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Jon Waters: ‘I’m the most qualified’

It’s been roughly a month and 11 days since former OSU Marching Band director Jonathan Waters was fired, and he’s spent his time since attempting to clear his name, asking the university for his job back, and making no promises to pursue litigation just yet.

The university plans on naming a new director within four to six months and has named University Bands director Russel Mikkelson and associate director Scott Jones as interim directors until a permanent director is selected.

Waters was fired after an investigative report found evidence of a sexualized culture within the band and concluded that Waters was either aware of, or reasonably should have been aware of, the “sexual” culture but didn’t do enough to address it or prevent it from happening.

He sat down with Lantern TV in-studio Wednesday to talk about his life now, restoring pride in the marching band and how the institution will move on.

Lantern TV: It’s been over a month, how are you feeling? How has the post-investigation process affected your life with all the media attention? How are you and your family dealing with that?

Jonathan Waters: Well, you know, the band was indeed linked to my soul, my very soul, and to have that pulled away and pulled out, I just feel an emptiness inside, I really do. I had the best job in America and I think very few people can say that. How many people in their lives can say, ‘I go to work every day, loving, absolutely loving what I do?’ and that was something that I think is a reminder really every day for me that I don’t get to do that anymore. So, you know, it’s bittersweet certainly, and not being able to be with those students and to do what we do is very difficult.

LTV: The students at Ohio State, the administration, they want to know, what have you been up to for this time period? You haven’t been on the field, you haven’t been directing, so where have you spent your time?

JW: You know, I have spent my time with my kids. As this all happened, I was able to spend time with the kids and I think the blessing in this has been that I did get to spend a lot of time with my kids before they went back to school. Our kids are 10, 9 and 7, and so they’re into a lot of different activities. All of these years, these years of their life, I have been absent a lot, not been able to be with them because of performances and rehearsals and all of that and the 80-hour work weeks and all of that … (And) I work every day to continue to try to clear the names of the students who were attacked, the names of the thousands of alums who were attacked, and myself and so those are the things that kind of occupy my day.

LTV: The university has been adamant in saying it’s not giving you your job back and since it’s been over a month since this investigation, it seems like you’re running out of options. Are you going to sue?

JW: It took me a long time to get the job. I sacrificed and worked for 10 years as the assistant director and made wonderful changes, by the way, in the band even during those times and most significantly the past 22 months as director. So a month, a month and a half of time passed since my firing, that’s not a long time, especially because of the stakes we’re dealing with, especially because of the importance of the institution. The Ohio State Marching Band is 135 years old and it has been a wonderful gem in our community for so long and it’s worth fighting for and it’s worth standing up for. No matter how long it takes, no matter how many months, years, whatever it takes to clear the names of those students, and to clear the names of our alums, it’s worth it. So in terms of a lawsuit, that’s not my makeup. I’m not a sue person. This is the first talk of legal activity that I’ve ever been involved in in my life. So no, I don’t want to sue Ohio State. I love this university but we are looking at all the options. We’re not on a definite timeline here but we are looking at all the options. My love for this place and for the students here goes deeper than any lawsuit, any flawed report. That is all kind of clamor on the sides of this issue and the issue is our students and the institution of the Ohio State Marching Band.

LTV: The search for a new band director is expected to last four to six months. You mentioned earlier that you don’t have a definite timeline for taking any legal action, looking for a different job. But the university definitely has a timeline. How are you going to integrate both of those pieces?

JW: That’s a fair question and a good question and I think it’s kind of a day-by-day thing. We don’t necessarily have a plan that by the end of this week we’re going to do this and by the end of next week and next month. There’s not that kind of plan. We take it day-by-day. I know the university keeps talking about moving on, but the moving on part has to be with great reflection on what has been done. The university made the report, the university did the damage and now certain people are saying ‘We just want to move on’ and I don’t think that’s possible. I think we have to repair the damage and then take steps together to move on, and I’m here to do that.

LTV: Have you been looking elsewhere? Have you been receiving offers from other schools?

