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Ohio State Marching Band performs for first time following band director’s dismissal

The Ohio State Marching Band marches to the stage at the Columbus Commons Bicentennial Pavilion in a performance with the Columbus Symphony July 26. Credit: Chelsea Spear / Multimedia editor

The Ohio State Marching Band marches to the stage at the Columbus Commons Bicentennial Pavilion in a performance with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra on July 25. Credit: Chelsea Spears / Multimedia editor

“It’s been…a busy week. Thank you to all the Buckeye supporters.”

The band’s announcer hesitated in his introduction, but it was met with the applause and cheering from supporters who came out to see the Ohio State Marching Band perform with the Columbus Symphony at Picnic with the Pops Friday night.

The concert, held at Columbus Commons Bicentennial Pavilion, was the marching band’s first performance since Thursday’s announcement that head director Jonathan Waters had been terminated. The announcement came in light of a 23-page investigation report that found the band’s culture was “an environment conducive to sexual harassment,” according to a released statement from President Michael Drake Thursday.

Waters’ name still appeared next to Columbus Symphony conductor Albert-George Schram at the top of the program. The director’s podium, however, served as a revolving door for the conductors after the band marched and was situated on stage.

University Bands director Russel Mikkelson, Schram and other guest conductors passed the baton to each other throughout the band’s set list, which included the themes to “The Magnificent Seven” and “Superman,” Puccini’s ballad “Nessun Dorma” and OSU signatures “Hang On Sloopy,” “Across the Field,” “Le Regiment de Sambre et Meuse” and “Carmen Ohio,” among other tunes.

The band then blended with the symphony on six selections, closing the concert with John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

The audience, which included friends and family of various band members, fans of the OSU marching band, band alumni and Columbus Symphony Orchestra supporters, filled the lawn from side-to-side.

Susan Runyan, an OSU alumna from Pickerington attended Friday’s Picnic with the Pops and said she and her husband, John, are “totally behind the marching band.”

“(The marching band’s performance Friday) shows what a class act they are and they knew they had made this commitment, and they still fully represent this university,” Susan Runyan, who was a former member of the marching band, said.

“I was in (the band) about seven years after women started being in the band, and I always felt special as a woman member of the band. I felt like I had 200 big brothers.”

Others who attended the concert wanted to show their support for the marching band but maintained mixed feelings about the recent scandal.

The findings of the investigation, which are posted on an OSU website, detailed various instances of abuse between band students and directors. Examples include an annual band practice in Ohio Stadium that Waters attended where students were expected to march in only their underwear, new band members being given sexually explicit nicknames and a case where a female student was told to imitate a sexual act on laps of band members.

“My roommate loves being in the band, and it’s a good tradition for the school, but (the findings of the investigation) could have a negative impact on the university,” said Derrick Cupps, a Spring 2014 OSU graduate with a degree in communication who was at the concert to support his roommate in the marching band.

Caitlin Baer, an OSU student studying biology who attended the concert, said she felt Waters didn’t have a chance to prove himself.

“It’s really hard to stop old traditions, and I feel like (Waters) did a lot of really good things for (OSU),” Baer said. “And I can tell you, I know for sure, that half the stuff that was in that report is not as bad as what the fraternities and sororities do on campus.”

The marching band is set to play with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra Saturday night as well.

Baer said she thinks these performances are stressful for the marching band in light of the national attention.

“I’m glad that it’s still happening, though. I mean, we are ‘the best damn band in the land.’”


  1. Caitlin, unless you are in geek life I would suggest you don’t stereotype about hazing. My sorority doesn’t haze and I know the majority, if not all, of them don’t haze

  2. That comment about hazing is borderline libelous. And I agree with Rachel. If you’re not in it I don’t know how you can possibly say that.

  3. Also you can’t justify that something that made people uncomfortable and upset is ok just because there are people, or you personally think there are people, that are doing something worse. That’s just ignorant.

  4. Dear Rachel, anonymous and anonymous,

    Predictable comments, now go collect your pay. We smell a rat.

