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Ohio State Marching Band attracts attention of ‘TODAY,’ Michael Jackson’s mom

The OSU Marching Band performs during halftime at the OSU versus Penn State game Oct. 26 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

The OSU Marching Band performs during halftime at the OSU versus Penn State game Oct. 26 at Ohio Stadium.
Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

After Michael Jackson’s mother called the director and two consecutive halftime shows went viral, it seems the Ohio State Marching Band might be starting a streak to rival that of the undefeated football team.

A BuckeyeTV video of a Michael Jackson tribute halftime show during the OSU football game against Iowa Oct. 19 had more than 7.8 million views as of Wednesday evening, and a YouTube video of the “Hollywood Blockbusters” halftime show during a game against Penn State Saturday had more then 8.7 million.

With all the attention it’s getting, the band, often referred to as “The Best Damn Band in the Land,” appeared on NBC’s “TODAY Show” Wednesday and has been fielding calls from media around the world, OSU Marching Band director Jon Waters said.

Katherine Jackson, the late Michael Jackson’s mother, contacted Waters Oct. 24 to thank the band for its tribute to her son, Waters said.

“She was very gracious (and) wanted me to thank the band members and said that on several occasions,” he said. “She was very impressed by the performance of the band and extended the congratulations and thanks of the whole family for our performance.”

Waters said the attention benefits the entire university.

“This has given us global outreach and that is a wonderful opportunity for us and our university and for our great students,” Waters said. “(If) that inspires some fifth grade or some fourth (grade) kid to say to his or her mom, ‘Hey, I’d like to play in the band someday,’ then we’ve done our job. We’ve inspired the next generation of musicians and I think that’s a great thing.”

Brothers Athan and Kosta Nicolozakes both play baritone for the band.

Kosta Nicolozakes, a third-year in biomedical engineering, agreed with Waters about the importance of inspiring the next generation.

“If this show convinces an extra fan to stay and watch their show at halftime, or even an extra child to pick up an instrument in elementary school, it’s worth it,” Kosta Nicolozakes said.

Athan Nicolozakes, a first-year in biomedical engineering, said he appreciates getting recognition from his classmates.

“I have (received) countless compliments from my peers who have seen the (‘Hollywood Blockbusters’) show,” he said. “It is amazing to see the band get this much recognition … (it’s) truly an honor to be a part of this organization.”

But Waters said the recognition will not change the band’s focus.

“This has been an opportunity for us to create new traditions through being innovative today,” Waters said. “What we say to our students is, ‘Today’s innovations become tomorrow’s traditions,’ and I think we’re able to do that with our halftime shows.”

He added that the Marching Band members deserve the attention.

“I’m very proud of the fact that they’re getting recognition for the hard work that they put into what we do,” Waters said. “We have really dedicated students.”

Kosta Nicolozakes, though, said much of the reason for the recognition lies with the directors.

“So much of this success is a result of Jon (Waters), (associate director) Chris Hoch and our wonderful staff. Shows like this are a product of their genius combination of innovation and tradition, and the future of the band is bright simply because of the year long work they all put in,” he said.

First-year in nursing Ryan Salem was one student who was impressed with the band performance at the Penn State game.

“It was honestly the greatest band performance I’ve ever seen,” Salem said. “It was the loudest part of any game I’ve been to this year.”

Kyle Wang, a second-year in accounting, agreed the “Hollywood Blockbusters” halftime show was one of the best yet.

“Last week’s Penn State (halftime performance) was one of the best ever. It’s incredible how they can choreograph it and create those pictures,” Wang said. “My mind is constantly blown every show, and just when I think it can’t get better, it always does. They’re always raising the level of their performances.”

Other students said the Marching Band is especially good this year.

“They’ve been way better (than in years past),” said Alyssa Verhoff, a third-year in neuroscience. “(They’re) more complex. They always did cool stuff but it was never like (making) a person.”

The band formed a silhouette of Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk during its tribute show and of Harry Potter on a broomstick catching the snitch during the “Hollywood Blockbusters” show.

Second-year in psychology Mackenna Swing said she enjoys watching the performances each week.

“They make me want to stop what I’m doing and just sit and watch,” she said. “I feel almost honored to be watching them since they don’t play the whole thing on TV.”

Having support from fellow OSU students is encouraging for band members, Kosta Nicolozakes said.

“The students at this university have always been supportive of the band, and that’s what makes the experience so wonderful,” he said. “This year more than ever, people have really stayed in their seats during halftime to watch our shows, and the crowd reactions before, during and after our shows have been sensational.”


  1. The last two performances have also been featured on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes on the #Click3 Best Things on the Web Today segment.

  2. OSU Band is extremely talented. They deserve the reputation as the best band in the land. But the tribute to Michael Jackson is what launched their expanded fame. Fans of his from all over the world were sharing that video and loved it and what started the media’s focus. Well done guys! It was a joy to watch. 🙂

  3. Everyone is forgetting about their awesome Halloween halftime show against San Diego State in 2009 when they did the Thriller dance!

