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.