JW: You know, I get that question often and thank you for asking. At this point, we’re not entertaining any other thoughts right now. Look, the college football season has started and anybody out in the profession of marching band, they have their positions and the schools are set for the year so this is not the time to look for a job in our profession anyway, but we are not, at this point, pursuing other options. This is too important … When our students walk out into the community, I want them to be able to wear that Ohio State Marching Band shirt with pride. I want them to be able to wear Ohio State Marching Band gear and when they’re in uniform, not have people wonder as they march by, were they part of this, as the university describes it, “sexualized culture.”

LTV: The marching band plays at home this weekend, will you be there watching them?

JW: I haven’t been invited to come to the game and I think it would be very difficult to attend a game live. I hope to at some point, but right now I think the scars are too deep and the emotion is too much at this point. This was something that I devoted my life to. This is something who friends from back home remember as a kid that I wanted to do. And certainly this is something that colleagues have helped me to achieve over the last couple of years. It’s just been every piece of my being, it’s just been every fiber in my body. Everything that I am is Ohio State and every person that has supported me has also supported Ohio State and loved this university and that’s just who I am.

LTV: Do you think the interim directors and potentially a new director will lead the band in the same way?

JW: We always say that the band is larger than any one person and I’ll be the first to say that. The band will continue to perform wonderfully, the students will continue to be the wonderful students that they are — not the ones represented in that report — and the students will represent our university with great class, pride and dignity. The band will move on and no one person is larger than the institution. I think I’m perfectly geared to lead our band and to lead it forward, to do all the things that we do, to raise funds, to have musical experiences for our students, to engage in community outreach and I think since we did that together I’m the most qualified to do that still and I believe in myself. I believe that I can do that. If it happens that another person leads the organization, the organization will go forward but I feel very adamantly that I need to be part of that process.

For the complete interview, watch the video below.

35 comments

  1. lebron please ask dr drake wtf is deal w/ figging up the band program.

  2. I have better things to do. I suggest moving on like I did form Miami

  3. Who were the “OSU police, deans, school of music administration, and faculty” mentioned by Dr. Russel Mikkelson as involved in the 2009 Midnight Ramp decision discussed in WCMH’s interview with Dr. Mikkelson ?
    Did anyone involved disagree with the 2009 decision?
    Did Dr. Drake know of the 2009 decision when Dr. Mikkelson was appointed interim director?
    Did the Office of Compliance and Integrity know about the 2009 decision?
    If not, should the Office of Compliance and Integrity have known about the 2009 decision?
    Why was the 2009 decision not mentioned in the Office of Compliance and Integrity’s Report? Was a decision made to omit discussion of the 2009 decision? If so, who made the decision and why?

  4. ILLUMINATI!

    FREE MASONS!

    ALIENS!

    OHMY!

  5. Jon Waters is a class act. OSU will find another director, but that person will never replace the commitment, dedication, knowledge, or love for our great University. ‘King’ James, I am really disappointed in your response. Your decision, ‘move on’, was money related and had nothing to do with emotion or affection for an organization.
    Once again, I and tens of thousands of individuals ask Drake and the Board to reinstate Jon Waters and reverse a very flawed decision. If this does not happen, I ask that Drake leave and not bring more embarrassment on the University.
    I look forward to Saturday night’s game and the support that will be shown by the students and fans for Jon Waters! GO BUCKS!!

  6. Much thanks to you Lantern TV for this interview, and the chance to see and hear the Jon Waters we know and love, talk about what he knows and loves: the wonderful members of the OSUMB. Despite the tragic blow Jon received, he remains a Leader who is a class act. We stand with Jon for truth and justice to prevail. We look forward to the day when Jon will raise his baton once again as Director of the Pride of the Buckeyes.

  7. QUIT YOUR WHINING’

    move on

  8. To Anonymous @ 1:49. It’s hard to believe that someone not directly tied to covering up the deliberate actions of certain administrators and certain trustees, who inflicted insults, humiliation, and reputation damage to 1,000’s of current and former students would be able to defend that opinion. Are you suggested the former director moves on – or that all of the damaged parties move on?

