Fans who attended the Ohio State spring football game last weekend were probably not surprised to see a band in attendance, after all, what OSU football game would be complete without a band to play Fight The Team and Hang On Sloopy? However as the game went on, there were many fans who were probably surprised and confused by some of the things that the saw from the band. Was the band wearing red polo shirt and black baseball hats, what happened did TBDBITL get new uniforms? And where was the traditional ramp entrance and what about Script Ohio? Wait, are those woodwinds in the band? The explanation for these questions is tied to the fact that the band at the spring football game wasn’t the Ohio State Marching Band which Buckeye fans are used to seeing in Ohio Stadium in the fall. Rather, it was the Ohio State Athletic Band, the other band on campus that performs at OSU sporting events over the course of the year.
Unlike the marching band which is all brass and percussion and limited to 225 members who must tryout, the athletic band also includes woodwinds and is a non-audition group; in recent years the band that performs at men’s basketball games has required an audition. The lack of audition does not mean that quality is not important to the athletic band; members are very talented and are expected to perform at high levels. The band rehearses twice a week for two hours at a time each semester as well as performing at games most every weekend, leading to a very busy schedule.
In the fall the athletic band performs at women’s volleyball games and normally also makes an appearance in the homecoming parade and homecoming skull session. As the weather gets cooler, the athletic band also starts to perform for men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and men’s ice hockey while also making an occasional appearance at other sports. In the spring the band performs at the OSU spring football game, playing in the stands and also performing drill at pregame and halftime. During the spring the athletic band also will often travel, normally performing at the opening day festivities at Cedar Point. Over the years the athletic band has also performed during the opening ceremonies of the Memorial Tournament held at the Muirfield golf course and in the Indianapolis 500 parade.
There is a lot of overlap between the marching and athletic bands. Both bands rehearse in the Steinbrenner Band Center in Ohio Stadium and the directing staff is the same for both groups. Both groups play all of the beloved OSU school songs and seek to support Buckeye teams on to victory. During the spring semester many members of the OSU marching band join the athletic band and over the years there have been a few hearty, or crazy, souls who have done performed in both the marching and athletic band (I was one of those and man, talk about a busy schedule).
This past weekend, the athletic band had its most public performance when it performed at the spring football game and the men’s lacrosse game that preceded it. While the football game may only be a scrimmage that doesn’t count, the band takes it seriously, intent on putting on the best show possible for the fans in attendance. Check out the video below for all of the performances by the band over the course of the day.
The video starts with pregame before the men’s lacrosse game where the athletic band played the fight song as the team took to the field and then the Star Spangled Banner. Halftime of the lacrosse game, around the 3:15 mark in the video, featured a show of school songs. The band marched downfield in block to The Buckeye Battlecry before marching back up the field to the strains of I Wanna Go Back. TUp next was Hang On Sloopy which represents a difference between the marching and athletic band. While both groups play the song and perform the horn swing, the athletic band does not perform the traditional Sloopy step which is reserved for the marching band. The lacrosse game halftime concluded with the playing of Carmen Ohio.
Pregame for the spring football game (8:52 in the video) started off a bit differently than a fall pregame does. The ramp entrance that OSU fans are used to seeing in the fall is a tradition of the marching band and is not performed by the athletic band. Instead, the band started in an on field position and then marched down field while playing The Buckeye Battlecry. The band then split, forming a tunnel for the entrance of the scarlet and gray football teams.
From the blood moon to yesterday’s announcement of the first Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone around another star, the recent news has featured many stories about space. Thus, it was only fitting that Saturday’s halftime show took us to explore the final frontier with the music of Star Trek. The show started with the theme from 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, yes it was also the theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation but that came later, while the band spelled out ‘Star Trek!’. Up next was music from Captain Kirk’s showdown with his toughest foe, Khan with music from Wrath of Khan (from before JJ Abrams came in and sort of screwed up the franchise). Leaving Captain Kirk and crew behind, the band moved on to the adventures of Captain Picard and his crew with a drum major feature to the theme from Star Trek: First Contact. The finale of the show featured music from JJ Abram’s reboot of the franchise and the band truly saved the best drill for last, forming a trio of planets that then morphed into the familiar image of Kirk’s Enterprise. The Enterprise then flew down the field, complete with smoke effects that indicated the drill writers didn’t truly understand how the Enterprise’s engines worked. The show closed with the band forming an Ohio State-themed version of Star Trek’s iconic delta shield emblem.
For many of those that were in attendance on Saturday, there is still one more question to resolve: why was there no Script Ohio? Even more than the ramp entrance, Script Ohio is a tradition of the marching band and the signature block unwinding to spell out the letters ‘Ohio’ is only performed by the marching band and thus was not performed at the spring game. The athletic band has performed a version of Script Ohio in the past at basketball and hockey games but that version is done as a scatter drill into the final formation as opposed to spelling out ‘Ohio’ one letter at a time.
With performances at two games in a row, Saturday was truly a busy day for the Ohio State Athletic Band. However the band met the challenges of playing so much in one day and entertained the tens of thousands of Buckeye fans who were in attendance. Up next for the athletic band will be a performance at the marching band’s drum major tryouts on Saturday, May 3rd.