    OSU Alum

  5. Amen to that, Anonymous. Big fat rats.

  6. I see from your resume that you were in the OSU marching band. So what was your nickname?

  7. I must have forgotten how to read. I don’t see the mention of hazing one time in Caitlin’s message. Everything that includes people living close usually has some wild, fun times. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. The guy that taped it is the loser in my eyes. They give you directions for a reason and sometimes if you don’t follow them immediately something bad happens. Just ask anyone who has ever served in the military.

  8. Had no nickname. Some did, but they were all in good fun and were not offensive. In any event, the band is a voluntary program and everyone was free to leave. Not even upper classman were sure of a position. They had to work for it. Perhaps the complainers couldn’t make the grade on the field and were miffed at getting cut, I know that is disappointing, my brother in law got cut, when he tried out, but I am sure the innuendoes were not a consideration in any director evaluations. One cannot have the quality of this band without operating according to Hoyle. This supposed scandal appears to be a tempest in somebody’s teapot. Still smelling a rat.

  9. While I was never a member of the marching band, I enjoyed the gift of being raised around the band while my father served as both the Assistant Director and Director of the OSUMB. While there are clearly issues that must be addressed within the culture of the organization, I do NOT support the firing of Director Waters.

    In many respects, I think Director Waters has already proven to have a commitment to improving the organization…as has been easily seen and heard in the tremendous results during the OSUMB’s performances while he has served as director. I also firmly trust the opinions expressed by many current and former bandmembers that Director Waters was beginning to make headway in regards to improvements behind the scenes.

    I respectfully ask that the university reconsider the dismissal of Director Waters in favor of allowing him a probationary period during which he can fully institute the changes that are deemed appropriate by The Ohio State University. While I realize there are likely elements which would prefer to see a wholesale cleaning of the house within the leadership of the band, I am of the firm belief that because there are many honored traditions and cultural elements of the band which are worth preserving…as well as those which have no place in ANY organization at Ohio State…the best possible instrument for change is the former bandmember and most recent director who has devoted nearly two decades of his life to the OSUMB, the university, and to those of us who hold both organizations quite dear.

  10. I find the entire situation about the firing of Jon Waters distressing, only because there are always two sides to a story. As one who always wanted to be in the OSU Marching Band, they did not allow women until the year after I graduated. What I do know from friends in the band is that it was like a big ole fraternity when only males. That can seen as be good and bad.

    Not pointing fingers at anyone, including the member who taped Waters, I frankly was appalled at the tone and foul language Waters used – and I am not a prude by any means. Having worked in the corporate world my entire career, I NEVER, EVER heard anyone use such an unprofessional tone and the f–k word. Ever.

    Did Waters think it was considered ‘cool’ and a way to show that he was the person in charge by yelling and cursing? Not sure how anyone can think that is appropriate. Period.

    I believe the jury is still out on a possible re-instatement but know that this is still TBDBITL and always will be.

  11. It’s impossible in this day and age to defend the “sexualized” traditions being practiced by the band. It’s also stupid, juvenile behavior and demonstrates immaturity in the members of an organization that demands discipline, constant adjustment to change, and precise music and marching abilities of its members. Jon Waters should remain and spearhead the necessary reforms. A senior member of the band, nominated and elected by the band members, should be charged with monitoring band members’ behavior. This is TBDBITL and the band should demonstrate that in all its behaviors, performances and traditions (Hang On Sloopy, the Buckeye Battlecry, Script Ohio, and “We don’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan, we’re from O-hi-O!”
    ~TBDBITL Alumnae member, 1963-64

  12. Did the crowd sing along with some of the lyrics from the OSU song book? “Come blow us Michigan, Our c***s are waiting for you.”

  13. Massive temper tantrum over someone being held accountable for the high standard that OSU students all like to claim OSU holds us to and why the degree is worth so much.
    Oh, the irony.

  14. I once witnessed that kind of culture, and probably would have considered to be a part of it on the fringes. But all that kind of dissipated away when I moved up to the eighth grade.

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