By JAMIE BAKER
Findlay High School’s basketball team isn’t playing in this year’s OHSAA state basketball tournament.
But that doesn’t mean Findlay High won’t be represented at Value City Arena.
Just as he did during last weekend’s state girls tournament, junior Alex Harada will be playing a rather unique rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before tonight’s Division I state semifinal game between Cincinnati Walnut Hills and Toledo Rogers at 8:30 p.m.
He’ll play the national anthem on his violin.
Harada’s road to performing at the OHSAA state tournament began this season on the ice at The Cube’s Huntington Bank Arena.
“One of the hockey coaches, Cliff Browne, asked me to play the national anthem on the hockey team’s senior night. I wanted to make it special for the seniors on both teams and I think they enjoyed it,” Harada said.
“Our athletic director, Mr. Nate Weirhauch, was there. A lot of Findlay parents called him and some of the parents from the opposing schools called him and complimented me on the national anthem.”
His performance at the hockey team’s senior night led to another engagement to play the national anthem before Findlay High’s boys basketball senior night against Lima Senior.
“The coaches told me it was the loudest cheer they’ve heard after the national anthem,” Harada said.
Current OHSAA assistant commissioner and former FHS Athletic Director Jerry Snodgrass heard about Harada and helped pave the way for him to play the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the state basketball tournament.
Harada is an accomplished violinist and has played in large venues before. As a member of the national orchestra, he played at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and at the Columbus Convention Center as a member of the all-state orchestra.
But playing in front of several thousand people at Value City Arena, he admitted, was a unique experience.
“It was a really different environment because I’m used to playing at home at Findlay High School. I’m kind of used to playing in a big place. But really, when you think about it, I was playing at a basketball game which makes it kind of crazy,” said Harada, who has been playing the instrument for nine years.
“This is the first time they used an instrument for the national anthem. They usually have a group of singers or someone singing a capella. This was an experiment for them and I think they enjoyed it. The commissioner even said he enjoyed it.”
When Harada moved to Findlay from Tokyo six years ago, he never imagined he’d be stepping on the biggest stage in Ohio high school sports with his violin.
“I was worried about getting into the flow of things at Findlay. I lived in Tokyo and its so big, you’re kind of independent,” Harada said.
“In Findlay your part of the community so getting to represent Findlay by doing something like this is pretty cool.”