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Letter to the editor: Ohio State should hire band director from within

The OSU Marching Band plays at a football game against Buffalo. Credit: Ritika Shah / Asst. photo editor

The OSU Marching Band plays at a football game against Buffalo.
Credit: Ritika Shah / Lantern TV news director

Letter to the editor:

Over the last couple weeks, two finalists were announced for the position of director of The Ohio State University Marching Band. Both gentlemen are great directors and profound leaders in the marching band community, and were absolutely deserving of the opportunity to be considered for what is believed by some to be the most prestigious college marching band position in America.

After arriving on campus and being placed in front of several hundred marching band students, both men were asked, “Why do you want to be a part of The Ohio State Marching Band?” Both replied with similar answers that the OSUMB is a historically excellent program and has great resources that most bands do not have. These resources being along the lines of funding, staff, facilities, alumni and fan base support.

On the surface, it might seem like these program qualities would be enough to lure high caliber directors into the prestigious position with The Best Damn Band In The Land. However, we discovered this was not the case when both directors recently chose to drop out of consideration and remain committed to the schools they are currently serving, Auburn University and the University of Illinois. In addition, both schools might now have a new sense of dedication to their marching band programs.

So why wasn’t the OSUMB’s success and program resources enough to get either finalist to commit? Why did both directors pass up what appeared to be a clear promotion? What caused them to stay with band programs that seemingly lack in resources and national acclaim?

The answers are in their blood. Buckeyes bleed scarlet and gray. Both gentlemen carry great resumes but lack one of the most fundamental pieces of the puzzle: they aren’t Buckeyes. Both received degrees at other schools and had no inside experience with The Ohio State University. They lacked the full passion that comes along with being in TBDBITL or even a Buckeye for that matter. To better illustrate that point, I’ll give an example.

During a Q-and-A portion of one of the student meetings, a candidate was posed with the common Buckeye greeting of “O-H,” to which he replied “Come again?” not knowing how to appropriately respond.

Now I must reiterate that these two former finalists are great leaders and directors. The schools they return to are celebrating their commitment. And likewise, we should celebrate the new sense of dedication both schools now have to their marching band programs. By no means did the band expect them to fully understand all Ohio State traditions, but the example speaks to the problem at hand.

The OSUMB director position now carries a lot of baggage. Unfortunately, it is not the same position that it was before. The position now is one that will be closely monitored by the university and School of Music. To be successful, it requires a great deal of support from students and alumni of the program. The new director will be held to a higher (and almost unreasonable) new level of responsibility.

Despite all that makes the OSUMB great, it is tough to ask anyone to step into an “at-will” position with so many of these hurdles. In addition, a person new to the program would need to learn the unique and complicated band processes such as the marching style fundamentals, training and tryout procedures and even basics such as game and weekday operations. There is no wondering to why both finalists chose to turn down this position and remain in the programs they have already begun to build.

The answer to this problem is simple. The university needs to consider candidates with experience in The Ohio State Marching Band.

An alumnus or alumna of the program understands the passion and purpose that TBDBITL serves for Buckeye Nation. Someone who has been through the OSUMB program has dedicated countless hours to studying the marching fundamentals and techniques. They will have proven knowledge of the complicated OSUMB processes and will garner the support of the students and alumni.

To not consider someone because they are a true Buckeye is not only disheartening for Buckeye Nation but also disgusting evidence to the way the administration now treats the OSUMB program.

Two individuals stand out as being the best options for carrying the Ohio State Marching Band program forward: former director Jon Waters and assistant director of bands and associate director of marching and athletic bands Chris Hoch. While I won’t spend time explaining how Jon Waters should have never been removed from the position, I will say that he remains to be the best man for the job no matter what might be portrayed in the media or by the university. Moreover, Hoch is the man on the directing staff currently keeping operations afloat. Without Hoch, this past season would have involved a great deal of standstill playing on the field.

If the university has any pride in “The Pride of the Buckeyes” or any compassion for what it means to grow up as a Buckeye in the state of Ohio, they will seek to fill the directing position with someone who has already earned the honor of serving The Best Damn Band In The Land.

Matt Reed

OSUMB 2010-14

Former 2x Squad Leader

3x iDotter (Michigan, Wisconsin, Kent State)

Fifth-year in Electrical and Computer Engineering



  1. *Dr. Chris Hoch. “Dr.” was removed when the lantern edited this.

  2. Matt, what a great letter. OSU administration does not understand traditions. Did any of them graduate from OSU, let alone be in TBDBITL? They should be shown the Exit Door!

  3. Wow! What an outstanding letter! The word “passion” immediately popped into my mind. TBDBITL & ANYONE associated with it has experienced the passion that naturally occurs when you think about this fabulous group. I am not a graduate of OSU and I was not a fan of The Ohio State University until I experienced that first skull session and football game at the shoe when the OSUMB came down the ramp and out onto the field. Very few people leave the stands at halftime for fear they will miss the band! Now I am a proud mama of an OSUMB member and am an OSU fan because of this fine group of young men and women and all that goes with it! Bravo, Matt! BRAVO!

