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Ohio State spirit leaders unite

Through the rain that fell Saturday, four drum major candidates and 15 Brutus Buckeye candidates jumped, twirled and tossed batons as they competed for the chance to perform in front of a packed Ohio Stadium at a home game and at other university events next year.

The candidates vied for their respective positions at a new event that combined both tryouts for the first time, according to a statement released by Ohio State.

“We’re holding them at the same time of year, and it really made a lot of sense for us to combine those efforts and do it together to show that we are all one team,” said Stewart Kitchen, the drum major instructor.

The new head drum major is Nathan MacMaster, a graduate student in the Glenn College of Public Affairs. He was on the drum major training squad from 2010 to 2011, and he was the assistant drum major for the past two years.

“Tryouts are terrifying. There’s nothing like it. I’ve been doing this for a long time, but it doesn’t make it any easier,” he said. “The nerves are there, and to go out there and execute what I wanted is the greatest feeling in the world.”

MacMaster said he looks forward to working with what he calls the “greatest band in the entire country” in the next year.

John LaVange, a first-year in accounting, was named the assistant drum major, and he said he is excited to work under MacMaster.

“Nate’s been in the program for many, many years, so it’s going to be an amazing experience to be able to learn everything he knows, getting the experience, getting the knowledge and then hopefully coming back next year and doing better than this year,” LaVange said.

He said becoming the assistant drum major means a lot to him because he started incorporating baton twirling into the drum major program at Howland High School in Howland, Ohio, where he is from. Coming to OSU to become the assistant drum major feels like reaching the next level.

“The ideal candidate is the one who will thrive under pressure,” Kitchen said. “Someone who is a primary leader of the marching band leading the Script Ohio but also a morale officer of the band is really how I see the largest leadership role as the drum major; someone who is going to motivate the band when things aren’t great.”

The two other drum major candidates were Daniel McCullough, a first-year in middle childhood education, and David Williams, a first-year in architecture. They, along with LaVange, were on the drum major training squad this year, where they practice under the head and assistant drum major throughout the year.

The four prospective drum majors performed for the crowd, starting with the ramp entrance to build excitement. They then showed off their own twirling routine and had five chances to show off their high toss routine with variations between each one.

The drum major judging panel, made of 18 people, consisted of current and alumni marching band staff members and alumni drum majors.

The drum major for the past two years, David Pettit, who is also a fifth-year in piano performance, could not run again this year because there is a two-year limit on being a drum major, Kitchen said.

For the Brutus tryouts, the 15 candidates built pregame hype before the drum major tryouts and then performed short skits for the audience after the drum major tryouts. The eight Brutus judges were alumni who previously donned the mascot costume.

The candidate or candidates who will be the 50-year-old mascot will be announced at a private event for reasons that could not be disclosed, said Ray Sharp, the assistant spirit coach and mascot coordinator.

“The secret of Brutus is like Santa Claus. There’s one Santa Claus, and he lives in the North Pole, you never see him when he drops off the presents ­— same kind of thing,” said Sudzy Steyn, a fourth-year in strategic communication who previously wore the mascot for two years. “Brutus is an ambassador for the university, and it’s not something that’s just Ohio State, it’s like the entire state of Ohio. That secret is just part of the thing that makes him super special.”

The perfect Brutus candidate is a role model both in and out of the costume who can bring the appropriate level of energy to any given situation, Sharp said.

“In a stadium, you want someone with high energy, ready to go, everybody sees him and just feeds off his energy,” he said. “You also want someone who can stand at the podium next to (President Michael Drake) and not take away from Dr. Drake’s speech, but enhance it.”

Kaley Rentz contributed to this article.

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