Despite the additional eyes on the Ohio State Marching Band this year with its viral performances, the director said the way the band handles media attention is standing strong as is.
“Maybe this year, I put a little more emphasis on it, because there was more visibility around the band, around the (football) team,” said Jon Waters, director of the OSU Marching Band, which is sometimes referred to as ‘The Best Damn Band in the Land.’
The policy was introduced between four and five years ago, Waters said. Members “found to be representing the band inappropriately in a public or private form … will be subject to the disciplinary action at the discretion of the directing staff. Students may not engage in a media interview with regard to the band without the permission of the director,” according to the band’s policy.
That rule came about after the emergence of social media sites like Facebook, Waters said.
“Any band policy that we have developed over the years has been as a result of something, some incident, some thought that ‘Oh gosh, we should do this differently. We should do this better,’” he said.
One student was suspended and had his scholarship revoked because he spoke to a news outlet during the spring without permission. He has recently returned to the band.
“I think (what the student said) came out wrong in the media. So we did have a student who made a comment to, I think it was an online blog, in the spring that came to my attention,” Waters said. “Nothing necessarily out of the ordinary this year, other than the heightened awareness of the band.”
The student involved declined to comment.
Punishments for noncompliance with band regulations range from small tasks, like cleaning the band hall after practice, to dismissal from the program, Waters said.
“Not every case is going to be black and white,” he added. “There are shades of gray.”
The band’s video game halftime show, performed during the OSU football team’s 2012 game against Nebraska, had nearly 16 million views as of Wednesday evening on a video uploaded by user HandMRowGoBucks.
This year, a BuckeyeTV video of the Michael Jackson tribute during the Iowa halftime show Oct. 19 has attracted nearly 9 million views, and a YouTube video uploaded by user osumbvideo of the Hollywood Blockbuster show during the Penn State halftime show Oct. 26 had about 14 million views as of Wednesday evening.
Waters said there’s an “increasing need” for students to be trained in dealing with the media.
“It’s amazing how one thing, just one thing, can turn into a negative thing. And, too, it’s amazing how one thing can turn into a very positive thing, but you have to manage all of those things,” he said.
With the influx of recent attention, the band has turned to OSU’s media and public relations team for assistance in handling media requests, Waters said in an email.
“Although we have received a tremendous amount of national attention from media outlets, our focus continues to be placed upon providing creative and innovative presentations for our fans,” Waters said. “The media relations team continues to aid us in providing a method which will ensure efficiency, captures all of the media requests while enabling us to continue to focus on our objectives as the Ohio State University Marching Band.”
For some new band members, the experience of watching the band’s performances go viral has been a wild ride.
“Being a freshman at OSU, it’s honestly been amazing being in that transition from high school to that first year of college,” said Viet Nguyen, a first-year in exploration and member of the band who plays the mellophone. “It’s been overwhelming for me.”
On the other side of the coin, some band veterans said they’re used to media attention, but not to the extent they’ve been experiencing lately.
“It’s been really exciting to see the fans gets really excited about a show that we think is a good show,” said Joshua Senn, a fifth-year in music education and member of the band who plays the flugelhorn. “It’s so much more rewarding when the crowd enjoys it as much as we do.
“To have that wide reach now is just kind of unreal,” he said.
Contemporary music and the ability to relate with the shows have both been key in the band’s success, said Shayna Half, a fourth-year in sport and leisure studies and member of the band who plays the flugelhorn.
“We’re doing shows that the crowd understands,” Half said.
She said the attention has added some additional burden, but not much.
“We have world and national news eyes on us now,” she said. “I don’t want to say there’s added pressure, because we’ve always had that pressure of wanting to be the best and do our best on the field, but now we have that (attention) to deal with.”
Media attention or no, the band members and staff alike are “emotionally invested” in the representation of the band on and off the field, Waters said.
“There are 250 students here just in the Marching Band. Two hundred and fifty different opinions, 250 different life experiences, 250 different backgrounds, yet it all works,” Waters said. “They are their brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, so what happens to one of them in their row and in their section happens to everybody.”