  4. Well articulated why it matters to have an OSU person at heart leading the Pride of the Buckeyes. (we saw what happened with football with Cooper and how they improved with a Buckeye leader. I hope we don’t have to put our band through that. We have well qualified alumni who want the job!)

  5. Yes, a great letter. Captures essense of what senior leaders in the university and the board of trustees do not understand. To them it is just a Job……cast someone up and bring in someone else. Good luck with that. OH—–IO.

  6. Great, well written, passionate and factual letter. I can only hope President Drake and the School of Music leadership read it. However, I would like to suggest that maybe the fact that Waters lacked experience as a head director was a problem. Hoch has 7 years as a HS director. There are many OSUMB or Ohio State School of Music graduates who have experience as college marching band directors who have not been given the opportunity to interview for this job despite applying for the position solely because they have previous ties to OSU. This is a travesty and clearly goes against the recommendations of Betty Montgomery who recommended in her report, that cost the University hundreds of thousands of dollars, that external AND internal candidate be considered.

  7. Jonathan Picking

    Perhaps the same should have been said about the presidential search.

  8. Outstanding letter! I was lucky enough to know Mr. Hoch while I was at OSU, and while very different from Mr. Waters (whom I also knew during my time there) he is a walking tribute to the standard of excellence that all fans of TBDBITL expect and desire. He has held this group together with calm competency in the face of a situation that could have pulled the whole band to pieces, and I think he should be not just a contender, but the First contender.

    I also agree with Jonathan. Had the Presidential Search used the same criteria the school may not have been saddled with a person who obviously doesn’t understand what is important to Buckeyes and what is not.

  9. Yet again we get more common sense and intelligence from our students than we do from our entire administration and Board of Trustees. Why do they stubbornly refuse to acknowledge what is so obvious to everyone else?

  10. A very eloquent letter, sir. I hope someone in the administration reads it and thinks about it. But I’m not holding my breath given the impressive level of incompetence, in this matter and many others, we’ve recently observed from OSU’s so-called “leadership”. They really just don’t get it. 🙁

  11. A well thought out and presented letter Mr. Reed. I wondered from the start why Dr. Hoch was not made the Director when Mr. Waters was appointed. Dr. Hoch, who was in the band with Mr. Waters and was also a graduate assistant Director with Mr. Waters as they both attained their Masters; upon receiving his Masters went on to become Director of Bands at Hayes High School in Delaware where he was responsible for all aspects of all bands. He then went on to earn his Doctorate while serving as a graduate assistant Director again while Mr. Waters chose to not do the extra work to obtain a Doctorate, all whille also being the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Scioto Valley Brass and Percussion Orchestra in Columbus.

    Affter Dr. Hoch had written the Video Game show that received such high acclaim, Mr. Waters was appointed Director (may have had something to do with taking Dr. Gee to lunch on Fridays as opposed to really knowing what he was doing). I never understood this when you compared the body of work of both men.

    Dr. Hoch also taught the class that Mr. Waters was assigned to teach and received the credit for teaching. Then finally, Dr. Hoch single handedly kept the band at a high degree of excellance during a tumultuous year and relations between the school of music and the band was said to be the best it had been in years, a statement I overheard Dr. Blatti, the Dean of the School of Music make. One would think that after all of his hard work and the credentials Dr. Hoch has in comparison to Mr. Waters, that the University would have appointed him Director and I believe it would be a travesty if they do not.

  12. Matt, excellent letter. Your comments demonstrated a lot of common sense and logic. Unfortunately, it seems as though those things are lost on Drake and the administration these days. For the reasons you stated, Waters and Hoch are obvious and the best candidates as they would hit the ground running in preperation for the next season. I would also suggest that there are a host of other OSUMB alumni out there that have graduated from tOSU School of Music and have advanced in their careers through rather significant marching band directorships. Even these OSUMB alumni candidates would have a “leg up” on complete outsiders in understanding the traditions, operations and the meaning of “the Pride of the Buckeyes” and “The Best Damn Band in the Land.” It is inexplicable that tOSU would have difficulty finding and/or considering any of those highly qualified director candidates. Would it be because such candidates have degrees from tOSU School of Music and have proven themselves in the OSUMB environment already? Are those things considered “disqualifications” by the tOSU administrators charged with finding/hiring the new director. For the sake of the band and its countless fans, I hope not. But, I have long since lost faith in Drake and his administration.

  13. Mike Stewart has been the obvious choice for head director from the start. He has the outside experience and the osu pedigree. The administration seems to want to have nothing to do with anyone even remotely tied to the “previous regime” however. Shame.

  14. While Dr. Hoch and Dr. Stewart would both be excellent choices so would Dr. Brad McDavid who has been the marching band director at Washington for over 20 years and whose band’s style more closely resembles OSU than Tennessee.

