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.
After two straight seasons of the Ohio State University Marching Band wowing audiences and capturing international attention at levels never before seen thanks to their spectacular and creative shows, Buckeye fans shouldn’t be surprised to see the band receive more attention. Still, OSU fans watching sports this afternoon had to be pleasantly surprised and excited to see TBDBITL featured pretty prominently in the new iPad Air commercial from Apple. As most of you probably remember from the numerous news reports during the season, two members of the OSUMB, Charlie King and Ryan Barta, came up with an idea to save the band the costs of photocopying music and drill by having all the band members use iPads. As it turned out, this idea had benefits far beyond the cost savings as the ability to look at animated versions of the drill charts, watch practice video, record video of individuals marching, and other things greatly improved the band’s ability to learn drill and to refine their performances. This was the first season that the iPads were used and contrary to some media reports, only the squad leaders had them this season; the goal for next season is for every band member to have an iPad to use during the season which should lead to even more improvement in the band’s performances.
It doesn’t matter if you are an Apple fanboy or not, it is still cool to see TBDBITL featured in a commercial that has nothing to do with football either in terms of content or what the company involved is known for. Instead, Apple is recognizing the creativity and innovation of the OSUMB and using that to show some of the exciting ways people are figuring out how to use technology; mixing images of the band in with people using iPads while scuba diving and other things only adds to the sense of coolness at what the band did. I also love the fact that Apple didn’t put the OSUMB’s name on there anywhere, implying that they realize the band and its shows, such as the T-Rex formation from the Hollywood Blockbusters show, is now famous enough that no explanation is needed. I haven’t heard any details yet about what form of compensation TBDBITL received from Apple for this but it is pretty cool that a major company like Apple views the band as something it wants to be associated with and that will help it sell its products; when was the last time you heard of a company who tries to have an image of being ‘cool and hip’ go “hey, let’s associate ourselves with band nerds.”
While the outcome of the Orange Bowl was a disappointment for Ohio State fans, Buckeyes everywhere should still be proud of the season the team had and what Urban Meyer is building in Columbus. Fortunately there was one aspect of the Orange Bowl that OSU fans weren’t disappointed in and that was the performance of the Ohio State University Marching Band.
TBDBITL flew out of Columbus on the night of January 1st, arriving in Miami around midnight and heading to their hotel. January 2nd featured a pair of pep bands in the morning followed by a performance for the annual Buckeye Bash pep rally put on by the Ohio State Alumni Association where the band, cheerleaders, and Brutus helped to fire up a large crowd of the scarlet and grey faithful who had made the trip to Miami.
While disappointed that the football team’s loss in the Big Ten championship game kept them from making the National Championship game, Buckeye fans were comforted by the fact that the football team got a berth in the Orange Bowl meaning another BCS appearance and a game against a good opponent that gave the football team a chance to earn a lot of national respect. The Orange Bowl also meant a chance for Buckeye fans to escape cold, snowy Ohio and spend a few days in January enjoying warm, sunny Miami while cheering on their beloved team. The Ohio State Marching Band will also get a chance to experience the warmer weather but this is very much a work trip for them and band members won’t have very much time to relax on the beaches or live it up in the clubs and bars.
Bowl trips are always a lot of fun for the band and some of my best memories from my time as a member of TBDBITL were on bowl trips. However a bowl trip is a very different experience for a band member than it is for a fan. While there is normally some free time for band members to enjoy the bowl location, most of the trip is consumed by practices, pep rallies, parades, and other performances before the main event of the game. Following the game the band pretty much always heads straight for the airport for a red eye flight back to Columbus.
For decades Ohio State fans have known that no matter how the football team does on the field, the Ohio State University Marching Band always won at halftime. For the first 24 games of the Urban Meyer era, the football team also always did their part and OSU fans couldn’t have been happier. Unfortunately that winning streak came to an end on Saturday night but while Buckeye fans were disappointed with the outcome of the football game, fans couldn’t be disappointed with the pregame and halftime performances from the band.
