The start of college football season is always a joyous occasion for football fans and it normally is for the Ohio State University Marching Band and its fans. This year things are different as the start of football season probably has a bitter sweet feel most members of the OSUMB as well as it fans. With all of the controversy that has swirled around the band in the past month, it must be a bit of a relief to the members to actually get a chance to perform and support the football team, to do the things that they had worked so hard to get the chance to do. At the same time, seeing someone other than former director Jonathan Waters will likely be a sad thing as Mr. Waters was well loved by band members.
TBDBITL has a general policy of never debuting a new halftime show on the road, reserving the right of being the first people to see a new show for OSU fans in Columbus. This means that when the band performs at a road game, it will normally perform the show that it did the week before at home; for bowl games the band will perform a show from earlier in the season. Things are a little more challenging when the OSU football team opens on the road, which is fortunately a rare situation, as there is no game the previous week to use the show from. Thus, this Saturday when TBDBITL travels to Baltimore for the game against Navy, their halftime show will feature a portion of a show from last season.
The idea of opening the football season with a halftime show from the previous year is nothing new for the Ohio State University Marching Band. For a long time, the first game of the football season featured a ‘volunteer band’ which was essentially the band from the previous season. Being in the marching band and performing in Ohio Stadium is such an honor and is so fun, it normally is no problem to get the previous seasons band back and those that have graduated will often travel a long distance to return for that game. However, not everyone who graduated would have a job that would allow them to return and thus, a few spots in the band would be filled by volunteers who were going to be trying out that year and who had been in the OSU athletic band the previous year. There were never many of those volunteers and they almost always were alternates who were only on the field to perform in the double Script Ohio. This ‘volunteer band’ would perform a halftime show from the previous season, normally the same one as at the bowl game, and tryouts would be held afterwards with candidate days on Sunday and Monday and actual tryouts on Tuesday and Wednesday. The band would be announced on Wednesday night and would then have two days to learn a new show and debut it at the second football game of the season. Starting the season with the old band was eliminated by Dr. Jon Woods in 2006 because of the band traveling to Texas for the second game of the season and he wanted the new band to have more practice time before such a big trip.
For the Navy game, TBDBITL will open their halftime show to their show honoring the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address which they performed at last season’s final home game against Indiana. The band opens with “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” though it is a longer version than what was heard last year. Additionally, the drill is different though it will still feature animated soldiers marching down the field. The band then will honor their hosts by forming an anchor and floating it down the field while playing “Anchors Away”, the US Naval Academy fight song. This floating anchor formation is actually a cool bit of history as it was this same floating anchor that was the first ever moving formation performed by the OSUMB on November 8, 1930 when OSU hosted Navy; of course one could note that if your anchor is actually floating you may have issues but it’s still a cool formation. Of course, no away game performance would be complete without the band performing a double Script Ohio.
On Sunday the 24th, the OSUMB put on a show for the families of the band members in Ohio Stadium. While the band members are the ones who work the hardest in order to realize their dream of making the marching band, they couldn’t get there without the help and support of their family over the years. Parents will spend years driving their students to middle school and high school practices and performances and lessons, they help pay for lessons, instruments, supplies, and other things, and of course the whole family has to put up with those painful early weeks when a future band member is first learning their instrument and producing sounds that are more akin to a tortured small animal than something that will earn them a spot in TBDBITL. The parents of most band members will spend that fateful night that the band is announced nervously waiting by the phone and their reaction to the call with the good news is often almost as big as that of their son and daughter. I know my parents were just as excited as I was, though in my dad’s case that may be because he would be getting my football tickets. Thus, this family only performance by the band is a very nice gesture, as well as an opportunity for family members who could not afford or who are not able to attend an OSU football game to see their loved one perform, and hopefully it will become an annual tradition for the band.
At the family performance, the band gave a preview of their halftime show for the Navy game which you can see below. It is immediately clear from the video that even though the controversy surrounding the band and the firing of Jon Waters has undoubtedly been a distraction, the band still looks great and puts out a powerful sound, even with them losing a lot of rehearsal time to mandatory Title IX training from the university. With a week of time to polish their performance, I think it is safe to say that the OSU fans in attendance in Baltimore are going to get a show to be proud of and the Navy fans will get a chance to see what all the hype about TBDBITL is about. More videos from the band’s performance for their families can be seen at the end of this article.
The band will travel to Baltimore by bus, departing from Ohio Stadium on Friday. For OSU fans in Maryland, Northern Virginia, and Washington DC, this trip represents a great chance to see TBDBITL in person. Even if you are not going to the game, you can still see the band perform. The OSUMB will do their typical gameday practice at the Meade High School football field, located in Fort Meade, Maryland, at 7:30 am on Saturday; civilians can use the MacArthur Rd and MD175 entrance. Following the game, the band will board the buses for the trip back to Columbus, making for a long Saturday.
Updates on the Jonathan Waters Situation
Many current and former OSUMB members have criticized the Glaros Report as being inaccurate. The latest group to do so is a group of 30 band squad leaders who have not only signed a letter of support for Jonathan Waters, they are also demanding that the task force led by former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery interview them as part of the task force’s investigation into the band’s culture. As part of their letter, the squad leaders also compiled and released several marching band documents that show that Mr. Waters was changing the band culture and the band’s zero tolerance policy regarding sexual harassment and hazing. The documents include the OSUMB’s Policies & Procedures handbook which is handed out to all members, a list of squad leader responsibilities, and the program from squad leader retreats that were held in 2012 and 2013.
The firing of Mr. Waters and the ensuing controversy has not gone unnoticed by some of the biggest donors to the university and at least one of them is concerned about what has happened. Fred Portner, an OSU alum who had a successful career in the banking industry, recently donated $5 million to new Fisher School of Integrated Business and Engineering Honors Program at OSU’s Fisher College of Business. However Mr. Portner had planned to set up a $150 million foundation where the majority of the money would have gone to OSU but is now rethinking that plan due to the firing of Mr. Waters. “I have been in senior level business decisions all my life. I think I know decision makers and poor decision makers, and the way this decision on Jon Waters was handled is abominable,” Portner said. “I said to myself, ‘Do I want them making those kinds of decisions on major donations I would make?’ Absolutely not.” It will be interesting to see if other major donors make similar decisions.
The TBDBITL Alumni Club has also been conducting its own investigation into the band culture and the actions of Jonathan Waters in regards to that culture. While that investigation has not concluded, they have released some of the evidence that they have collected so far and the reports from TBDBITL members contained in it differ strongly from what is seen in the Glaros Report and in most cases is much more current than the incidents detailed in the Glarors Report.