100 Years of Instrumental Music at Heights – Part 2


In celebration of the Heights High Instrumental Music Department’s centennial anniversary, we are delving into the department’s history across a series of blog posts. Previously, we examined the story of the first orchestra’s founding during the 1921-1922 academic year. Now, let us turn to the subject of the department’s continued development.

In 1932, the Instrumental Music  Department reached a new milestone in its growth: the founding of the Height’s Band and Orchestra Parent Organization, affectionately shortened as “BOPO.” The organization, which is still active today, supports the  IMD, helping to plan and chaperone trips, providing volunteers for performances,  and creating a sense of community for student musicians and their parents.

Scrapbooks and other records donated by the BOPO to the Heights Schools Foundation’s historical archives provide fascinating insights into the history of the department and its intersections with the culture and history of the Cleveland area. One of the scrapbooks contains a program from a guest performance of the Heights band at the First Cleveland Cavalry’s Circus in 1932. The First Cleveland Cavalry was an independent military company founded in 1877 and had among its earliest members noteworthy Clevelanders such as David Norton, Charles Bolton, and Samuel Mather. Another event during this time period which featured performances by the department was the annual military ball, in which students gathered in full dress and finery to dance and enjoy the music of the Heights High Band. The IMD students also enjoyed the opportunity to go on tours with their ensembles, annually visiting Washington D.C. as well as other midwestern cities.

In addition to documenting performances, the BOPO’s materials include information about many of the key leaders of the IMD. John Farinacci, who began his tenure at Heights in 1949, was well loved by his pupils and continued the legacy of excellence in instrumental music at the school. Heights alumna Marcia Hileman Clark, of the Class of 1963 recalls that,

Playing violin, then harp in the Heights High Orchestra was definitely a highlight of my years at CHHS. Our travels and performances were so inspirational especially playing at the Boston Conservatory and in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Canada, and more. Mr. John Farinacci was our inspiration, as he challenged us to perform Sibelius, Beethoven, Mozart, and so many others.


When Mr. Farinacci went on to become a principal at Heights High in the early 1960s,  his position was filled by another well-regarded director, Kaarlo Mackey. Though his time at Heights was short, as his life ended in a tragic car accident in 1967, Mackey’s impact is still felt at the school today. According to alumna Lanie (Leni Lewitt) Veenstra, of the Class of June 1967, Mackey was a stickler for intonation and expected excellence from his students. Mackey’s legacy is preserved at Heights through a scholarship recently established by the aforementioned alumna, the Lewitt Music Scholarship. The award, to be first awarded in 2022, will support a graduating senior who has plans to pursue higher education and a career in music. The efforts of our alumni and community, whether through giving funds for grants and scholarships, volunteering at concerts and tours, or preserving the records that make retelling the IMD’s history possible, ensure that the richness of instrumental music at Heights will live on for generations to come.