Home » Opinion » Letters to Editor » Letter to the editor: Former Ohio State Marching Band director Jonathan Waters entitled to a public hearing

Letter to the editor: Former Ohio State Marching Band director Jonathan Waters entitled to a public hearing

Letter to the editor:

My name is Mark Greenburg and I am the president of Tresóna Multimedia. Tresóna is the largest issuer of custom arrangement licenses on behalf of music publishers in the world. By virtue of the fact that everything the Ohio State Marching Band performs is performed without woodwinds, our firm issues the custom arrangement licenses that the band needs to legally arrange the music that the band plays and performs. These licenses are not compulsory and can be withheld by the music publishing industry for any reason, without cause or explanation. It is in this capacity that I have come to know former band director Jon Waters very well, and before Jon, Dr. Jon Woods.

One of the great things about growing up in the Watergate-generation is that we have learned to question what we are being told, even when what we are being told is being told to us by people in positions of authority. I reviewed the official video featuring the new president of OSU and listened to what he had to say about Jon Waters and his stewardship of the OSU Marching Band. I then read, in great detail, the report that the university posted on its website about this whole affair. I have also listened to a surreptitiously-made tape recording of Jon disciplining a student.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I was accepted to matriculate at the OSU law school and I chose not to do this and matriculated to another school. I would also like to disclose that based upon all the evidence that is out in the open, Tresóna stands with Jon Waters and that the many executives in the music publishing industry with whom I have spoken to are simply astonished by the behavior of the university in this matter. For them, like I, who have come to know Jon, we believe that there is no possible way Jon contributed to or supported a “sexualized” atmosphere in the band.

I encourage everyone in the Marching Band community to read the university’s report, which is filled with innuendo, only a few unnamed student witnesses and the infantile and perhaps salacious details of the songbook, a songbook written in the 60s and passed down amongst the students, but not by the band or Jon Waters or associate director Chris Hoch.

Jon has also been accused of witnessing and doing nothing about the notorious “ramp walk.” Apparently this is some ridiculous event where the kids show up late at night and parade around in their underwear on the football field. This begs the question of who opened up the stadium late at night to let the kids in. I suppose that for some, this juvenile procession in underwear is in poor taste, but the fact of the matter is that Jon went to the ramp walk with his staff to witness what was going on, and then abolished the practice.

Jon did not eliminate or order the students to stop using nicknames. How does one do that, by the way? I have three kids, the oldest named Mark, and when people would call my house when he was younger, my younger sons would inquire, “Do you want to speak to small Mark or big, fat Mark?” I couldn’t even stop that from happening and I had a pretty good size advantage at the time. My mother refers to me as “Shamoo.”  Maybe I will tell her, in her 84th year, to knock it off or else. Maybe I will write my kids out of my will.

Lastly, Jon is apparently not a master of the Title IX laws of the United States, laws that are so intricate that most universities have Title IX compliance departments, filled with attorneys, to deal with this act.

Since only four current band members were witnesses, one of whom surreptitiously tape recorded Jon Waters when Jon was disciplining him, how is this possible that the university, with 225 marching band members and roughly 250 pep band members only spoke to these four people? What if there are 471 people who want to step forward and say that these four individuals had an axe to grind with Jon, that they are malcontents and biased? The university did not tell us that the parent who came forward organized these individuals and that they came forward as a package, and the university did not avail themselves to the other 471 people standing around who would have most likely provided exculpatory evidence or contradicted the four “witnesses.”

What is it that the university president did not tell us? The university should be an arbiter of fairness and due process, and the music publishing executives with whom I work are looking very carefully at this and questioning whether they want to be part of a process and program where the cornerstones of our democratic process have been grossly overlooked.

