On Being A Band Geek
THE Ohio State University Marching Band’s director was fired last week after the release of a 92 page investigation into what basically boils down to band life. Jonathan Walters allegedly was “aware” of the cultural climate that had existed prior to his tenure at OSU. Supposedly, the band members were sworn to secrecy about the “goings on” while in the band. Really, people?
A “parent of the marching band” alerted the President’s office about the supposedly “bad things” that were happening in the band. Really?
If you were never a band geek, you don’t get it. You don’t get the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into a stellar performance. Sometimes, literally. As a fan, you just see the awesome formations and jamming music. You don’t see the 100°+ weather, marching with sweat in your eyes, for hours on end. You don’t see the camaraderie and love you have for the other band members. You don’t see how the band comes together for a season, and stays together for a lifetime. You don’t see the late nights marching, under street lights because you aren’t allowed on the field. Until you have marked out an entire show on black top with sidewalk chalk to march slowly over and over and over again, with the band director yelling “HIT” to make sure you get your spot in time with the formation, you just don’t get it.
You don’t get, that 18 years after the last marching band performance, I could call up most anyone marching band and ask for help. AND. THEY. WOULD. BE. THERE. It’s because we are a family. A family that has bled. Cried. Sweated. Seen each other at our best. Seen each other at our worst.
I’ve read the report. Jonathan Walters was made to be a scapegoat.
I guess what bothers me most… is the three top things they are focusing on. Hazing. “Questionable” nicknames. And, the “Unofficial” Marching Band Song Book.
Because I am fired up, and this is my blog… let’s hit them all.
Are you telling me The Ohio State Football team doesn’t practice hazing? Are you telling me no high school or college sports practice hazing? I’ll call you a liar to your face. We had band camp buddies. Except, buddies was a nicer word than what happened. The “buddies” had to wait hand and foot on the seniors. No matter what they wanted done, at any time, we had to do it. Hmmm… that’s hazing.
One article I read discussed that there was “changing on the buses”. Um. Duh. How would you get into your band uniform? I love the media… how they make everything so dirty and sexual. Here’s a heads up… most everyone wears shorts and sports bras under their uniforms. On any given bus changing, the normal M.O. is LESS than you would see on a beach. But, here’s another heads up… as a band member, you get pretty creative when you do need to change. Eighteen years later, I can still change my shirt without showing an inch of skin. Really.
Questionable nicknames kills me. Do you want to know my nickname in band? Peanut Woman. Sounds dirty, right? Want to know how I got it? I turned my head while sitting in the stands at a Bands of America competition and someone from the band threw a peanut and it landed in my ear. Really dirty, huh? Until you know the stories behind the nicknames, don’t judge. Guess what? Kids will call each other nicknames whether they are “objectionable” or not. Whether they are in band or not. You don’t think nicknames and trash talking go on during the Michigan and The Ohio State game? Once again, I’d call you a liar to your face.
The best part of the report is the “Unofficial” Marching Band Song Book. Oh my God. Really? The band’s theme song is Hang On Sloopy. Have you ever READ the lyrics to this song? What about Louie, Louie? Did you know several versions of this song exists? I’d give my last dollar that you know some of the versions – the dirty versions. Why would the band members who cut their teeth on these songs not either?
I guess what I am trying to say is… don’t judge until you have been a band member. Band life is not normal life. While, taken out of context, these supposedly horrible things Jonathan Walters knew about seem bad… chances are they aren’t.
Band members give their lives to marching band. We march at midnight to perfect a show. We march before sunrise to perfect a show. We sit in our cars doing homework before practice to keep up on our studies. We keep our grades up on our own (teachers don’t slip A’s to band geeks). The halftime show – that takes on average 4-6 minutes – takes months of practice. Months. While most students are out partying and having a grand time over summer vacation… the band is at practice – even before the football team starts. Until you have given your very soul to a band program, you shouldn’t pass judgement.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have never been in The Ohio State University Marching Band. Perhaps what was going on was a little questionable. But, come on people. You don’t think that the same thing doesn’t go on in the football locker room, the soccer fields, or on the golf course at OSU?
Let me let you in on a little secret…. band members get their drive from within, not who is leading them. You can take the band director away, but you can’t take the drive and determination away from the members. Come fall, one lucky tuba player is going to dot that i again. And, guess what, even if this “horrible” stuff allegedly occurred, its still going to occur. It’s called being a college kid. It’s called blowing off steam. It’s called having fun.
Obviously, I am highly against anything derogatory in nature or anything abusive. But, to be honest with you… the band family would not allow that. The band family would close ranks so fast on the person crossing the line, it would be unbelievable. It is like belonging to a huge family of big brothers and big sisters that watch out for each other.
So, the claim that their is this oath of silence and perverted culture that exists in Columbus – I am calling bullshit.
Perhaps The Ohio State Marching Band – The Best Damn Band in the Land – was getting too famous?
Perhaps, more famous than the football team? And, in Ohio, we can’t have that, can we?
I encourage you to weigh in with your thoughts. Please, however, keep it clean and respectful or your comment will be deleted.
Nice article. I have not yet read the report but I am hoping to. My guess is some parent thought their kid should have be chosen for something over another and when that didn’t happen…….I’ll show you Mr. band director. Then of course once Espn gets their hands on anything that reflects The Ohio State University in a negative light, they add their own little flare or twist to the story to attract more viewers.
Greater words could not be spoken. This band geek parent knew all well what was happening with his band geek son. Its called being involved parent. I call this whole report bs and that someone is upset over the Best Damn Band in the Land. O H
I had not heard of this – but probably because I’m in North Idaho & it just hasn’t traveled here yet. As a former colorguard member – I totally get what you are saying. It’s HARD work & the culture they are trying to portray just isn’t there. People always want to make it bigger than it is- the media sensationalizes everything. Sad that they can take something really fun & try to ruin it.
Couldn’t have been said any better.
I know, it irks the heck out of me. Anyone in band or guard knows that this wouldn’t have been tolerated. The group would have closed ranks. I’ve seen it happen.
Fabulous article!!! Loved reading the words go the fired up you…