100 Years of Instrumental Music at Heights – Part 3


This is the final entry in our series examining the one hundred years of history of the Heights Instrumental Music Department. You can read part one and part two on the Heights Schools Foundation website.

In addition to the marching band, concert band, and orchestra, a number of smaller ensembles have flourished in the instrumental music department since its inception. Among them was the eminent Jazz Band, directed in the 1980s by James Bane, which hosted a yearly “Jazz Nite,” performed at festivals, and toured the country along with the other large ensembles. By this time, Heights’ instrumental music department had become so popular that it was necessary to employ multiple directors. One such director, Robert Bergantino, taught at Heights High for nearly two decades. Ronna Caplan, of the Class of 1970, reflects, “I credit [Bergantino] for impacting my career path for the remainder of my professional life. He helped provide me with a focus and he enabled me to integrate my professional values with my personal ones.” Bergantino, as is documented in BOPO records, was in addition to being an excellent educator, a ceaseless advocate for the importance of the arts in public education. It is through the advocacy of teachers and staff like him, parent groups, and our incredible students that Heights High’s music program not only survives, but continues to grow and develop.

The words of Cleveland Heights High School’s current band director, Dr. Nicholas Marzuola, reflect this dedication to continuing excellence:

The Heights IMD has one of the most storied and rich histories of instrumental music education at the high school level in the United States. I am delighted that Heights High students are still thriving in this program a century after its founding; we’ve been through an ongoing pandemic, personnel changes, and challenges from outside forces such as EdChoice and budget cuts at the state level. Despite these obstacles, the Heights High IMD programs including Orchestras, Concert Bands, Jazz Ensembles, Jazz Combos, and Chamber Ensembles are not only still performing, but are doing so at a high level. I think that is a testament to this community and most importantly, the passion, dedication, and love for music performance that our students exhibit every single day.

In honor of the Centennial Celebration of the organized Instrumental Music Department, Heights Schools Foundation has made a special investment for new instruments at the middle school level. After the challenges of the pandemic, HSF is proud to further develop the stream of students ready to play in the full range of opportunities at Heights High. Further, a new partnership with a local music shop offers a way for recently-played student instruments that are no longer needed to be donated, refurbished and put back into use. You can join our efforts to build the band and orchestra programs after COVID-19 dramatically impacted instrumental music. Heights Schools Foundation offers several opportunities to invest in inspiring the next generation of musicians.