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Athletic band steps in for spring game

The Ohio State athletic band performs at a basketball game. Credit: Courtesy of Kevin Leonardi

Ohio State athletic band members will have their moment on the field this weekend.

On Saturday, members of the group will take the field to perform at halftime for the OSU football spring game.

The marching and athletic bands have different responsibilities, but many OSU students are a part of both. In the spring when the marching band goes on hiatus, many of the members join the athletic band to stay in shape for marching band tryouts in August. The athletic band plays at men’s hockey games, men’s and women’s basketball games and men’s and women’s volleyball games throughout the semester.

“Aside from preparing musically, after spring break, the athletic band begins rehearsing outdoors to review marching fundamentals and to learn the spring game pregame and halftime drill in less than a month,” said Kevin Leonardi, the communications director of the marching band.

Leonardi said this year’s halftime show for the spring game is Elvis-themed, and will feature his hit songs such as “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog,” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

The marching band has 228 members and is only active in the fall semester, while the athletic band varies from 250 to 300 members and plays throughout the year. Unlike the marching band, which features solely brass instruments and requires tryouts, the athletic band includes woodwind instruments and is open enrollment.   

In addition to playing halftime of all home football games, the OSUMB traveled to Oklahoma, Indiana, Michigan and Arizona last year. Students usually spend at least 15 hours a week in the Fall Semester to be able to produce a halftime show, Leonardi said.

“It impressed me by just seeing how hard these students work week in and week out to put an amazing product on the field,” he said. “I was inspired just by the work of our students.”

Bret Olson, a third-year in biochemistry, has traveled with the band extensively, including to Oklahoma, Michigan and Arizona.

“No matter where we go, you always have people who respect the music that you are performing,” he said. “They respect the art that you are working on every week. It’s always a nice thing to travel.”

Beginning in March of each year, the OSUMB leaders meet to discuss ideas and themes for the following football season. The optional summer rehearsal will start in June and is free for anyone who wants to come to OSU. The official tryout is in early August.

Leonardi said the band continues to take small steps to be better. This year, they added three new percussion positions — a bass drum, cymbal and tenor drum — in an effort to balance out the sound.

“Every year you have different people, so it’s different atmosphere every year. Everyone connects,” Olson said. “Once you build that band up and we have all these valuable resources, it keeps us going and keeps us the best damn band in the land.”

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