The Ohio State Marching Band plays “Hang on Sloopy” in the second half of the Rose Bowl Game featuring Ohio State and Washington. Ohio State won 28-23. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

The Ohio State Marching Band will join the Columbus Symphony Orchestra at the Columbus Commons this Friday and Saturday to close out the symphony’s annual Picnic with the Pops concert series.

Presented by Nationwide Insurance, Picnic with the Pops is an outdoor event held over the summer where a new popular act performs with the orchestra each week. Guests this year ranged from Windborne and the music of Pink Floyd to the series finale of the Ohio State Marching Band.

The Best Damn Band in the Land has played with the symphony each year for decades, band director Christopher Hoch said. Hoch played with the symphony each year during his time in the band from 1995 to 1999.

“We are so grateful to be able to continue to have this collaboration,” Hoch said. “To be able to get 120 students during their time off during the summer to come back and play and make music is extraordinary.”

Entering its 36th season, the series presents opportunities for families and friends to gather on the lawn at Columbus Bicentennial Pavilion — located in Columbus Commons — with picnic baskets, lawn chairs and blankets in hand, or at full tables available for purchase.

Hoch said the performance also serves as a kickoff for the marching band season. It marks the first time a majority of the band is together for a marching performance since the previous school year.

Performances outside of the marching season provide different challenges, and this one is no different. Hoch said the participating students learn much of the music on their own, coming together for just a few rehearsals before the performance. The band only gets one full rehearsal with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra before showtime.

Hoch said opportunities like this present a growing experience for the students. Getting to interact with professional musicians connects student musicians to the larger Columbus music scene and gives them insight into a career in music.

Nobody knows this better than Brooklynn Howell, a fourth-year in general music education and soloist in the upcoming performance. Howell plays the cornet, and will be the assistant squad leader of A Row, the very front of the band, during the upcoming season.

“It’s super humbling to sit beside professional musicians and have them right behind you supporting you,” Howell said.

This marks Howell’s fourth performance with the symphony for Picnic with the Pops, but she has had the opportunity to play with the musicians in formal settings as well through the school of music.

No matter the context, Howell said that the professionals in the symphony are always enthusiastic about interacting with the band.

“They are so supportive, and they’re very talkative,” Howell said. “They love just hearing what experiences we’ve had.”

Hoch agreed that both groups have something to gain from the relationship, but he said the fans are also winners. It exposes symphony-goers to the raw energy of the marching band, and it gives band fanatics a chance to experience the nuances of classical compositions, something Howell said can get lost in the scramble of memorizing marching arrangements.

Gates for the performance open at 6 p.m. and the shows will start at 8 p.m. each night. General admission to the lawn costs $30 for adults, $10 for children aged 3-14 and is free for children under 2 for each concert.

Full tables range from $360 to $850, and seat parties of eight to 10. Single table tickets range from $50 to $90. Catering is also available during the picnics. All tickets can be purchased by phone at 614-469-0938, online at, or in person at the CAPA Ticket Center.