It’s been two weeks since Ohio State University Marching Band director Jonathan Waters was fired and the story has shown little sign of dying down. This week Mr. Waters finally broke his silence, appearing on The Today Show, Good Morning America, and Inside Edition to tell his side of the story. ABC 6 in Columbus also ran an extended interview with Mr. Waters which discusses various aspects of the university’s report. One of the things that impressed me about these interviews was that Mr. Waters did not just try to clear his own name but he also tried to defend the students and alumni who have been billed as sexual deviants by many in the media and online.
Ohio State responded to these tv appearances by issuing a statement defending their decision, saying “The former director has yet to produce any factual examples that demonstrate any tangible attempts to change the band culture”. OSU also announced the interim directing staff for the marching band for this season. Professor Russel Mikkelson, Director of University Bands, and Dr. Scott Jones, Associate Director of University Bands, will lead the marching band this season in an overseeing role. Professor Mikkelson will be in charge of general oversight and direction for the band while Dr. Jones will be in charge of Title IX compliance and student safety. Lisa Galvin was hired as an associate director and will help current associate director Chris Hoch and assistant director Mike Smith with drill design, music rehearsal, and general day-to-day operations of the band. Other than hiring Mr. Waters back, this was probably the best outcome that TBDBITL alumni could hope for as there are a lot of connections to the marching band which should help ensure continuity this season. Dr. Jones is an alumni of the marching band and he and Professor Mikkelson have obviously worked with the band in the past in various ways. Mrs. Galvin is a former member of the marching band and has also served as a graduate assistant and arranger for the band over the years.
Perhaps the biggest bombshell of the week came from an NBC 4 interview of interim marching band director Professor Russel Mikkelson. Professor Mikkelson revealed that in 2009 a meeting occurred involving many high ranking university officials, including OSU police, deans, and School of Music administration, which discussed the tradition of Midnight Ramp and approved of it continuing; Professor Mikkelson did claim that he thought band members wore full uniform for Midnight Ramp. This comes as no surprise to anyone in the marching band as many alumni have reported the presence of university police at Midnight Ramp in the past and that at times the stadium scoreboard was on and displaying congratulatory messages, indicating that someone in the athletic department knew about the tradition. Back when I was in band, it was also clear that the stadium groundskeepers knew about the tradition and it is hard to believe that nobody higher up in the athletic department was aware of this.
Preparing for Tryouts
Even with the controversy over the firing of Jonathan Waters continuing, time marches forward and the 2014 football season draws closer. This of course means that marching band tryouts are also approaching with the first day of tryouts being Tuesday, August 12th this year. Thus, prospective band members must focus on getting ready for tryouts, ignoring the swirling controversy.
Students prepare for tryouts in a variety of ways, some work alone while others prepare with friends or possibly find someone who has been in the marching band before to instruct them. Many students prepare by making the trek to campus for Summer Sessions, voluntary practice sessions held on the marching band’s practice field on summer evenings. As I previously wrote, Summer Sessions are designed to help people who have never been in the band before learn all of the OSUMB’s marching fundamentals while also allowing returning members to shake off the rust and hone their skills before tryouts. While Summer Sessions are led by older, experienced band members, they are really a collaborative environment with everyone helping each other to improve.
While Summer Sessions are a lot of fun with jokes being told, new friendships forming, and old friends catching up, they are also very intense. Everyone knows how competitive tryouts will be and thus everyone helps to push each other to work hard in order to be as prepared as possible for tryouts. As the summer goes and tryouts draw closer, the intensity of Summer Sessions increases, culminating in the final week of Summer Sessions which features four practices (Monday through Thursday) as opposed to normal two (Tuesday and Thursday).
One of the things that really surprised and impressed me when I first started attending Summer Sessions back before my freshman year at Ohio State was the level of camaraderie between all of those in attendance. Sure, many of the people already knew each other and were friends but new people were welcomed and it was easy to make friends with other people there and we’d often hang out after practice ended, going to grab ice cream or whatever. While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, you have to remember that come tryouts, we would all be competing against each other for the limited number of spots in the band. Thus, the willingness of everyone to help others improve really showed the character of those involved and their dedication to making sure TBDBITL lived up to its name.
Over the course of the summer, many groups associated with the band have done various things to help increase the spirit of camaraderie and fun. Members of Kappa Kappa Psi, the band fraternity, have handed out popsicles after some practices; it may sound a bit childish to eat popsicles but after sweating though two hours on a hot summer evening they are very refreshing, and on Wednesday of this week the fraternity held a bbq after practice for all of those in attendance. This year a group of E-Row alumni assembled care packages for the prospective band members who will be trying out on mellophone; the care packages included a bottle of Gatorade, snacks, and some fun music related pencils and things.
Over the last two weeks the TBDBITL Alumni Club has done a lot to show their support for Mr. Waters; on Thursday night over 200 marching band alumni and their family showed up at the practice field to watch Summer Sessions and to demonstrate their support for those trying out for this year’s band. After watching the Summer Session and enjoying memories of their own preparations for tryouts in the past, the alumni clapped and cheered as the students performed the ramp entrance, giving the students a small taste of what they will enjoy in Ohio Stadium if they make the band. The alumni and students then joined together to sing Carmen Ohio in a rather touching display of generations coming together in a common bond. The night concluded with the marching band alumni providing pizza for the summer session participants; individual alumni both in attendance and from around the country chipped in to pay for the pizzas and so much money was donated that there was enough left over to provide water, Gatorade, and snacks for prospective band members during tryouts next week.
While tryouts officially being on Tuesday, August 12th, prospective band members who have never been in the marching band will report for candidate days on Sunday the 10th and Monday the 11th. Candidate days are designed to teach candidates who have never been in the marching band everything they need to know to be successful in tryouts. While candidate days are tiring, they are also excellent preparation and every year there are some candidates who make the band despite having never marched with TBDBITL’s style in the past. Candidates who have been in the band in the past, every band member trysout every year, then report on the 12th and the two days of tryouts begin with the 2014 band being announced on the evening of the 13th. On behalf of everyone here at tBBC, I would like to wish everyone trying out for TBDBITL the best of luck and I hope you get the chance to live your dream of donning that uniform and marching down the ramp into the stadium.