Prior to 1950
The early history of instrumental music in the Minerva schools is similar to other American schools. A small orchestra was first organized in 1916 as an extra-curricular activity. A series of general music teachers lead the small orchestra in the 1920s, and this was not unusual. The small orchestra was made into a credited class meeting during school time in 1923, about the same time this began happening at other American schools.
A small band was formed in 1929, and then disappears, not reappearing as a permanent organization until 1932-33. A Mr. Manley led it until 1936, of whom nothing is known. The longest serving instrumental music teacher prior to 1950 was Kenneth Ruckman who remained at his post for 6 and one half years, from 1939 until mid 1945-46. The band at this time was about 60 plus members.
James Lamb was from Cleveland, and a graduate of Baldwin Wallace College. When he came to Minerva in 1950, the band was still about 60 or so members, and there was still about a 20 plus piece orchestra. Although the orchestra ceases to exist for the rest of the school’s history in 1955, the band grew to over 90 members by 1958.
Lamb was an able teacher, administrator, and recruiter. He was strongly organized and ethical, and had a solid philosophy of music education. Perhaps his only weakness was that of a conductor. He did not excel at conducting advanced symphonic literature. About 1958 a young man from the Pittsburgh area studying music education at Mt. Union College, John Shaffer, student taught at Minerva. Lamb immediately recognized his value as a musician/conductor. He became Lamb’s assistant beginning in 1959-60.
Soon a deal was worked out between the two that would leave Lamb in charge of the Marching Band, but Shaffer in charge of the Concert Band. This somewhat unusual arrangement would ensure that generations of Minerva youth received a superior music education. Lamb’s keen understanding of his own limitations and the personal sacrifice of some of his authority over the program was something very few school band directors would be willing to do. In addition, Lamb’s philosophy of music education meant that the marching band would never “take over” the band program as often happens in American high schools.
The band grew in quantity and quality throughout the decade of the 60s. The numbers grew to the point where in 1963-64 it became necessary to split the concert band into advanced (Concert) and intermediate (Cadet) groups. The Concert Band (later renamed the Symphonic Band) began receiving Superior (I) ratings at Ohio Music Educators Association District and State adjudication festivals in 1965 and would do so consistently for the next 15 years. More importantly, the Concert Band also began receiving invitations to local, state, and national professional music conferences in 1967. These invitations were based on tapes sent the previous year to committees in a blind audition process.
Recordings of the various groups, including high school and junior high, began to be made in 1965, which document the high quality of the bands. In 1968, John Stadler of Salem, who had student taught at Minerva out of Mt. Union, was added to the band staff, which gave the program a percussion (Lamb), woodwind (Shaffer), and brass (Stadler) instructor. In December 1968, the Concert Band traveled to the Midwest Band Clinic in Chicago, perhaps one of the most prestigious invitations that a school band can receive.
The quality program of the later 60’s continued into the 1970s. The Symphonic Band was voted “Ohio Band of the Year” in 1970. The Marching Band peaked in size in the falls of 1972 and 1973 at over 120 members, and then by the fall of 1975 fell to just over 100 members. The Symphonic Band continued to receive Superior (I) ratings at OMEA District and State adjudication festivals and receive invitations to professional music conferences.
By the late 70s, however, some minor problems began to emerge. In order to maintain quality control in the Symphonic Band, the size of the group had to be reduced by approximately 12 members to about 73 in 1978 and 1979. The last invitation the Symphonic Band would receive to a professional music conference came in 1979, when the group traveled to Indianapolis to a Music Educators National Conference Regional Convention. The last recording of the Symphonic Band was also made that year at that convention. At Christmas 1979, Shaffer conducted the Symphonic Band for the last time. After the Christmas holidays, he returned as an administrator, becoming the high school principal a year or so later.
In January, John Stadler took over John Shaffer’s duties as Symphonic Band Director, and another student teacher, Debra Tissot, became the assistant band director. James Lamb retired at the end of the 1979-80 year and was replaced as Marching Band Director by John Krauss of Salem, who graduated from the Dana School of Music at Youngstown State in 1973, and had been teaching band at Warren Western Reserve High School for the previous seven years.
In 1980, The Symphonic Band received excellent (II) ratings at adjudication festivals for the first time since 1964, and did so again in 1981. The Marching Band dropped to 90 members in the falls of 1980 and 1981, the first time the group had been this small since 1960. Within a few years, however, the hard work and dedication of the new team, along with help from principal John Shaffer, began to pay dividends. Both the quality and quantity of the groups began to again increase.
The Symphonic Band received superior (I) ratings at District and State OMEA adjudication festivals beginning in 1982, and continued to do so through 1992, with the exception of 1985. The Marching Band increased once again to over 100 in 1985, 115 in 1986, and stayed over 90 for the rest of the decade. A recording made of an indoor marching band concert in 1987 documents the high quality of musicianship. Unfortunately, the Symphonic Band did not record or travel to professional music conferences at this time despite the fact that the Symphonic Bands from the period 1986-90 probably played as well as the bands of the late 70s.
The Marching Band dropped to 65 members in the falls of 1994 and 1995, the smallest the band had been since the early 1950s. The Symphonic Band received its last consistent Superior (I) ratings at OMEA District and State adjudication festivals in 1992 and also traveled to Washington DC that spring.
In 2018, under the direction of director Derrick Maxey, the Marching Band rose to its biggest size in twenty-five years at 87 members. The concert bands have been renamed the Wind Symphony and Symphonic Band. The Wind Symphony continues to perform at Ohio Music Education Association adjudicated events at the class C level.