  9. Get over it Jon. It the band means so much to you, then, then just let it go.

  10. Don't Let Up Lantern

    The procedures OSU followed in terminating Waters did not fit the osu HR rubric by any stretch. Waters had a great performance review on his current record, didn’t he??! (yes) So this must mean anyone working at osu who sits for their annual review and requires some level of performance improvement might be justifiably terminated now??? That’s sure what it looks like to me. Culture of fear and intimidation lurks at osu.

    Sorry Jon…glowing personnel review and all that, but you were no longer of useful service to osu. It’s like you never existed Jon.

  11. Oh my gosh. Who knew he was so utterly pathetic… Go away.

  12. Billboards…flying banners over the stadium?? If Waters cares so much about his FORMER students he would not be doing so much to take the attention AWAY from them. This is their 1st home game performance and he is pulling the attention away from the band and making it about himself. Waters says he is trying to clear the reputation of those in the band. Who is he kidding?! Waters is looking out for Waters. People know that EVERYONE in band is not at fault or flawed or guilty of the behaviors brought to light in the investigation. The antics included a portion of the band and Waters perpetuated the behaviors by allowing them and by not being an appropriate leader. If he was so effective in the position and feels he is the man for the job, then why did he lie to the university on several occasions? He needs to put his huge ego aside and let the band and it’s new leaders be awesome.

  13. anonymous, you obviously have not yet been a victim of such injustice. If so, you wouldn’t be so dispassionate about what has gone down. Unfortunately, there is always an equalizer and I hope when it’s your turn, it doesn’t destroy you.

  14. RL…you bring up injustice. What about the injustice to those in the band that were negatively impacted by the activities that Waters did not stop? Waters and alum are the dispassionate ones. How do you think the banners, billboards and signs are going to make the victims feel? And all of this IS keeping a dark cloud over the band. He and the alum need to allow the band to move forward and be awesome.

  15. “What about the injustice to those in the band that were negatively impacted by the activities that Waters did not stop?” That’s the point – those in the band never felt they were negatively impacted by activities in the band. Any competent person (that’s a legal term) would come to the same conclusion.

    But they have all been negatively impacted by the administration. And the administration doesn’t care. And tOSU is not a private university.

  16. Obviously there are some who have been negatively impacted or we would not be replying to one another in comments of an article regarding the former director trying to clear his name as well as ego. Those who are “competent” (descriptive legal term) in a job do not allow injustices to occur.

  17. To MSP…..

    ” Those who are “competent” (descriptive legal term) in a job do not allow injustices to occur.”

    You should forward that comment to the university president and the Board of Trustees who allowed Waters to be framed and scapegoated ….who tripled down on an obviously flawed report where the witnesses say they were taken out of context and their testimony misconstrued.

    ““What about the injustice to those in the band that were negatively impacted by the activities that Waters did not stop?” ”

    LOL…Show me all the hundreds of “victims” over the years traumatized by this alleged “sexualized culture”. You can’t even show me ten. You can’t even show me two.

  18. Everyone has some type of injustice in their lives. I think if you are a wise person you are able to handle it, pick yourself up and move on. Jon Waters and the alum can’t afford to let the band move on. That will show everyone that they can succeed without them (Jon and Alum.) Well news bulletin. The band has the right to move without them and they will. They just don’t need the banners, signs and billboards right there in front of them reminding them. I agree with Anonymous. Jon Water needs to stop playing on everyone sympathy so they will be on his side and let things move on. I have confidence that the University has done the right thing and they will make sure that the band does.

  19. To HitsRus: you really think being a victim is funny?

    It must be so nice to be you. You seem to know everything. Wow, so impressive!

    It is people like you who continue to perpetuate the drama. Like I said before,
    let the band move forward and be awesome (without the dark clouds and banners).

    I agree with Anonymous. The University did the right thing.

  20. to MSP…. I don’t think being a victim is funny at all. It’s just that I’m failing to see any that Jon Waters is directly responsible for.

