Band-O-Rama Returns to Marietta

On any given fall Friday night, the sound of drums can be heard echoing from Don Drumm stadium just off Greene Street. In the Midwest, Friday often means football, but fall? Fall means marching band. Whether it is the Star-Spangled Banner while the audience stands in the bleachers, the high school fight song whenever there is a good play completed on the field, or the halftime performance that the students have spent months working to put together, the marching band can be found sharing their talents with the crowd during hometown games. Some know, and some don’t, that the school marching band spends their Saturdays preparing, travelling and performing that halftime performance all over the state of Ohio. Fortunately, there is one weekend, every fall, when fans of our very own Marietta Wall of Sound marching band only have to venture a few blocks to watch them, as well as other marching bands from around the region showcase their talents and hard work for placements and ratings determined by the Ohio Music Education Association. This year, on October 2, The Wall of Sound will be hosting their very own marching band competition for its 60th year.

The Marietta Band-O-Rama was first introduced in 1961 during the tenure of band director Grover Buxton. Buxton began teaching at Marietta in 1948 after honorable service in the Army Air Corps during WWII and turned the director’s baton over to Marshall Kimble in the early 1970s. Buxton was an accomplished musician himself and turned that passion for music into a legacy of teaching and revealing the magic of music to his students, who have carried those memories with them throughout their adult lives.

When the Band-O-Rama contest was first held, it was the only one of its kind in the state. Popularity was growing in the interest of music education, however there was not an established competition circuit yet in place. Then, like so many other firsts in this town, Marietta pulled together and created one. In the spirit of being Pioneers, or in this case, Tigers, The Marietta High School Band Boosters have managed to keep that ambition strong and the Band-O-Rama is now both the oldest and the longest running marching band competition in the state of Ohio.

All of this would not be possible with the students who dedicate hours and months to learning music, drill (marching the patterns on the field) and correct techniques to put those together. The success of the competition as well as the marching band and music program also depends on the support of the local community. The last big wave of marching band interest has begun to shrink, but it only takes the support of a community like Marietta to share the interest in building the pride and glory back up to the levels that the music program saw in years past.

Most of all, the Band-O-Rama, as well as so many other events the band participates in throughout the year, could absolutely not function without the work and dedication of the Band Boosters organization. Per current booster president Lisa Bammerlin, the hardest part about putting on the Band-O-Rama each is year is getting the help needed to run all of the different aspects.

“We’ve had to cut back on a few fundraisers that used to be part of the day, like the 50/50 drawing and having a separate baked goods table,” said Bammerlin. With a smaller band in recent years, the Band Boosters have also become a smaller group. Less students means less parents to volunteer their time. Still, they are still a dedicated group, often taking on multiple responsibilities in addition to their already busy daily lives to make sure that all of the kids in the band get to experience the feeling of family and support that comes with being a part of group of peers, working toward the same goal. The Marietta Band Booster Organization is definitely the support wall that keeps the Wall of Sound marching on.

For some students it is their first ever experience performing at the Band-O-Rama. For others, it will be their last. Often the students who begin in school band class in 6th grade go on to become the leaders who continue playing through their senior year and beyond. There are currently former band members marching with both The Ohio University Marching 110, as well as The Ohio State University (TBDBITL) Buckeye marching band. There are some parents who were not a part of marching band growing up, so competing and putting on a competition was a learning curve for them. The current band also has parents who grew up being a part of the Marietta High School Tiger band, as they were known prior to adopting their current moniker as The Wall of Sound, and a few who marched for rival schools back in the day.

Whether a former marcher, a never marcher, or just an observer who enjoys watching marching band contests, the reward is always going to be watching that beloved student, and their friends, showcase the blood, sweat, tears, and unimaginable amount of time put in to perform a 15 minute show and leave their entire heart out there on the field.

For former member and current senior band parent Stacey Johnson, who has both marched with the Wall of Sound and guided her son through the marching band life, “Watching Nate will always have been the most rewarding part! It is an amazing full circle to watch him march onto the same field as I did. I loved being able to march with him in the homecoming parade – sharing our love and pride for the Wall of Sound. Even after 27 years, the sound of Amazing Grace makes me tear up. Once you are a brick in the wall, you are one forever.”

You can watch the Wall of Sound perform this Saturday, October 2 at the 2021 Band-O-Rama at Don Drumm Stadium in Marietta. Current Band Director Korey Parlin is leading the Wall of Sound for his second year, this is his first Band-O-Rama from behind the scenes. Information about the band program and upcoming events can be found on the website, as well as the Facebook page!