When the Ohio State football team traveled to Baltimore on Saturday to take on Navy, they were not alone. In addition to the tens of thousands of Buckeye fans in attendance, the Ohio State University Marching Band also made the trip. The trip was a short but busy one for the band who boarded buses on Friday for the approximately 7 hour drive to Baltimore. Saturday got off to an early start for the band as the had their normal game day practice at 7am at Fort Meade High School where a couple hundred fans showed up to watch and cheer on the band. After practice, the OSUMB performed at the Buckeye Bash pep rally before heading into the stadium for the game.
After a month full of controversy and unwanted attention, TBDBITL finally got some positive attention as it took to the field at halftime with a ‘Salute to America’ show. The band opened with “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” accompanied by a modern-style geometric drill before forming three soldiers who marched across the field while carrying the American flag. The marching soldier formation should look familiar to fans of the band as it first appeared in last year’s show marking the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. In many ways the show in Baltimore was based on that show as it incorporated the marching soldier formation as well as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” which was also played during that show, though with a different drill than what was seen on Saturday.
Over its long and storied history, the OSUMB has featured a number of innovations and one of those was the invention of the floating formation where the band will form a shape and then march it down the field without changing the shape of the formation. The first OSUMB floating formation was performed on November 8th, 1930 when OSU played Navy in Baltimore and the band formed a floating anchor to honor their hosts. On Saturday that historical formation was recreated as the band saluted the US Naval Academy by playing “Anchors Away”. The formation and playing of their fight song was well received by the Naval Academy who posted a video of it on their Facebook which received hundreds of likes and comments about how classy a tribute it was by the OSUMB.
TBDBITL concluded their halftime show with the traditional Double Script Ohio. Performing a double script on the road helps to maximize the number of fans who can see the formation the proper way and allows the majority of the band to perform. The OSUMB is made up of 225 members of which 192 are regulars and 33 are alternates. Normally on the regulars perform on the field but certain shows will call for some or all of the alternates to join in. The Double Script Ohio calls for 224 marchers so all but one of the alternate also see the field with one percussion alternate sitting out. In the video you can see the alternates on the sideline for the first part of the show; they then march onto the field as the band forms the script block.
Following a game it is tradition at many schools for the teams to join the band and sing the alma mater. On Saturday both teams did this but the way they did it was one of the classiest things that I have seen in a long time. First the OSU football team joined the Navy team in front of the Navy band and stood next to the players they had just competed against while the Navy team, fans, and thousands of midshipmen in the stands sang the Navy alma mater, “Navy Blue and Gold”. The both teams moved to the other end of the field where the Navy players stood next to the Buckeyes for the playing of “Carmen Ohio”.
The OSUMB put on a great show in Baltimore, thrilling Ohio State and Navy fans alike. With everything that has happened recently with the band, it is very encouraging to see them be able to put all that aside and focus on their performance, resulting in a show that lived up to the band’s reputation. Still, there will be differences this season. Jon Waters will no longer be directing the band and part of the fallout from the scandal regarding the band’s culture has been that some music publishers have pulled licenses from the OSUMB, meaning that the band can no longer perform their music; this has required the band to rethink some of their planned shows, including one that had been in the works for two years.
The band also has three new interim members of the directing staff and that will result in some differences in the style of shows that are performed. In the two years under the direction of Waters, TBDBITL was primarily performing shows with animated pictures. While these shows were crowd pleasers, there were people in the School of Music who were critical of only performing these style shows, raising concerns about how well they were preparing music majors in the band to go be high school directors as most high schools would not be able to perform this style of show. Indications from the new interim directing staff indicate that this season will see a range in show style from the marching band; there will be animated picture shows but there will also be shows with more widespread modern drill design.
This weekend’s game against Virginia Tech is a night game which means a bigger stage for both the football team and the band. In recent years the band has put on its most spectacular shows at night games and this one should be no different. While no specific details about the show for this week have been released, we do know that it will be a ‘TV Land’ themed show with the band performing music from iconic television shows. This theme fits well into the realm of some of the band’s most popular shows over the past several years and I would expect some familiar pictures and animated formations on the field Saturday night.