by co-director Dan Kelley in 2006, this unbeatable pair formed what can only be referred to as an amazing marching band whose signature drill is "Script Braille Ohio!" to "Le Regiment" a la Ohio State University Marching Band. Thirty-five players strong, the band, along with their volunteer marching assistants, will fly to California next winter to march in the 2010 Tournament of Roses Parade. The Hathaway Brown School Orchestra and Ohio State School for the Blind Band prepared an outstanding program together. The plan was for each ensemble to play a couple pieces independently, and then join forces to perform Gustav Holst's "Jupiter." The moment rehearsal began; Simon-Mietus knew she was in for an experience of a lifetime. The OSSB musicians were so incredibly confident. They listened beautifully, played with a great sound, and knew their music so well they even had the rehearsal numbers memorized. The concert was a great success.
School History: In 1837, the Ohio government established the Ohio Institution for the Education of the Blind. This institution was the predecessor of the Ohio State School for the Blind. It was the first public school for the blind in the United States. The school opened its doors in 1837, and it was located in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Any blind children residing in Ohio could attend the institution.
In the early 1900s, the Ohio Institution for the Education of the Blind became known as the Ohio State School for the Blind, and the Ohio Department of Education assumed control of the school. In 1953, the school moved ten miles north of its original location to its present home. In 2008, 122 students enrolled in the Ohio State School for the Blind. Students as young as five and as old as twenty-one years of age attended the school. Students could receive their entire education--kindergarten through high school--at the institution. In addition, the Ohio State School for the Blind offers vocational training for its students.
The Ohio State School for the Blind, a publicly funded educational facility, is dedicated to the intellectual, social, physical, and emotional growth of students with visual impairments, including those with multiple disabilities. Their mission is to work cooperatively with students, families, and the community to provide an effective, enjoyable educational experience through specialized, curriculum, equipment, materials, and individualized, disability-specific instruction to develop their students' unique potential.
Band History: When Carol Agler joined OSSB as the music teacher K-12 in 1998 she learned that the instrumental program had stopped 13 years prior when the band director retired and was not replaced. Upon discovering quality band instruments in storage she petitioned to revive the band program, launching her first experience being a band leader. The junior high music class members became a brass band, and the next fall high school band was offered as well. Students played at pep rallies and in concerts. Since jazz was the natural medium for visually impaired musicians, they focused on jazz and some joined the Thomas Worthington High School Jazz Band, Mrs. Agler driving them to attend rehearsals after school. After two years the high school band performed independently as a jazz band playing at the Columbus Music Hall on Teen Jazz nights. Dan Kelley, technology teacher at OSSB often worked with Mrs. Agler lending his expertise as a trumpet player, jazz musician and music educator. In 2003 Carol Agler was selected Opera Columbus' Educator of the Year. In 2008 she received the Columbus Symphony Orchestra Secondary Music Educator Award.
In 2005 The Ohio School for the Deaf revived its football program after a 33-year hiatus. Their superintendent invited Mrs. Agler to provide a marching band for their home games. She transformed the high school band into a marching band, developing their signature drill Braille "Ohio!" to Le Regiment a la The Ohio State University Marching Band. They became the ONLY marching band at a school for the blind in the USA, possibly the world! After marching season they continued to play as a pep band at Ohio School for the Deaf home basketball games, a practice that continues to this day.
The next summer she and now co-director Dan Kelley held OSSBMB's first band camp. Thinking of their audience, the two co-directors chose a half-time show of drills to Le Regiment, Come On Feel the Noise, and the 1812 Overture (a number that surely even the deaf could feel). Carol Agler recruited and trained volunteer adult and student marching assistants (including her husband Fred and daughter Mandy) to help the band students march the drills safely. She recruited band camp staff as well. She and daughter Mandy (who was in the OSUMB two years) created the marching drills, and continue that collaboration. The Ohio State University Marching Band's Assistant Director Jonathan Waters welcomed OSSBMB in their summer sessions during band camp week, helping the band members to learn marching skills, the OSUMB members modeling great musicianship and energy. Jonathan Waters continues this practice to this day.
Trumpet player Dan Kelley who has been blind since birth and who holds a Bachelors degree in music education as well as a Masters in Visual Impairments, proved to be a skilled and charismatic conductor and now conducts the band. Under his baton the band has developed a huge rich sound. The two friends Agler and Kelley work to create interesting half-time shows with new challenges both musically and physically each season. A college music assistant position was created, now held by Martin Williams who assists wherever possible and generates all the adaptive forms of music beginning with the music notation program FINALE. The band members learn music using SmartMusic, a program that allows them to hear their parts individually or with the band as slowly as they choose. Many of the band members have the skill "perfect pitch," meaning they can identify any pitch they hear. They work independently with SmartMusic to learn their music. Others read enlarged music or Braille music as they use SmartMusic. Mr. Kelley uses the program LIME to hear the score or parts played as keyboard sounds and GOODFEEL to create Braille music scores. These programs have "leveled the playing field" for musicians with visual impairments.
Because OSSB students go back to their homes all over the state every weekend, holiday and weekend parades are not options for this band. Mrs. Agler began her career teaching general and vocal music at Circleville Junior High School and thus knew the Circleville Pumpkin Show is held from Wednesday through Saturday during late October. This offered the possibility to march in a weekday parade. OSSBMB has marched in 3 Pumpkin Show parades. It is a thrill for the band to play for a continuous route of cheering fans. This parade has been a highlight of every season.
Dan Kelley's experience coaching many sports at OSSB including swimming, wrestling, goal ball, and forensics (public speaking) comes into play as he leads his band, marching assistants and co-director in conditioning practices. His experience in traveling with these teams to other schools for the blind in other states paves the way for the Pasadena trip.
Together Kelley and Agler (AKA "Grandma Carol" to Kelley's son who will be 3 on Jan. 2nd) have formed an awesome band and team of marching assistants. The band has doubled in size from 17 to 34 members ages 13-19 plus 3 or more alumni that will march in the Rose Parade as well as in other events this school year.
The Rose Parade provides an opportunity to demonstrate to the WORLD what incredible musicians blind and visually impaired students can be, and to provide a model for other programs and students. We hope to give visually impaired students the imagination and tools to reach their full potential. We hope other band directors will follow our lead and readily include visually impaired students in their marching bands. OSSBMB students, staff, and assistants are thrilled to have been awarded this honor.