NORDONIA HILLS — Nordonia High School’s marching band has gotten used to recognition in competitions, but this has been one for the record books.
"This year has been the best year we’ve ever had," said Band Director Tom Weaver. "We have won grand champion awards in the past, but not as many as we have won this year."
Between late June, when practice began, and the end of the marching band season, the band in its state qualifier class, which is based on school size, earned superior ratings and placed second in the Ohio Music Education Association competition in Louisville; first place — grand champion — in the Norton and New Philadelphia OMEA competitions; earned a superior rating at the OMEA State Finals; and placed in the top 20 in its class at the Bands of America regional championship at Ball State University in Indiana.
Weaver said that in addition, the band always does well in the Bands of America Grand National Finals in Indianapolis, typically placing somewhere between fifth and 10th place among around 90 bands in its class. That, however, is not among its achievements this year since the competition is held every two years, with 2019 an off year.
"As a high school, we’re incredibly proud of our high school band," said Principal Casey Wright.
In addition, in Norton the band earned the Director’s Cup, best auxiliary and best visual designations and in New Philadelphia, best music and auxiliary.
Weaver said the successes are a team effort.
"We have great kids, we have great parents, we have a great administration and we have a great band staff [including Assistant band Director Kevin Niese] and great adjunct band staff," he said. "It’s a combination of everything working well together."
Weaver, a Macedonia resident, is in his seventh year in his current job in a 28-year career, including 17 years at Firestone High School in Akron. He holds bachelors and masters degrees in music education from Bowling Green State University.
"It was just an overall love for music," said Weaver, explaining why he chose his profession. "Love of being able to share that with other people."
Up through the 2018-19 school year, Weaver was also a band parent, with his son Eric a member. Eric Weaver, who graduated in 2019, is now a freshman and music major focusing on jazz studies and jazz composition at Oberlin College.
The marching band, which included 131 members this year, a typical number, plays at all the football games, and during the annual Memorial Day parade in addition to all the competitions.
"This is a band that never quits," said Wright. "One thing people never see is how hard this band works to be as great as they are."
Weaver said he sees the district’s overall instrumental music program, including at Lee Eaton Elementary School and Nordonia Middle School, to be crucial for the marching band’s success.
"I think we have a great program here, [grades] six through 12, that teaches the kids great fundamentals of their instrument in sixth, seventh and eighth grade, so that at the high school, we’re able to take advantage of that," he said. "But we have a great structure here at the high school for our marching band season where the kids know what to expect."
He said the basic approach of himself and the band staff is encouragement along with expectations to bring out the best in the students.
"We have a saying, ‘Thank you for being awesome,’" said Weaver. "So we hold the kids to a high standard and teach them how to get the most out of themselves."
Weaver said the marching band’s last performance this year was Nov. 2, but the public can still get a taste of the musician’s skills with their instruments.
"We have shifted into wind ensemble and concert band so all the kids are auditioned into the two bands at the end of marching band season every year," he said. "We are now preparing for our Winter Arts Festival on Dec. 14."
The festival will be at the high school from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will include musical performances throughout the day by choirs and bands from all six buildings, a breakfast with Santa and lunch concessions by the Nordonia Band Aides, displays of student art, vendors and family activities.
Weaver said that as he approaches the end of his seventh year, he still gets enjoyment and satisfaction from his job.
"It’s a pleasure to work here," he said. "A great school system, a great community."
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JeffSaunders_RP.