Marching Band Letter

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Last updated: 11/18/2011 10:45 AM

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Marching Band Letter: Much Ado About Nothing, or a Long Time Coming?
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Members of The Ohio State University Marching Band sent out a letter Wednesday evening. The purpose of that letter was to capture the attention of Ohio State’s athletic department, specifically current Athletic Director Gene Smith. 

OSU Marching Band
Photo by Jim Davidson

The originator of that letter—which was passed around, posted and re-posted all over the internet—was upset that Ohio State’s athletic department had decided to cut the band’s tradition of playing Carmen Ohio following the pre-game Script Ohio before Saturday’s home finale at Ohio Stadium.

“However, there is another, more important segment that will be rushed through...,” the author wrote.  

“The introduction of non-returning 4th and 5th year marching band members will be accelerated due to timing. However, the team will get 7+ minutes for introductions, as well as 2+ minutes for videos and canned music played through the stadium.”

As it turns out, whoever wrote this letter jumped the gun. Had they waited until morning, they would have learned that the directors of the Ohio State Marching Band—also known as The Best Damn Band in the Land—were already hard at work to ensure that the tradition of playing of Carmen Ohio on Senior Day in the Horseshoe would be preserved.

Dotting the I
Photo by Jim Davidson
Dotting the I

“I think that was kind of a misunderstanding and a timing issue. We have it all worked out now,” said Dr. John Waters, the assistant band director who will serve as interim Band Director next year.

“It was just a misunderstanding by the students. We got it worked out so we can play Carmen Ohio.”

The band members were also made to understand that the introduction of their 4th and 5th year seniors was moved to before the game so that the band could pay special tribute to current Director Dr. Jon Woods, who will retire at the end of this football season after 38 years with the band, 28 of which were spent as the director.

Just the mention of Carmen Ohio being cut from the Senior Day celebrations at Ohio Stadium, however, was enough to spark a panic amongst the roughly 225 current members of the band, along with former members and alumni of the Ohio State University.

“They are passionate about the band. When it comes to Carmen Ohio, that song is literally sacred,” said Woods, who became the band’s director in 1984.

“Just the thought of a problem is enough to stir people. I think if they could have waited a while we as a staff were on top of taking care of it and we did.”

The way the letter spread before the University had a chance to correct the misunderstanding is a lesson in social media," said Waters, who currently directs the OSU women’s basketball Athletic Band.

“It’s kind of a side conversation on social media and how fast things can circulate.”

It is also a testament to the organizing power of Ohio State’s Marching Band, which showed what a little passion and some fervency can do in less than 24 hours.

“There’s different emotions about that. The students get fired up. We get upset when things like that happen. Especially for the seniors, we want to play for them,” one member of the band said.

“We don’t do it all the time, but when we can do that and get the support of other students to solicit the athletic department and it actually works out for us, that’s pretty cool.”

Although it appears to have been a misunderstanding about the time issues on game day this week, the driving force behind this letter was a growing sentiment amongst band members that they are being phased out more and more every week by the current athletic department at Ohio State.

“There have been a few games this season, and it’s been happening for a couple years, where an athletic intern is there with a mic and they tell us when to play and not to play,” said one senior member, who asked not to be identified.

“Instead we’ll hear something like Hell’s Bells over the loudspeaker. My roommate sits in the South stands and when I come home he asks, ‘why didn’t you guys play like the whole game.’ That’s a real fan sitting in the stands, not a member of the band. I love playing, I love playing in the stands and I love when people get into it.”

This is not the first year where the band has been restricted on game days, but it seems to have struck a cord with current members since the departure of former head coach Jim Tressel, who was an outspoken supporter of the Ohio State Marching Band.

“This year it really came to a head,” the senior member said.

“From what I understand, there was an athletic director before Gene Smith who did like the band. Tressel came in while he was there and he really liked the band.

“He started playing Carmen at the end of the game. He really liked it and was behind a lot of the new traditions. He really appreciated us and I think Luke Fickell does too, but Gene Smith…I think they are trying to go in a different direction.”

Another former band member described that direction as a “professional football” feel on game days at Ohio Stadium. That’s not exactly what Ohio State fans are going for, but then again, Smith has his own issues to worry about.

The Buckeyes are still awaiting their final ruling from the NCAA following multiple violations. They have already self-imposed the vacation of the 2010 football season, along with the reduction of five football scholarships over the next three years.

Only time will tell if that will be enough to satisfy the NCAA. At least the band will be satisfied with playing Carmen Ohio one last time in Ohio Stadium. After all, they have 34 seniors who did things the right way.

That alone should be celebrated.

*The following is a list of senior band members who will be recognized in the Horseshoe on Saturday: Katherine Bingmer, Lauren Diangelo, Clayton Finken, Andrew Ginnan, Justin Hennig, Melanie Krepczynski, Jon Lampley, Edward McCary, Katie O’Connor, Rebekah Robison, Frank Struna, Taylor Wharton, Brian Alberta, Corey Balogh, Matthew Barrett, Nicholas Bechtel, Ryan Columbare, Mark Cominsky, Peter Droll, Joellen Flucke, Olivia Friel, Stephanie Gac, Suzie Kim, Alex Kuhn, Brett Logan, Jacob Lowe, Matthew MacFarland, Michael Maley, Spencer Schweinfurth, Hannah Soboslai, Christopher Turner, Ryan Wiens, Jenna Wilt and Cassaundra Wood.

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