    If there is anybody that has been traumatized, it is the hundreds/thousands of band members that have had their reputations and that of their organization besmirched by an exaggerated response of the University’s administration. So, it is these “victims” concerns that you’d sweep under the rug so as not to “perpetuate the drama”?

    The drama was started when the University took the action it did. It didn’t HAVE to do what it did. It could have handled this in other ways. Now it just wants everybody to ‘move on’. The bottom line is that they ‘opened the box’ and they are responsible for the sequelae.

  21. All you people worried about the “real” victims, where are they? Take a close look at that first report. The only single complaint of sexual harassment mentioned in that report was found to have no merit. The report goes on to give some nonsense that the lack of complaints can’t be taken as evidence that there were no problems.

    This is ridiculous. The point of sexual harassment laws is to prevent HARM. The report found absolutely no one that had been harmed. And in the months since it was released, a time when in other scandals the horrible truth comes crawling out of the woodwork, the ONLY horrible truths that have come out are a long list of mistakes made in the investigation and report.

    Band members and alumni aren’t outraged because we hate women, or even because we love Jon Waters. We’re outraged because we know the report is false and that means Waters is a victim and it means we are victims.

    Check out bandtruth.org for more information.

  22. To Thomas
    How can you say the report is false. Were you there? Do you know that there are two sides to every story? Or are you just going along with the group that just have to be right about everything or do you know both sides? Hmmm, I don’t think that you can call a grown man a victim if he can stand there a watch young adults( some minors) March out in their underwear or even think about defending those actions. I would not like that one bit, would you? Nice way for a director to act, but he says he didn’t do that when the other two assistants did. Hmmmmm so maybe there is something to the report. Everything else that is in the report, Jon said he didn’t do them either. Hmmmmm so let me get this straight. Jon is the only person who is right in all this and everyone else is wrong. ( maybe this is the only way he can get through this) I have heard that they all have to stick together or pay the consequences. Hmmmmm wonder what that would be.
    We just do not need a rush to judgement. I think we all need to stay out of this so the band alone can move forward.

  23. ALIENS.

  24. Yes Anonymous06 I was in the band for five years. Some of the traditions, which really existed, are completely warped by this report. And I know people in the band now. My opinions are based on direct inside information.

    If there was another side to listen to, I’d listen to it. But so far there is absolutely nothing. Can you find one single person who is saying they were victimized by this band?

    I marched Midnight Ramp years ago, in my underwear. Others did it in pajamas. Still others skipped it entirely. This is an optional event. Those not interested are not even present, so how can they be victimized? The focus is not “sexual”. It is an opportunity to face performance anxiety about performing in front of 100,000 screaming fans. It is about getting the job done in an uncomfortable environment. “If I can remain focused during this, I can remain focused during a real performance.” It’s a tradition that worked for many in the past. It’s a much prouder tradition than other underwear traditions OSU has seen, like the sponsored Axe Undie Run, and the Mirror Lake Jump.

    Nevertheless, due to concerns about alcohol consumption (Midnight Ramp traditionally happened after private parties), Waters attempted to monitor the situation, and then completely eliminated it. Band members wanted to keep the decades-old tradition, but Waters put band safety ahead of traditions.

    This was NOT a popular decision. The band never loves it’s band director. The relationship is always somewhat adversarial. Nobody is standing up for Jon Waters right now because people worshipped him back then. We are standing up for him because he’s part of the family, and we know he was working to protect us. That’s what’s crazy. His firing belongs in opposite world. He had taken what the band considered radical measures to prevent cultural problems, and yet was fired for allegedly doing nothing.

    You also say “Jon .. is right and everyone else is wrong”. I don’t even know what you mean by this. Everybody in the band is right, and the person or persons who performed the investigation and created the report are wrong.

    Your attitude is exactly why we are outraged. We know that OSU’s defamation of the band has caused permanent harm. Even though the problems with the report are obvious to anyone willing to pay close attention, we know that some percentage of people now will never be convinced.