  4. I go to all the football games so I see the shows in person. What Ohio State needs to do is take advantage of the opportunity and pressure ABC/ESPN/BTN to carry the performances live rather then meaningless rehashing of other games back in the studio during halftime. Great PR tool for Ohio State!

  5. I have been thinking- the name should not be TBDBITL but TBDBITW, as there is nothing like it in the whole world.

  6. Hey, don’t forget their video game show from last year that went viral! Epona from Zelda running was amazing!

  7. Love it, love it, love it. So sad TV doesn’t show entire halftime program. Sure miss it, but always watching from Florida.

  8. Notice how many fans are still in their seats at halftime?!?! The band is just as popular as the football. =)

  9. Great article and a great ‘still’ shot of the band standing in what seems to fog settling on the field. As an alumni of the band, I really agree with everything that the Nicolazakas brothers were saying especially the part when other students congratulate you on a performance. It really makes you feel that all your work has paid off!

  10. My grandfather, Stan Hindmarch, played with this band in the late 50’s. This band has played a huge role in my family for many many years. Even after his passing, this band still means the world to us. It is a great honor to see all the attention that they’re getting for their performance(s) as well as for their musicianship. We are so proud of everyone & every musician who plays a role in helping this incredible band maintain it’s importance & global impact. Thank you all for your hard work, & for hopefully inspiring the next great generation of musicians to come. Here’s to hoping that schools across the nation & around the world will change their views on dropping the music program when the funds get tight. Thank you for keeping music alive & strong.

  11. “Everyone is forgetting about their awesome Halloween halftime show against San Diego State in 2009 when they did the Thriller dance!”

    Not everyone 🙂 I was at that particular game, and it was an awesome thing to behold. It’s actually on YouTube somewhere, just hard to find one that’s not a small jerky cell phone video.

  12. The Halloween show in 2009 was outstanding, but the game was against New Mexico State not San Diego State.

  13. What about the Hollywood Blockbusters show in 2006? The Ray Charles show in 2005? Maybe the Funk show in 2004 or the Beatles show in 2003?

    The point is: the band has been putting out quality performances for many years. It has not been until recently when the band has started exploring more topical musical subject matter, along with the explosion of here and now social media that they are finally getting the attention they deserve.

    We need to take this opportunity and petition all of the networks to dump their talking heads which no one cares about during halftime and start showing the bands again. Showing one half of a Script Ohio or showing a closeup of the band as they are cutting to ads just doesn’t cut it. People want to see band performances. Not some useless talking heads rambling on about the game. Maybe if these guys talked about the stats for the game they are covering DURING the game, and not ramble on about all of these other games being played, they wouldn’t have to spend halftime in front of the cameras.

  14. The Bucks faced Oklahoma State (OSU vs. OSU) at the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Dec. 29, 2004. This was close to home for Oklahoma State, so they had lots of fans there. Pre-game when their band marched into the stadium area they got a good hand. When TBDBITL marched in shortly after that, everyone was in silent awe. All the lines were straight. The music was incredible. When the band stopped playing each member stood motionless like the guard in front of a palace. Everyone knew they were seeing greatness and were in awe. By the way, underdog Ohio State whipped Oklahoma State with ease.

  15. i am an osu alum (au ’04) and i do recruiting here in the dc area – last year i noticed we started getting more questions about the matching band as the video games show went viral, and after the michael jackson tribute we had at least a dozen high school students come to our table at the college fairs specifically to excitedly ask about the band! it’s incredible to watch their faces when they realize there’s a university they can go to where 100,000 people stay in their seats to watch the band perform at halftime. it’s a little different from the marching band “band geek” reputation many get at their high schools. it’s especially fun when it’s a student who marches with a sousaphone who has just found out about script ohio for the first time. tbdbitl is inspiring young musicians not only in ohio, but around the country. i’m doing a big national college fair for dc public schools next week, which will be my first since the hollywood blockbusters show – i can’t wait! thanks to jon waters and everyone in tbdbitl for continuing to inspire future dc buckeyes!

  16. I had never seen the Ohio State marching band perform before until a fellow Michael Jackson fan shared it with me. It was awesome and I shared it with friends, and so on. The Michael Jackson fan community is huge and worldwide. Nice to see the marching band get some recognition!

  17. The Ohio State band has always been excellent, and if their superb tribute to Michael Jackson gives them even more well-deserved praise, that’s just great. All Hail and let your imagination and creativity soar!

  18. They forgot to mention that the Video Game Tribute which has 15 million hits so far,

  19. Hey Al Wani, how about referring to this marching band as TBFBITW? They’re that good!

  20. Yea too bad they don't show halftime on TV. I would enjoy watching them so much more than the talking heads. Such a shame.

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