Friday, April 30, 1999

Family keeps up with three beats

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Dave and Lisa Ohmer often find themselves marching to the beat of a different drummer.

Everyone has a story worth telling. At least, that's the theory. To test it, Tempo is throwing darts at the phone book. When a dart hits a name, a reporter dials the phone number and asks if someone in the home will be interviewed. Stories appear on Fridays.
        That drummer might be their son Dave, 18, or their daughter, Stacie, 16, or their son Chad, 11. Mr. and Mrs. Ohmer, you see, are parents of three percussionists.

        No, Mr. and Mrs. Ohmer don't walk around their Miami Heights home wearing earplugs.

        In fact, they are huge supporters of their children's musical endeavors. Mrs. Ohmer is president of the Taylor High School Band Boosters; Mr. Ohmer heads up the “pit crew” of fathers who haul equipment for the marching band.

        “The pay's good,” says Mr. Ohmer, 41, who can keep a straight face when he's joking.

        In fall, especially, Mr. and Mrs. Ohmer devote many hours to band activities. That's good, but so is this: The Ohmer kids welcome their parents' participation.

        “It's nice to have them there if anything goes wrong,” says Stacie, a junior drum major during marching band season; she plays xylophone and bells during concert band.

        And things do go wrong.

        In the fall of 1997, Taylor High earned its first trip to the Ohio Music Educators Association state marching band finals. On contest day, students gathered at the North Bend school at 5 a.m. for the trip to Columbus.

        The musicians were expecting to board yellow school buses, but parents surprised them with a spacious charter bus so they could ride in style.

        Near Kings Island, the transmission conked out. The bus pulled off the road, and fears mounted about missing the competition. “Everyone started panicking,” Mr. Ohmer says.

        Another bus was dispatched, but it wasn't big enough to accommodate all the students. So parents — including the Ohmers — came to the rescue, taking some musicians in cars.

        The band arrived in Columbus with almost no time to warm up. Competition officials “almost didn't let us perform,” Stacie says. Nevertheless, the band received an “excellent” rating, a notch below the top award of “superior.”

        Tonight, the Ohmers will be on the road again as Taylor High participates for the third year in the state concert band finals in West Carrollton. “You can't go to a concert and not just beam with pride over your children,” Mrs. Ohmer, 40, says.

        She is a meeting planner, and her husband is a construction heavy-equipment operator. Neither of them have much musical background, although Mrs. Ohmer notes that her husband sang in an elementary school choir and “has an ear for music.”

        Stacie hears this and can't control her giggling. “You sang in the choir?” she asks her father.

        Dave Jr. was the first of the children to make a mark in music, taking up the drums in sixth grade after a year of playing trumpet. He's a '98 Taylor High grad, and will head this fall to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

        He'll study music. And he'll team up again with friends who were part of a rock band that used to practice in the Ohmers' basement.

        “We'd always try to give them advice,” Mrs. Ohmer says, “which they wouldn't often take.”

        Such as?

        “Turn it down!” Mr. Ohmer says. He's kidding again.

        “Really,” he adds, “they were pretty good.” Good enough to take second place in the Rumble, a band contest at Bogart's.

        Young Dave's drums are set up in the basement. He rubs his fingers along a new 8-inch cymbal.

        “It's his favorite cymbal because when he bought it (two weeks ago) he met the Afghan Whigs,” Stacie says.

        “I was just standing there (at the Guitar Center in Forest Fair Mall),” Dave says, “and they walk in behind me. The cashier's asking me questions and I'm clueless because I'm (saying), "Do you know who that was?”'

        “I never even heard of them,” Mr. Ohmer says of the Cincinnati's premier alternative band. He's probably not kidding this time.

        It won't be long that Dave will pack his new cymbal and the rest of his drums and head to college.

        “Thank God,” Mr. Ohmer says.

        Every one of the Ohmers knows he doesn't really mean it.


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