Home » Campus » Former Ohio State band director Jonathan Waters yells, curses at student on recording

Former Ohio State band director Jonathan Waters yells, curses at student on recording

Former Ohio State marching band director Jonathan Waters seems to have been caught on tape yelling at a student.

Waters was fired Thursday after a two-month OSU investigation into a complaint from a band member’s parent found “serious cultural issues and an environment conducive to sexual harassment within the marching band,” according to an OSU statement. It was found that Waters was either aware of or reasonably should have been aware of that culture but did not do enough to address it.

Part of the investigation looked at whether Waters was “sometimes abusive towards students.” The report cited two examples of Waters yelling and cursing at students, one of which was corroborated by multiple witnesses and another that was supported by an audio recording.

That audio was recorded in September by the student being yelled at, and was obtained by The Lantern Friday. It captures what sounds like Waters berating a band member and using expletives after what seems to have been a problem during practice.

“We told you to do something on the field and you outright disrespected (associate director Christopher Hoch) and me,” Waters said. “This will not stand. We tell you to stand on your head, and as drum major, you’ll stand on your g—— head if you want to be drum major.”

The student repeatedly tells Waters that he understands but the reason for the scolding is never explicitly stated.

Editor’s note: This recording contains explicit language.

The OSU statement issued Thursday said former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery has been appointed to lead a task force that will further review the band’s culture. That task force will include representatives from Ernst & Young, which is set to conduct an investigatory review, the Sports Conflict Institute, which will conduct a separate independent review and “outside counsel” that will guide the task force on Title IX compliance.

Title IX is a section of the Education Amendments of 1972 that aims to protect against discrimination based on sex in education programs that receive federal funding.

The marching band is still making appearances, including a performance Friday night with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra at Picnic with the Pops. OSU concert band director Russell Mikkelson and Columbus Symphony resident director Albert-George Schram are set to conduct the band in Waters’ place.

OSU said in the Thursday statement it is in the process of finding an interim band director.


  1. What a baby for recording this. Sounds exactly like many high school sports coaches.

  2. Poor babies. The firing of Walters, who over two years pushed the BDBITL over the top and beyond what it was, even as first place in college bands, is sad and exemplifies the inability of people to accept vigorous criticism. If one looks at the language in nearly every movie and TV, the use of expletives is part of current speech. The band members talk the same way every day.

  3. In a day when people listen to all kinds of expletives in media and think nothing of it, this is a big offense? I’ll tell you what is being disrespected is the Ohio State University by the press blowing this into a national news story like the Duke LaCrosse allegations that went viral for over a year. First a coach, now the band director. Sounds like somebod(ies) have a big ax to grind and somebody needs to find out who.

  4. The new President better have something much more substantial than this to go on. Sounds like the director trying to instill discipline and teach teamwork to someone who was following their own agenda at the expense of the group. Who is so low as to record something like this? The very definition of out of context (as we don’t know, from this, how long this behavior had been a problem)? It is reprehensible and underhanded and in no way diminishes my view of our director. Tell me this man lost his job over something more than sophmoric high jinks and thin skinned adolescents.

  5. The origins of marching band are in the military tradition. 18 year olds in the military are reprimanded in this way daily. You think an Army drill sergeant doesn’t routinely curse at the 18-year-old recruits in his charge? If so, you’re living in fantasyland.

    18-22 year old college students are not children; they are adults. When adults don’t have their act together, they should be raked over the coals.

    I am tired of the sissification of our nation. I know many managers in both the public and private sectors who get walked all over by their subordinates because they are afraid to lay the hammer down when people screw up.

    Sounds like this student needed a good lashing for not being up to standards. He’s a coward for secretly taping a private reprimand and squealing like a little baby. He obviously needs more discipline than was demonstrated here, based on his entitled, pansy-like actions.