  15. Some other alumni guy

    Dr. McDavid has allegedly wanted to return home for 20 years. Dr. McDavid has graduate level experience at other Big 10 schools in addition to OSU. Dr. McDavid’s Washington band is one of the few PAC-12 schools that actually lifts up their feet and marches around the field. Off the field they are one of only a couple of bands in the PAC-12 that is respected by the administration and the community. How is this guy not getting a sniff? It blows my mind. Do they think he’s going to come back to Columbus and flush 20 years of professionalism to start telling off-color jokes and drinking again like he’s 21. Whoever is picking these ‘potential’ candidates is making a fool of themselves. The committee or the school of music or whoever it is…….. dysfunction doesn’t even begin to describe it. At what point does someone like Gene Smith step in and tell everyone to get their house in order?

  16. I would expect Steven Graf, Chris Hoch’s father-in-law to support him, but I would expect him to tell the truth! Jon Waters wrote many of the halftime shows that received national attention and made millions for OSU. Jon was an example of class and integrity and had talent that was recognized by many including Dr. Gee. The statement that Jon had lunch with Dr. Gee every Friday is incorrect! Why is there a need in all this to lie? Jon Waters worked himself up from a student in the band to am esteemed Director. Jon had talents that were recognized that didn’t need a Doctorate degree. Jon had a God given talent which he demonstrated with grace. Jon brought an enthusiasm to the band that was evident throughout their performances. As is known worldwide the culture of the band needed some changes. Jon, a wholesome man, was trying to make changes that were necessary, but that does not happen over night. The “sexual culture” existed for many decades and the administration supported Midnight Ramp without any supervision for many years. In any group of college students you will have “issues”, and those who participate know right from wrong! College kids are going to party whether they are in the band, choral group, or on an athletic team. This is the first time most of these kids, who have become young adults, have been out on their own. As young adults, they are accountable and responsible for their actions. Jon nor any other Director cannot be responsible 24/7 for the band members, especially when they attend parties not during band hours and off campus. Bottom-line, there were issues that needed to be corrected, but even with all that had happened, the two interim directors were not able to keep the members under control. While in New Orleans, band members were down on Bourbon Street drinking and living it up! Where was Mr. Mikkelson and Mr. Jones, and Dr Hovh? On this trip you had students who were in the hospital. Never under the supervision of jon Waters did any band member end up in the hospital for over indulging! If this student would have lost his life there would have been big trouble! The OSU administration and BOT reacted in haste and have created a fiasco that will take years to repair..

  17. Steven Graf speaks a lot of truth. During Jon’s two years as director, he only created drill for 5 out of 15 halftime shows performed in those years; Chris wrote 8, one of them being the video game show, and in my opinion from being in band those years Chris’s drills were better in quality. Two of Jon’s shows went super viral, and it was because of one brief feature. I wouldn’t call that a ton of show writing on his resume. Now, being director is about a lot more than just writing drill. Jon tried hard to better the behavior of members, but he wasn’t perfect. There will always be students who sneak around the rules. I think that the drinking problems during the Sugar Bowl would have happened regardless of who had leadership. It’s only a big deal because of the new zero tolerance rules.
    Don’t get me wrong. I still support Jon morally in his current situation, but I’m not blind; logically, bringing him back is just not in the cards. Chris is even more qualified for the position in a lot of ways. He and Jon had the same experiences in band, plus Chris has a lot of teaching experience beyond OSU. Even now, he directs his own bras band.

  18. Thank you Matt for your great letter…you wrote what most of us feel.There’s enough talent in Buckeye-land to lead the marching band.The problem is…the university is being led and influenced by so many who aren’t from Ohio or schooled at Ohio State.These same folks made a horrible decision that impacted not only the band director,but all members of the organization.Now,the same people that made the initial blunder are in charge of rectifying the situation.I have more confidence in the band members making a mature,responsible decision on their leadership than the current administration.Let people like Matt and the current band members be the main voice in this unfortunate situation.I wish for a speedy resolution.

  19. It was brought to my attention a letter appeared on this site over my name. I did not write, nor did I post that letter and request the staff remove it from the site.

  20. Thomas Snide (OSU '89)

    Spot on Matt. Great article. If the university were to draft a list of strict requirements and rehire Jon, it would be a win-win. Not to mention that millions of dollars would return in presently-withheld university contributions – as well as lawsuit settlement fees.

  21. So it seems we have an imposter posting under Steven Graf’s name? Wow, this is getting dirtier and dirtier by the minute. Perhaps OSU has hired G. Gordon Liddy to run a “dirty tricks” campaign against Waters and Hoch (and any other potential OSU educated candidates)? What next? A break-in at the TBDBITL Alumni office?
    The administration has caused some irreversible damage by the way it and its adherents have behaved over this whole, shoddy, business.

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