  25. I agree with you Thomas. If the there were truly victims of harassment, just like in any other scandal, we’d have heard reports of former members “coming out of the woodwork” and saying they too had felt this way. This has not happened. I’d also like to point out that if there were band members who felt harassed at any point over the years, they had the opportunity to file complaints then, or to leave the band. Yet even now no alumni have come forward with anything but statements expressing how hurt they are and that they never harassed or were harassed. What one person hears and finds offensive, can in fact be humorous or affectionate to another. Just because you don’t understand the everything about the culture of the band, doesn’t mean everything you don’t understand is bad. Clearly TBDBITL alums have had their reputations drug through the mud and I think what they all need, including the current band members, and Jon, is closure. Just moving on, hiring a new director and changing band traditions that could be misunderstood, isn’t going to give closure. The University damaged the name of its own band and alumni, and it owes them an apology and an accurate account of the TBDBITL’s culture. Lastly I’ll say on Jon’s behalf that he was only fully in charge of the band a short time, and in that short time he made improvements to the band’s culture (a culture that if there were problems in, OSU admin allowed them to go on for decades long before Jon ever had any real control), as verified in OSU’s own evaluation. The way they treated him is appalling and OSU didn’t follow appropriate HR procedures. An injustice has been done, people have been hurt, and they deserve closure at the very least.

  26. Thomas A. Fine: there were two victims of sexual assault mentioned in the report. You seem to be the unreliable source of information.

  27. I’d like to point out that due to the university’s gross mishandling of this whole thing, there are now thousands of victims of slander.

  28. There was one harassment case, which according to the report was found to have no merit. For those who were paying close attention, this happened during basketball band, which is a separate group, and has nothing to do with marching band culture. And there was an assault case, which lead to this investigation. However, that occurred outside of band time, and off-campus, and was resolved according to university policy. The student brought no complaint against the band. The parent, according to the report REPORTED INFORMATION to the compliance office, which the office treated as a complaint.

    So I was not being accurate, I was, perhaps being too accurate. The harassment case doesn’t count because it was found to have no merit, and was not tied to the marching band anyway. The assault case was not a harassment case, which would be splitting hairs if there were a complaint against the band, but there was no complaint.

    So I ask again, where are the people who’ve been harassed?

    I’ll tell you where they are. They’ve been harassed by this investigation. Let’s play devil’s advocate for just one moment and assume there might be real problems in the marching band. After the administration PUBLICIZED this and made an enormous national scandal, they’ve made it extremely difficult for any legitimate victim. OSU’s actions here have been grossly irresponsible even if you don’t believe me about the band culture.

  29. First, to anyone who thinks that members of the OSUMB or TBDBITL Alumni are making light of any victims: Nothing could be further from the truth. We are appalled by the behavior of individuals who assault another person. We wish we had known that one of our own was attacked, because it would have been stopped. The majority of band members, and society as a whole, have zero tolerance for such behavior. But to expect zero occurrence is a fantasy. Society includes a small percentage of individuals who are pigs. It should come as no surprise that a group of more than 6500 people includes a similar percentage. To claim that the OSUMB staff has managed to find 225 physically capable, musically talented, yet sexually deviant individuals every year for the last four decades (and smaller, yet still significant numbers, in the nine decades before that) is just plain stupid. The Glaros Report does just that.

    Second, in the instance included in the report of one OSUMB member assaulting another OSUMB member: This happened on a Saturday night at an off-campus party. On Sunday morning, the incident was reported by the female (4th year) band member to her band director, Jon Waters. He immediately reported it per OSU policy. By the end of that week the male student had been kicked out of the OSUMB. By Tuesday of the following week, he had been expelled from OSU and the incident had been reported to police and/or other relevant legal authorities. He was not charged by those authorities as there was insufficient evidence for a criminal charge. The victim’s mother reported 8 months later that Mr. Waters was not helpful enough.

    I’m posting this partly because it had been my impression that the perp had been expelled by the first Tuesday, not the second. In any event, Jon Waters and OSU punished the accused as much as they legally could within a very short period of time. Unlike many stubborn critics, I change my opinion as new information becomes available to me.