  6. If the guy/ gal is not tough enough to handle this how will he survive in the real world. Hopefully this person is no longer a part of the band. I would hate to cheer for someone as cowardly as this individual.

  7. John Little, Sr.

    We have known that big time sports had made OSU something more than academics. Now that we know that the marchers in the band and the players in the pep bands are more than just in attendant at sporting events, we can better measure the distance the university has moved from its coveted position of scholarship.

    Scholars, you must soon reclaim your campus or you will no longer be a part of it.

    Cordially, John Little, Sr. DMA

  8. OMG – a drum major was yelled at for not following the script and an expletive was used! Let’s firs all our coaches. In what kind of a fantasy world do we live? As other posters have said, the drum major’s act of secretly recording this event was cowardly and I hope he is no longer a member of TBDBITL.

    For those who believe this action is reprehensible, I hope that you voice your strong dissent to President Drake about never having a rap artist (or Madonna, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus) perform again on campus!

  9. Marek Michalski

    Dear Lantern,

    Thanks for trying to add to this already blown out of proportion scenario with this useless information.

    When did the lantern Turn into TMZ?

    You suck,
    Marek Michalski

  10. Michael McKibben

    This is all you have?

    The disrespectful treatment of Jon Waters begs the question: What is really going on here? Jon has faithfully served the university and its students for many years. As an active TBDBITL alum, I have had the opportunity to watch Jon’s job performance closely, well before his appointment as director. He is competent, caring and personable. The regular band’s respect for him has long been obvious. The alumni band interacts closely with Jon and the active band, including providing scholarships and other support.

    Jon Waters and his staff, with substantial support from the Alumni band, get more done with fewer resources than perhaps any program in the university. So, why the mistreatment?

    The new president, Michael Drake, could not have pressed this, he doesn’t have his legs yet. Did it come from the School of Music? Russel C. Mikkelson, Director of Bands, jumped right in there this weekend without missing a beat.

    It is well known that a dynamic tension has always existed between the OSU Marching Band and the School of Music. This goes back to my days. I participated in various School of Music bands during the TBDBITL “off season” in the Winter and Spring. The jealousy within the School of Music over the national attention given to the marching band was well known. I don’t remember the mix, but a large percentage of us were not music majors, but loved music.

    I was a senior when the Title 9 decision to admit women was made. It was the right thing to do, even though certain traditionalists were unhappy. Director Paul Droste supported it. Long time Director Jon Woods supported it, as has Jon Waters, well before he was appointed as director. So the manner in which the university announced this, replete with the “overly sexualized” innuendo, is unfair and offensive. It totally misrepresents the circumstances that thousands of us alumni know well. How many of us were interviewed in this investigation?

    Both the Marching Band and the School of Music were very good to me as a student, the School of Music selected me for the Jazz Lab Ensemble my junior and senior years, so I have no lack of loyalty for either. However, has the School of Music taken advantage of TBDBITL’s recent change of directors inappropriately? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Abuse of loyal employees is not appropriate for our great university.

    –Mike McKibben (no nickname, that I know of) ’69-’72, F Row, Q Row, Assistant Squad Leader; Chairman, Leader Technologies, Inc.

  11. concerned reader

    If Waters has nothing to hide, why did he repeatedly lie to the people investigating him? Don’t ignore that fact.

  12. I guess we will have to change the name of TBDBITL to “OWBITTOHOTBDBITL” – Okay with being in the top one hundred of the best damn bands in the land. High expectations come with accountability if the expectation is not met.

    The band was featured on an Apple commercial – it truly IS at the top – and Mr. Woods had something to do with that. I hate to see him go at such a zenith. Hopefully he doesn’t go to TSUN.

  13. The willful ignorance of OSU apologists here is depressing.
    For once, we have a President willing to stand up to poorly behaving administrators and this is the response he gets…
    Keep it up Dr. Drake, we’re glad you;re here.