Saturday was a long day for TBDBITL. After a morning rehearsal at Lucas Oil Stadium along with the Spartan Marching Band, the OSUMB performed at a pair of pep rallies, one put on by the OSU Alumni Society and the other put on by the Big Ten. Following the pep rallies, it was time for a trip back to Lucas Oil Stadium to get ready for pregame.
Both bands performed traditional pregame shows featuring lots of school songs to get their fans fired up for the game, the OSUMB’s pregame of course culminating in a double Script Ohio. Following their individual pregame performances, the two bands joined together on the field for the National Anthem, a classy move that provided a powerful performance that has drawn lots of praise from fans at the game.
To most Ohio State fans, the OSU-Indiana game was Senior Day for the football players. However it was also Senior Day for the marching band which saw the departing fourth and fifth year band members honored at the end of the halftime show; graduating members who have been in the band less than four years did not have their name read out during the ceremony. Senior Day is always a bitter sweet day for the band members as they perform for the last time in Ohio Stadium in the uniform that they earned through with years of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears.
The fans in the stadium may have been cold and bundled up due to the lightly falling snow but the band quickly got them on their feet and cheering with the traditional pregame show. The light snow fall actually helped to accentuate the skill of the band as the band members left footprints in the snow; check out the end of the first video where following ramp you can clearly see how each band member stepped in the footprint of the member in front of them, leaving only 8 blank spaces in the snow every five yards.
The show for the Indiana game was obviously going to be the show that the band would take to Michigan and thus this highly influenced the choice of show theme. As a tradition, the band almost always takes a patriotic themed show to M*ch*g*n. This is done knowing that due to the bitterness of the rivalry, the M*ch*g*n fans are going to boo the band and in theory that will be limited with a patriotic show as even Wolverines wouldn’t boo America. From my experience this generally works and the Michigan fans just have to get all their booing in during pregame. Personally I didn’t mind the booing during pregame, and I know many other band members who felt the same way, as it actually fired us up as we prepared to take the field.
This year the band decided to use their patriotic show to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg and President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. After the season the band has had, expectations were obviously very high for the band and while the band could easily have gotten cheers by just playing a few patriotic tunes and forming an American flag, anyone who knows TBDBITL knows that they would never settle for such a thing. Instead, the band came up with a show that serves as a perfect cap to a phenomenal season.
After forming an ‘1863’ on the field to music from the movie Gettysburg at the start of the show, the band quickly drew cheers as they formed a trio of soldiers marching across the field with a battle flag waving while playing “Battle Cry of Freedom”. The band then transitioned to a Confederate and a Union soldier who were thinking about home to the strains of “Home, Sweet Home”. Next up was “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and a cavalry officer with sword on horseback. Perhaps the most famous speech ever given by a president was Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and as the words of that speech were read, the band played music from Gettysburg and “Taps” while forming the Lincoln Memorial. For the finale, the band was joined by the Ohio State Men’s Glee Club for “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Not content with the two animated formations they had already done, the band formed and fired a cannon and then had a Confederate and Union soldier shake hands during the finale.
This was another great show that had a bit of everything we want for an OSUMB performance: the animated formations the band has become famous for, some more modern line and block drill, props, pyrotechnics,… The music selection for the show also did a great job showing off the sound and range of the band; compare the sound of the band during the music from the movie Gettysburg and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” to see the perfect example of the band’s range. The show, like so many done over the past two seasons by TBDBITL, got a lot of attention in the media, showing up on Fox Sports, Deadspin, the UK’s Daily Mail, Huffington Post, and many others.
After the game, the band performed their normal postgame concert on the field before marching up the ramp and under the stadium where the seniors were dismissed for the last time at a home game. This march back up the ramp is a very emotional moment for all the departing band members as they know that was the last time they will perform in Ohio Stadium.
A House Divided?
The band taking a Civil War themed show to M*ch*g*n is sort of appropriate as like the war, it is a bitter rivalry that divides families and friends. As much as it pains us, most of us probably have at least one friend who is a Wolverine and many of us probably know families that are split between the two schools; my grandfather actually went to M*ch*g*n and my dad cheered for the Wolverines until I went to OSU and he saw the light (somehow I always had a fondness for OSU as a photo of myself in an OSU jersey from when I was 5 proves).
