Over the din of the football players’ yells and the parents’ cheering, a hush falls over the student section. The piercing, familiar clang of Mr. Boelkins prized cowbell rings out:
DING DING DING, DA-DING DING DA-DING DING, DING DING DING DA-DING!
“GO HAWKS!” the student section replies, pumping their fists in the air.
Since the earliest days of Forest Hills Eastern, the playing of the cowbell has become an iconic ritual heard at sporting events and pep rallies. And like many of the best traditions, it is a family affair.
The Daniels family has been attending Eastern since its opening, and each of the six Daniels siblings were members of band. The beginning of the Daniels Cowbell Dynasty started with Mitchell Daniels (‘10), who played the french horn throughout high school. His freshman year, he began the traditions of the cowbell and the “third gong down” — where he would bring the gong out to the field and hit it similar to the Ohio State tradition. However, the gong was cumbersome to transport, and the tradition was retired in 2012 with the graduation of his sister Megan. The custom of the cowbell persisted.
“The cowbell didn’t originally start with my oldest brother… he eventually got it through other band mates. Then the cowbell got passed down to my sister Megan (‘12) who played alto saxophone, then to my next sister Jessica (‘15), who was the first in the drumline. There was a year where after Jessica had the cowbell [and none of our other siblings were in band because Spencer (‘17) quit after his sophomore year]. So she gave it to Kelly McDonagh (‘17) who was also in percussion… Kelly gave it to me his senior year [when I was] a freshman. Since then it has [stayed] in the drumline,” explained Bryan Daniels (‘20) of the cowbells origins within his family and the percussion section.
Eliza (‘22) and Bryan, the two youngest Daniels, are both soccer players, golf connoisseurs, music lovers, and most importantly, dedicated percussionists.
With every preceding Daniels being a part of high school band, there was no question in each of their minds that percussion was the place to be. “Both [parents] were in band… our dad played the trumpet… our mom played the clarinet,” said Bryan. “The expectation was that we’d join band.” Keeping band in the family was not the only reason for joining. “I also do it because I love music!” exclaimed Eliza. “It is a good class to take that isn’t the traditional academic classes. It is a nice break from all the stressful “textbook” classes… [also] we’ve got to keep the tradition alive!”
When asked how they felt about joining the ranks of iconic band sibling duos, they replied that it was better than they originally thought it would be. “It was weird at first because I thought I couldn’t say a lot of stuff I could before,” confessed Bryan, “but it’s been pretty good I guess.”
Eliza was mainly excited about always being able to secure rides to practice.
“All of the Daniels share a wonderful enthusiasm for Eastern and a healthy respect for the cowbell. They bring a real sense of energy to the game and their own personal flare with the bell,” said Mr. Paul Boelkins, the band director who has had the pleasure of having each Daniels member in his band. “The one question we all want answered is, ‘who will tend the responsibilities of the cowbell when Eliza graduates in 2022?’”
As Eliza, the last of the Daniels, approaches the halfway mark of her highschool career, the fate of the cowbell is yet to be determined. “I’m not sure,” she admitted of the cowbell’s future. “I think I’ll be looking for an outstanding drumline member to will it too.”
Although the Daniels Dynasty will someday come to an end, the legacy they left behind has been ingrained into FHE football traditions. The cowbell will undoubtedly continue to ring out over the crowd for years to come.