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Unity in Harmony

Marching Band experience unites diverse students through a shared passion.

Music has always had a way of bringing people together, no matter how different they may be. In the case of the Ohio Northern University Marching Band, it’s the centerpiece of a beautiful medley of students who may never have otherwise crossed paths.

The ONU Marching Band, nicknamed the “The Star of Northwest Ohio,” is open to all students and offers a unique experience. Comprised of members from nearly every academic major across campus, it facilitates an intermingling of students with different interests, backgrounds and aspirations, but they all have at least one thing in common: a love for making music.

Any band member will tell you that the Marching Band is like one big family. One of the best things about this family is that they welcome you with open arms, just as you are, from the very beginning.

Adam Grim, a senior music education major from Ada, Ohio, remembers how nervous he was his freshman year of band camp, being in a new place and not knowing many people around him.

Sophomore alto saxophone player Justin Kindle practices with the Marching Band at Dial-Roberson Stadium.“When you come into a new place, you’re always a little afraid about getting to know people,” Grim says. “Marching Band is a place where everyone welcomes new people, all musicians, who are here for the same reason: to make music together. Once I realized that, I wasn’t afraid because I knew we were all joining together toward this common goal.”

That common goal has led to so many strong and lasting friendships between a diverse body of people. From chemistry to engineering to political science majors, the band is a truly authentic cross section of the ONU student body. Any band member will freely admit that if it wasn’t for Marching Band, they would never have met many of their friends who study in different academic areas.

Marching Band is especially popular with majors in technical fields, such as the sciences and pharmacy. The creativity and artistry of playing music acts as a perfect complement to the technical nature of their studies, giving them balance and an outlet to relieve stress.

It’s something that I can do and let my mind just release – a passion,” says Justin Kindle, a sophomore chemistry major from De Graff, Ohio. “If I only studied chemistry all the time, I think I would get very bored. So band changes it up and takes my mind off of the structure of my studies.

Like any kind of activity, though, there is plenty of work involved. In addition to playing an instrument, members also have to memorize thousands of notes, steps and formations. Combined with the diligence and dedication it takes to put in hours and hours of practice, that’s quite a tall order. Nevertheless, when everyone does their part, there’s a certain magic in seeing all the intricate pieces come together to make a great show, and that makes it all worth it – just like the hard-fought game on the very same field that culminates in a victory. Marching Band is the closest thing musicians have to a sport, and the camaraderie is just as strong.

Freshman piccolo player Victoria Risko cheers with members of the Marching Band during Homecoming 2017.“There’s a reason that I joined Marching Band, and there’s a reason I come back every year,” says Claire Kasavich, a fifth-year pharmacy major from Chagrin Falls, Ohio. “A lot of it has to do with the friendships. There are some rough days out there, but getting through it together and seeing the end result is what keeps us coming back.”

Ultimately, what really matters is having fun together pursuing their passions. It’s a classic part of the college experience: enjoying activities you’re passionate about and the resulting friendships and lessons learned. Whether it’s Marching Band or something else, it’s essential for each student to branch out beyond just what they learn in the classroom.

Students need to have a contrary voice, a contrary view that will broaden their experience,” says Dr. Charles Bates, director of the ONU Marching Band. “They need to have something other than just their studies. It gives them a broad picture of what life is going to be when they leave this place, and it shows them that they can do a lot of things in this world.

Of course, you don’t get a true broadening of view from just marching on the field at halftime – you have to see the world too. Traveling is a significant part of the Marching Band experience, and for many band members, the most memorable. In recent years, the band has performed in numerous venues across the country and abroad, including Beijing, Shanghai, Rome, Sorrento, Hawaii, Paris, London, Montreal, Toronto and Los Angeles. This year, the band performs in parades in Chicago and San Diego.

Ohio Northern University’s motto is “Ex Diversitate Vires,” which means “out of strength diversity.” The ONU Marching Band is the epitome of this statement. Melding together different people, and putting them in a variety of settings and situations, leads to a unified experience between true friends. This bond is strong, and it’s something those who share will carry with them long after they’ve marched off the field for the last time.