Tresóna believes there is no place for a hostile work or study environment for any student, male or female. However, the report includes the testimony of two unnamed students and a clearly disgruntled former employee with the band who apparently and according to the report wanted to scream because she heard words for human anatomy too much for her personal taste while riding on the band bus. Maybe she asked Jon for a raise and the band turned her down and she was angry at that decision? The point is that none of us knows why these four people were interviewed, because Jon was not allowed to ask. Furthermore, to hold Jon responsible for the behavior of adults for giving each other nicknames, for drinking too much or for consuming too many drugs, while not in his presence, even if it were true, seems to be ridiculous.  It would not be possible.

The university’s report clearly indicates that Jon had been reforming the behavior of the band, as his staff has attested to this in the report. However, even if that were not the case, in America, there is such a thing as due process, and there is no evidence against Jon where Jon was allowed to question the integrity of those making the accusations about his leadership.

I think we should hold The Ohio State University to a higher standard and ask its leaders, with grace and humility, to reverse this rush to judgment against Jon Waters, to champion the democratic values and processes that the university holds dear and have a public hearing allowing Jon to defend his name and reputation. And while this proceeding takes place in an orderly fashion, Jon and his staff should be allowed to run the band with a Title IX compliance officer in attendance in the band office, and we should all wait until a jury of his peers returns with their judgment. It is only in this way will we know whether there is guilt or innocence, whether the punishment fits the crime or whether there was a rush to judgment as so many of us suspect. That will be a university we can all be proud of.

Mark Greenburg
President of Tresóna Multimedia


  1. What a great letter. I am not an Ohio State grad, but I am a friend and member of the Alumni Club in Albuquerque,NM. I was a female trumpet player in High school and in College. I follow the band and had the privilege of meeting Jon Waters. He is very proud and I am sure dedicated director and having been in the OSU band as a student, he was well aware of all the rituals and culture of the band and I am sure he would not tolerate any thing that would harm any member of that Band. The same things have occured for ever and the better the organization the more some disgruntled individuals are willing to attempt to take it down. Someone possibly lost their chair or spot in the band. I don’t know. I think President Drake and whomever rushed to judgement in firing Jon Waters. This rush to judgement by the officials is wrong and I hope the alumni and others hold then accountable. I hope everyone continues to write, post, call or what ever in defense of Jon Waters. This band has followers worldwide because of what he has done in his tenure and he has given credit to the students and their knowledge and hard work. I support Jon Waters and the OSU band! Go Bucks, Gloria Henderson

  2. Wellington Roemer

    Anyone wishing to offer their opinion in the matter may wish to write the University Trustees: (snail mail piles up and can’t be deleted with the click of a mouse)
    Mr. Jeffrey Wadsworth, Chairman
    The Ohio State University Board of Trustees
    203 Bricker Hall
    190 North Oval Mall
    Columbus, OH 43210-1358

  3. Debbie Testement

    I 100% agree as a ’72 alum, that due process was violated & Jon Waters should be reinstated immediately before the season begins!

  4. Debbie Testement

    Another factor to consider in any university culture. Jon Waters was our first band director who had not completed his doctorate degree of music. As a ’72 graduate, I “could care less” because all of us saw the leadership RESULTS over the past 2 years….nationally & internationally! So very proud of our band over 40 years, but the leadership of Jon Waters took it to an “exceptional level” combining 21st century technology, great musical arrangements & “star level” performances worthy of You Tube, TV, , etc.
    I will hope that some long termed tenured music professor with a doctorate degree was not behind the scenes egging this on cause he or she thought their doctorate degree earned them job?!
    Reinstate Jon Waters…admit your mistake & apologize & let’s move all move on! Go Bucks!

  5. Everybody needs to just move-on with their lives. We really have nothing better to worry about than a marching band.

  6. This is a man’s livelihood, as well as slanderous accusations against thousands of proud alumni. Additionally, the manner in which the university conducted itself is a stain on OSU’s national reputation. If you’re a current student or a graduate, this could literally affect your success in the job market. So no, it’s not time to move on just yet.

  7. It’s called “at will employment” in Ohio.
    They don’t even need a reason to legally fire him.

  8. Much like free speech, just because legally they don’t need a reason to fire him doesn’t mean they are free from consequences.

