The University Heights Symphonic Band (UHSB) began in 1970 as a summer-season performing group. The band was organized by Dr. Harvey Sisler under the auspices of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education.
Originally known as the John Carroll University-University Heights Symphonic Band, the community ensemble enjoyed a close relationship with JCU because of Dr. Sisler’s teaching in the music department. This relationship afforded the band access to the university’s resources, such as large instruments, music library and rehearsal space. During his forty-year tenure, he handled all arrangements for the group: planning rehearsals, programming, booking concerts, publicity and marketing.
Under Dr. Sisler, the band occasionally toured other cities. This included a tour of Chicago in 1979, Circus World (Florida) in 1980, and a tour of Ontario Canada in 1985, which included stops in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Burlington and Toronto.
When Dr. Sisler left the JCU faculty in 1986, the band simply became known as the University Heights Symphonic Band and the sponsorship of the ensemble was assumed by the city of University Heights.
In December 2010, following the sudden death of Dr. Sisler, UHSB euphonium player and retired band director Roy Hawthorne was appointed to be the group’s second conductor. At this time, an official Steering Committee was formed to handle formal band business and provide the group with more definitive direction.
In 2015, Matthew Salvaggio was appointed the group’s third conductor, following Roy Hawthorne’s retirement. Since his appointment, the group has achieved 501(c)(3) non-profit status, the membership of the group has expanded, and the ensemble has become one of the premier community bands in Northeastern Ohio. As such, the ensemble has been invited to perform at more high-profile spaces.
The 2019-2020 marked the group’s 50th anniversary, and UHSB performed its first-ever concert season at John Carroll University’s Kulas Auditorium until COVID restrictions prohibited rehearsals and performances. During the summer of 2021, UHSB was able to resume with some socially distanced outdoor rehearsals and concerts.
In March of 2022, UHSB welcomed a new director, Devlin Pope, the fourth in the band’s history. With COVID restrictions relaxed, the band and audiences welcomed the return to a full season of rehearsals and performances.
Recent collaborations include performing concerts with the Cleveland Winds, Medina Community Band, Lakeland Civic Band, Strongsville Community Band, and Lake Effect Concert Band. Past performance venues have included John Carroll University, Cleveland State University, the Mentor Amphitheatre, James A. Garfield National Historic Site, the Grove Amphitheatre, and Lake Catholic High School.
Personnel are just as diverse as the music. Band members come from the greater Cleveland area, including Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina and Summit counties. In addition to professional musicians, performers may also be students, doctors, nurses, professors, music educators, teachers, engineers, accountants, etc. Band members share their common love of fine music and a driving interest in perfecting their performances. Auditions are open to all and are held any time during the year.
The UHSB is a member of the Association of Concert Bands.