    The other incident mentioned, Athletic Band on Athletic Band, in the report had a slightly different outcome, but Mr. Waters’ response was fully compliant with class policies of OSU’s Athletic Band, carried out with the full knowledge and support of the OSU Athletic Department, per OSU policies and procedures. Again no charges were filed, even though the male student was punished within the authority of OSU and local law enforcement agencies.

    All of this is publicly available information for those interested in seeking the truth rather than those who enjoy being in a lynch mob.

    Doug Hall
    Q-Row, ’82-’86

    Anonymous – what’s your name and why do you hide?

  30. Do you really blame those wo are posting anonymously? Anytime someone disagrees, they are attacked.

    Doug, you say that you are appalled that one of your own was assaulted. While you seem to have compassion for the victims, how has this been treated by by the band and the alumni group? Have these individuals been shunned or embraced? I ask this only because it seems that anyone who has a difference of opinion is not embraced. One can only imagine how the victim in this must be feeling. Just food for thought.

    Also, I do not recall reading anywhere or hearing anywhere that the entire population of band and alumni are sexual deviants. When the football team had issues a few years ago, the entire team was not blamed. Most in the general population knew that it was a select few.

    As I said in an earlier post, the band is moving forward with positive change and performing amazing shows.

  31. Steinmetz and Wadsworth used Mr Waters firing as a way to re-establish their turf.Drake is their puppet….they should be removed.They don’t represent the class,dignity and respect of most alumni and hopefully the student body.Mr Waters was a dead man walking after Gee appointed him.He had no PhD…it was a sticking point.We need new leadership..we deserve better leadership …and no one should ever be treated the way Mr Waters was.

  32. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” D. Patrick Moynihan

    Anonymous posters are entitled to their opinions. The intent of my post was to provide a number of facts that have altered (usually solidifying) the opinions of many I have spoken to about this subject.

    I don’t recall any coach (football or otherwise) ever being fired without due process after he/she punished one of his/her players for misconduct.

    I have only heard rumors about both victims mentioned above. I’m not going to share rumors.

  33. MSP, I haven’t scrolled back to read every post, but my overall impression is that they are not being “attacked”. For my part I’m just trying to get rid of misconceptions and misinformation that people are tossing around. There’s a lot of that out there, and people are using the misinformation to form their opinions that are not supported by actual facts.

    For example, your impression that we are “attacking” people and therefore band members must be “attacking” opposition voices within the band, is based on the assumption that there are opposition voices, and that there is a culture of harassment. But everyone who’s actually in the band understands fully how wrong this report is, and that’s why they’re outraged. There’s no opposition in the band to shout down.

    I do feel very sorry for the woman who’s case sparked this situation. She was already in a difficult and emotional situation before the report and Waters’ firing. Self-blame is an extremely common response after a sexual assault. But after this thing blew up, those feelings would be multiplied by a thousand. No matter how supportive the marching band would be, it seems to me that this would be an emotional nightmare.

    This is EXACTLY why it was incredibly stupid and inappropriate to handle this case by publicizing the investigation and firing Waters. If this was about protecting students, this was THE WORST decision ever. The university put this women in a position where some percentage of the public inevitably would blame her for this entire mess, despite the fact that she never lodged any complaint against the band at all. She may be the biggest victim of OSU’s inept handling of this mess, more so than Waters himself. The university also has created an environment where ALL harassment and assault victims campus-wide might now worry that if they bring a report to OSU, someone tangential to the situation might be fired, and some horrific scandal might erupt.

    Let me sum up: OSU inflated minor cultural issues with no actual cases of harassment into a national scandal, and used it to fire the one man that it is now obvious has gone to great lengths to improve that culture. They fired him, defamed the band and alumni, ostracized the woman in the original assault case, and created an environment where students, staff, and faculty will be less willing to bring any legitimate complaints to OSU.

    Are you starting to understand our outrage yet?

  34. Wow! Finally I got a website from where I be able to really get valuable data regarding my study and knowledge.

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