  9. The band has access to the stadium from their practice facility, as it exits into the main concourse. This typically has been more of a problem than a good thing. That is how they do the stupid underwear thing.

  10. As a 2000 grad of tOSU I take umbrage with the entire thing. There’s more going on here than Jon Waters allowing a sexualized culture. Are the students minor children or are they adults? I get so confused because most of the time I hear how college students are adults, free to decide their fate, free to make “adult” choices and do “adult” activities. However there’s the other side of the coin where they get healthcare from their parents until they are 26, their parents swoop in and defend them when they feel wronged, etc.

    As an investigator I would be embarrassed to release such a shoddy report. Using a Microsoft Word document version of the unofficial band book as evidence? That book has entries for each time it’s updated. The last entry shown was from 2006. REALLY? How is any figure of authority going to stop the dissemination of that document? It’s stupid, sophomoric crap, I agree. However that document is clearly passed down from student to student through the ages. I would bet a large sum it will exist for years to come, even more so “clandestine” than before.

    Then there’s the issue of interviewing only a few students and a former staff member. Rumors abound that they were disgruntled former members. Who knows what is true there. There is NO investigative journalism any more so all we have to go by is the official University narrative regurgitated by the media and Jon’s eventual rebuttal.

    I will not be providing any more financial support to the University. I’m done with the multi-million dollar enterprise operating like rank amateurs time and again. If my two children choose to attend Ohio State I will not financially support that decision…

  11. just-an-opinion

    Well – I have a simple suggestion as to how to move forward. During this episode, Drake has become aware of the `sexualized’ nature of the student body (or a subset of it). He has decided to deal with it by firing Jon Waters.

    Now, if a month later, one OSU student refers to another by a sexual nickname, then I think Drake should be held responsible for knowing about the problem and not addressing it fully – I mean, Drake certainly had other options like shutting down the university, or undergraduate education aspect of the university, and he needs to be held responsible for keeping this hostile beast around. So, at that time, Board of Trustees should fire Drake –announced through a video – the person responsible, Drake, no longer has a job with this university.

  12. I am a proud OSU Grad (1962&1964) and I am deeply ashamed of the way that Dr. Waters has been treated. This is PC gone completely off the rails. I have been a contributor to the University for years, but I may have to rethink my contributions.

  13. Michael McKibben

    Well said Mark. The university’s conduct is baffling. The seven days of silence unconscionable. OSU Marching Band directors live in a fish bowl. Had Jon had even a fraction of the character flaws implied by the innuendo in the university report, he would never have been appointed director. His was a very long trek to become director–all in the public eye. Our directors work long hours and earn their stripes. Jon does not deserve this disrespectful treatment.

    I was also taken aback when I learned that President Drake would not meet with Director Emeritus Paul Droste yesterday; making him sit in the lobby while others met with President Drake. Paul Droste earned our respect. Such haughty conduct is unbecoming of our great university. Charlie Spohn was director my freshman year in ’69, followed by Paul Droste, then Jon Woods, then Jon Waters. Members of the alumni band know Jon Waters well, and know him to be a competent, caring and a wholly decent man.

    Let us hope common decency prevails over a “haughty, litigious culture” where university officials wield their authority just because they were given it for a season. Such powers are fleeting, but can leave much damage in their wake.

    Michael McKibben ’73
    TBDBITL ’69-’72
    F-Row, Q-Row,
    Asst. Squad Leader
    Chairman, Leader Technologies, Inc.

  14. The TV news media was certainly quick to tear down the band and OSU in the process. Odd when they don’t see fit to air two seconds of the magnificent halftime performances of world class college marching bands, instead filling up air time with such as “Men” and “Keeping up with the Kardashians” behinds which nobody seems to find objectionable. And hey, how about those cheerleading outfits? Can we expect to see OSU’s in 1950s below the knee length skirts next year? LOL.

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