It isn’t my story that I wish to talk about this week; rather, it is the story of Liz McIntosh-Russell (@osumarchingmom) and her son Phil. Phil is a 5th year sousaphone player in the OSUMB who has been a three time i-dotter (September 1st, 2012 against Miami (Ohio), September 7th, 2013 against San Diego State, and November 2nd, 2012 at Purdue). So Liz of course is a proud mother of band member but there are lots of those, what makes this story interesting? Well, in addition to being the mother of a member of the OSUMB, Liz is also an alumnus of the M*ch*g*n Marching Band where she was their first ever female sousaphone player. Big Ten marching bands are traditionally quite masculine and sousaphone sections are even more so. Thus to be the first female member of the MMB was “pretty crazy” as Liz puts it; she recounted how MMB director George Cavender would stop during rehearsal and say to the trumpets “There’s a girl in the tuba section!” 60 Minutes Australia even did a short piece on Liz when they were at a Michigan because as Liz puts it, “women just didn’t play the big horn all that much at the time.”
Being in the MMB obviously gave Liz a different perspective on the rivalry than OSU fans get. She recalled the 1978 game played in Columbus where the MMB staff decided that the band would form a script ‘State’ while playing the OSU fight song. The sousaphones completed the formation by marching down and crossing the ‘Ts’, complete with the traditional i-dotter bow. As Liz remembers, “It was NOT well received. Knowing what I know now about Script Ohio and tradition, I am surprised we made it out alive.”
When it came time for Phil to decide on where to go to college, at first he was going to follow in his mother’s footsteps and attend that school up North. Phil’s audition for the M*ch*g*n School of Music didn’t go well though and he was not admitted to the school. Phil and his mom decided to attend the OSU School of Music orientation session on a whim and while there Phil turned to his mom and said “this feels like home” and she agreed. Phil auditioned for the OSU School of Music and was accepted.
Phil’s first tryout for the OSUMB did not go as well but he stuck with it, staying in Columbus the summer after his freshman year so that he could practice for tryouts more. Phil’s second year of trying out was more successful and he made the band and eventually went on to become an i-dotter. Phil graduated last May with a Bachelors of Music Education and chose to take a class at OSU this fall so he could be in the band for the final year of his eligibility (a member can only be in TBDBITL for 5 years).
Despite her being in the M*ch*g*n Marching Band for a short time, she left early to join the Navy, Liz has become a complete Buckeye fan thanks to Phil’s experiences as a student and musician at Ohio State. See, not only is TBDBITL highly skilled and entertaining, they also have the power to transform Wolverine fans into Buckeyes.
This week is always a busy one for the band. Everyone loves to put on pep rallies and events for M*ch*g*n week and the band is flooded with requests for a pep band from all around the state. While most of these get turned down as there is just no way for the band to make all of them and still have time to do things like rehearse, eat, sleep, study, etc. There are some pep bands the band does and band members will be busy this week performing at various events; fortunately the Beat M*ch*g*n pep rallies tend to be a lot of fun for the band.
The fact that the game has been moved to the Saturday after Thanksgiving makes this week even busier and more hectic for band members. While there will be a little time to enjoy the holiday, band members shouldn’t eat too much turkey because while the rest of you are sleeping or out shopping on Friday, the band will be reporting to the stadium to load buses and head north. It has been a long standing tradition of the band to honor Woody Hayes by never staying in That State Up North and thus the band normally will spend the Friday night before a game in Ann Arbor or East Lansing in a hotel in the Toledo area. As part of the trip, the band also traditionally performs a concert somewhere in the Toledo area. This year the concert will be at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio on Friday at 7:30pm; tickets for the concert can be ordered from the OSU Alumni Club of Erie County.
Celebrating a great senior day, and getting ready for The Game… but this was too good not to post ASAP.