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Blind marching band highlights Outback Bowl festivities

Formed in 2005, the Ohio-based band will perform at halftime of the Outback Bowl
The Ohio State School for the Blind marching band leads a parade of thousands of members of the Lions Club in Seattle in July 2011. The latest version of the band performs at tonight's Outback Bowl New Year's Eve Parade in Ybor City, and at halftime of Wednesday afternoon's Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.
The Ohio State School for the Blind marching band leads a parade of thousands of members of the Lions Club in Seattle in July 2011. The latest version of the band performs at tonight's Outback Bowl New Year's Eve Parade in Ybor City, and at halftime of Wednesday afternoon's Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. [ ELAINE THOMPSON | AP ]
Published Dec. 31, 2019|Updated Dec. 31, 2019

Though the list of items that patrons are prohibited from bringing inside Raymond James Stadium seemingly grows every year, Outback Bowl entrants will catch a break.

Handkerchiefs are still permissible. For many, they could come in quite handy Wednesday.

The Ohio State School for the Blind Marching Band, which has traveled all corners of the country performing and inspiring for 15 years, will play at this evening’s Outback Bowl New Year’s Eve Parade in Ybor City (starting at 5:30), and at halftime of Wednesday afternoon’s Outback Bowl.

“It surprises me every time ― though I guess I should be used to it ― how many people after they watch our band are in tears,” said Yolanda Johnson, the school’s music and marching band director.

“The best part of it is that I get calls from other students and other schools who are trying to get into their band programs, and because of our kids, it’s inspiring other people to allow other kids with visual impairments in other places to be a part of things.”

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The 25-member band, which consists of students in grades 7-12, initially was formed in 2005 by now-retired director Carol Agler to play for the Ohio School for the Deaf’s football program.

Since then, it has performed in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C., and Lions Club parades in Seattle and Chicago. It also plays at area high schools, and remains a fixture at various annual festivals and parades throughout Ohio.

The Ohio State School for the Blind marching band performs at a competition at Westerville (Ohio) North High. The 25-member band will play at tonight's Outback Bowl New Year's Eve Parade in Ybor City, and at halftime of Wednesday afternoon's Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. [Photo provided by Aaron Layne]
The Ohio State School for the Blind marching band performs at a competition at Westerville (Ohio) North High. The 25-member band will play at tonight's Outback Bowl New Year's Eve Parade in Ybor City, and at halftime of Wednesday afternoon's Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. [Photo provided by Aaron Layne] [ Aaron Layne ]

Fundraisers, community donors and service organizations such as the Lions Club help defray travel costs. Assistants stand on the field to help guide the performers during the routines, though Johnson says their involvement often is minimal.

“There are some students that do march by themselves,” she said. “It’s funny because the kids usually memorize the marching part faster than the adults, so they end up helping the adults with the show.”

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