Ohio State’s push to become the best football team in the land will play out near and far to a familiar soundtrack this fall.
The Best Damn Band in the Land is hitting the road.
Under the leadership of Elmore native Jon Waters, the 225-member OSU marching band will travel to four road games this year — a break from the formerly cash-strapped band’s one-trip-per-season past.
It is an unprecedented show of support made possible by a more-than-quadrupled financial commitment from the university and new fundraising events.
Monday at Stone Oak Country Club, golfers turned out for the Cheryl Jacobs Waters’ TBDBITL Invitational — an event to honor Waters’ late mother, a longtime Toledo educator, and fund scholarships for band members.
Waters directed about two dozen band members through the Buckeyes’ fight song and “Hang on Sloopy,” among other staples, then teed up as a ceremonial starter.
“It’s almost surreal to think that this is for our college band,” he said.
Waters, a Woodmore graduate who became the band’s ninth director in 136 years last fall, spoke repeatedly of a “new era.”
The all-brass and percussion band has long been deeply woven into the football experience at Ohio State, where fans cram shoulder-to-shoulder into St. John Arena for the Skull Session hours before kickoff and stand for the entire pregame show at Ohio Stadium. Last year, video of their ode to the evolution of video games at halftime of the Nebraska game generated more than 17 million hits on YouTube.
Unknown to most, though, was the band’s relatively shoestring budget. The athletic department chipped in about $220,000 annually while the remaining funds came from donations, resulting in a light travel schedule and little financial assistance for band members. Even expenses such as dry-cleaning the uniform fell on the students.
Now, the athletic department, president’s office, and Arts and Sciences College are combining to give the band $1 million per year. Student costs will go down while the band’s reach will magnify, beginning this fall with trips for football games at California, Purdue, Illinois, and Michigan. Waters also hopes to eventually take the band overseas.
Dylan Fletcher, a senior from Elmore who is the band’s business manager, said the idea is “to make the band an even more well-known thing than it already is.”
“It’s really exciting,” Waters said. “The energy on campus is palpable. The spark is there. People are already counting down the days until kickoff. The impetus that really drove this was a renewed energy behind the band and the football team, and the ability for our university to step forth and recognize the band for the great things we have done.”
Among those who will benefit is Derek Mason, a trumpet player from Springfield High School. He began college at the University of Toledo but became transfixed with the Ohio State band upon seeing it perform live at the UT-OSU game at Cleveland Browns Stadium his freshman year.
“So I transferred after the first semester,” Mason said. “I realized I wanted to be a part of that.”
“You can describe the band, you can see a video of the band, you can talk about the band, but there is nothing like seeing and hearing the band live,” Waters said. “The sound of 225 all-brass and percussion, the largest all-brass and percussion band in the world, and to see what they do visually on the field and to hear that live sound, that’s a wonderful thing. That’s going to be what fans can do when we travel to these various places.”
Contact David Briggs at:
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