On behalf of the entire tBBC family, I would like to wish everyone a Happy 4th of July. This is my third straight 4th that I have spent outside of the United States and my views on the holiday have definitely changed over that time. Growing up I always enjoyed the 4th, it was a fun holiday that meant spending time outdoors, bbqs, watching a Capital Fourth and fireworks, and when I got older, having a few beers with Dad. While all of this was enjoyable, I wouldn’t really say that the holiday had a lot of special meaning to me. I loved America but the 4th of July always seemed more about having a day off work and enjoying yourself than anything.
I think some of the reason that the 4th of July didn’t have a special meaning to me was that I was sort of spoiled and took living in the USA for granted. When one is always living in a place, it is easy to overlook what makes it great, especially when you don’t have a lot of experiences to compare to. Living in Australia for just over two years now has been an eye opening experience for me in many ways as it has made me see myself and the US in a different light. I definitely see America’s faults more clearly now; yes, we have them and more of them than we would like to admit but I’m not going to get into those as that is way off topic for this blog and beside the point. However, despite all of its faults, I also see what makes America great far more clearly than I ever did before. A few months ago I was talking with some people at work about how much of a pain it is that American citizens living abroad still have to file US taxes even if they aren’t earning any money in the US or living there, something that citizens of most other countries don’t have to deal with, and how the various US tax laws restrict my ability to travel back to the US unless I want to get taxed by two different countries on my Australian income. One of the postdocs that I was talking to pointed out that I could get out of that by becoming a citizen of another country and giving up my US citizenship; he then asked if I would do that if I got a permanent job in Australia and became a citizen here. I was rather surprised by the question as the thought had never crossed my mind but I didn’t hesitate in saying no, I wouldn’t give up my American citizenship. The other postdoc was rather surprised by this, he is Canadian and said that if he was in my situation, he would give up his citizenship in order to avoid the annoying tax issues. The Australians that were with us all agreed with him and despite my attempts to explain my reasoning, I couldn’t really get any of them to understand why being an American was so important to me. Its not that these people weren’t proud of their country but there was just something different about how I felt about the US.
Summer is normally a slow time for Ohio State sports outside of recruiting. All of the spring sports are done and none of the fall sports have started practice yet, meaning that outside of recruiting there is little in the way of news. That isn’t true for all things connected to OSU athletics though as the past week has been anything but quiet for the Ohio State University Marching Band.
As I have previously detailed, the tryout process for the OSUMB is very demanding and highly competitive and prospective band members start preparing for tryouts well in advance. Prospective band members will spend the summer practicing their marching and playing, memorizing school songs, and hitting the gym to get in shape. In addition to their individual work, many prospective members will also attend Summer Sessions.
Summer sessions are optional practice sessions held at the band’s practice field where prospective band members practice and learn the OSUMB marching fundamentals that they will be evaluated on at tryouts. Summer Sessions are normally held every Tuesday and Thursday night during the summer, starting near the beginning of June, with occasional extra sessions occurring on other days; a full calendar of this year’s Summer Sessions can be found here. Summer Sessions start at 5:30 pm for percussionists and 6:30 pm for everyone else and goes until 9:00 pm. Squad leaders and experienced members of last year’s band lead the sessions, teaching new people the basic fundamentals and helping everyone to improve and polish their marching and playing. While primarily designed to teach the fundamentals to new people, lots of members of the previous year’s band will attend the sessions in order to polish their skills; during my time I would say that the majority of members from the previous year would come back.
Welp, there’s only so much Midwest my family can handle. Wait… that’s not right. There’s only so much of my family that the Midwest can handle. That’s more accurate. Since I’m flying back to LaLa land as we speak, here’s some traveling music for your morning interlude.
Last week brought sad news for everyone connected to TBDBITL as Dr. James Moore, known to most as Doc, passed away at age 80. For over 20 years, until his retirement at the end of the 2004 season, Dr. Moore had served as the percussion instructor for the Ohio State Marching Band, contributing to evolution of the band and becoming a beloved figure to all band members
Dr. Moore didn’t have the background that one would necessarily expect for someone who would become such a major part of the Ohio State community. Doc was born in 1934 in Jackson, Michigan (birthplace of the Republican party, the coney island hot dog, former NFL coach Tony Dungy, and NASA astronaut James McDivitt). Not surprisingly for someone from a town only 40 miles away, Doc attended the University of Michigan for his bachelors and masters degrees. Fortunately at this point Doc’s eyes turned south and he attended Ohio State for his PhD.
Ohio State obviously made an impression on Dr. Moore and after a career that included three years in the US Army teaching at the Armed Forces School of Music in Washington, DC, he returned to OSU in 1981 as the percussion instructor for the marching band. While many people think of drummers as people who just hit things really loudly to help keep a beat and make noise, Doc knew that percussionists where just as musical as any other musician and he helped bring about many innovations that improved the musicality of the OSUMB percussion section. Dr. Moore introduced multiple tenor drums, known as toms or quads, and tonal bass drums (bass drums of different sizes and thus pitches) to the section. By having toms and bass drums with different pitches, the percussion section could now play melodic lines, enhancing the sound and color of the band.
The end of the school year normally brings about a slowdown in Ohio State news. School is over and seniors have graduated, spring football has concluded, non-revenue sports are finishing up their seasons/post-seasons, and fans are dealing with season ticket renewals for next year. The end of the school year isn’t slow for everyone though, as evidenced by the busy week for the Ohio State Marching Band and Athletic Band.
Drum Major Tryouts
One of the major reasons that the Ohio State University Marching Band is so good is that each and every member must try out every season, forcing them to work hard to ensure that their skills are in top shape. While tryouts for the 225 musicians in the band occur just before the start of football season, the first two members of the 2014 band were determined last weekend at drum major tryouts. While most every marching band has a drum major, their duties vary widely. For most high school, and many college, bands the drum major acts as a field commander, standing on a podium to conduct the band during their on-field performances. At Ohio State, conducting duties are handled by the directing staff but the drum major still serves as a leader of the band, giving signals to the band during on-field performances and parades. The drum major also has a showmanship role, performing routines with a metal baton that helps add additional visual flair to the band’s performances. To learn more about the OSUMB drum major position, check out www.ohiostatedrummajor.com.
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.”