  14. Matt Homan Class of '14 dosomethintaboutit

    After hearing this person only say “Yes I do” a few times (preceded of course by the disrespectful verbal cue of sucking one’s teeth), I am forced to draw the conclusion that he is a pompous stuck-up a**hole who deliberately disobeyed orders so he would be drawn into the office for a light scolding which he planned on recording for his own selfish and manipulative purposes. I cannot think of a single reason why any individual who truly places the values of “Team” and “Camaraderie” above those of “Myself” would covertly record a situation like this.

    Is this individual familiar with the concepts of humility? Dedication? Earning your place?
    In my experience, when a coach, teacher, or mentor takes an individual aside for a stern talking-to, it is meant to show that individual that the authority figure cares about that individual. Even if “vulgar” or “heated” language is used, in most situations that is only because repetitive attempts to reason with the individual calmly proved fruitless. In the end, the coach wants the best out of every individual. Sometimes, he has to go to extremes (for some more than others) to make that point known.

    In conclusion, Despite having very little to go own, but using my own life-experience-tested principles of deduction, I will say with confidence……

    F*** this kid, he is a massive, incorrigible douche.

  15. T he profanity needs to go, but this is ridiculous. Athletic coaches, everybody beware. Leave those kids alone! They’ll run home to Mommy and Daddy if you look at them wrong and they’ll come get you fired just like they do to teachers in undergraduate school. No such thing as respect and discipline anymore.

  16. This is probably the stupidest thing you have ever published. This is NOT a news story. I had coaches who said MUCH worse than this to me when I was in middle school. In no way was that “abusive.” The kid who secretly recorded this is a cowardly a**hole. Thanks for bringing more attention to a story that is already ridiculously blown out of proportion.

  17. The anger and disgust directed at the student who released this is centered on two areas:
    * The student should have kept this matter private
    * The director’s behavior was OK,even commendable
    If what the director did was OK, why does it need to be kept private? If the director has nothing to be ashamed of, they should be glad it was released! Isn’t he supposed to be proud of dressing down this young man and using profanity, teaching him to be man, etc. – in that case, he should have released it himself!

  18. Jonathan Waters is the teacher – a college professor and primary leader of an organization that SHOULD support athletics, provide a positive non-threatening and supportive and musically excellent environment for its membership, and finally, the band directors should, for the students who are there to learn how to be a band director, provide an example of how a director should treat his students.

    I would imagine that the student in this video did something that was wrong in the eyes of the director, however, intimidation, scare tactics and obscenity are not the professional ways to handle this, nor does it provide a proper example to his students who may someday become teachers.

    I seriously doubt that any parent of a band member in Junior High or High School would tolerate this type of behavior by a professional in the education setting. In this recording, Waters has clearly lost any understanding of how to provide the right kind of dialogue, nor does he discipline a student in a manner that is productive or works towards a mutual understanding.

    Rather than being dictatorial, he should have given the student an opportunity to express why he did what he did, and then (assuming the student was wrong), helped him understand why what he did was damaging to himself, and the band. The he should have come up with a plan of how to move forward in a positive way.

    I imagine that the student has experienced past harassment from Waters, leading to his recording of this episode.

    Who is the teacher, and who is the student? Who sets the tone for an organization? From my uninformed, outside prospective, if things weren’t already terribly wrong in the first place, this conversation would have not taken place. It is the teacher’s responsibility and obligation to ensure that conversations like these aren’t the remotest possibility, and clearly that isn’t happening under his direction.

  19. Thank you Lantern for posting this one-sided vulgar tirade of a man who doesn’t know how to use his authority. It now explains why he (Waters) went on all the TV Networks to complain and cry about how he couldn’t turn around “on a dime” the “entrenched sexual culture” that went back to the 1930’s. The man is a lying hypocrite that owes an apology to the bands and directors of decades ago. TBDBITL needs directors like Dr. Charlie Spohn who was a man of integrity; something that Jon Waters knows nothing about. Thanks again.

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