Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Tradition of Excellence

I had always admired The Ohio State University Marching Band. As the daughter of an OSU alum, I grew up watching the band practice on Friday afternoons before games on Saturday, listening to CDs of the band in the car on the long drives from Atlanta to Columbus and religiously attending Skull Session before each home game.

In middle school I joined band and, naturally, chose the trumpet (although for the record, originally I wanted to play clarinet, but my orthodontist had other ideas). I went on to become a core member of my high school band program: as section leader and then drum major of the marching band, and member of the top symphonic band and district honor band.  When the time came to choose colleges, Ohio State was an easy choice. It offered me the opportunity to spread my wings and leave home for the first time and to attend a university with virtually every opportunity at my fingertips.

And there was the band.

Although I considered myself an above-average musician, the marching style of TBDBITL was 180-degrees opposite from my high school band and the learning curve was steep. Nevertheless, I packed up my things over a month before classes began and moved to Columbus, Ohio to try out for The Ohio State University Marching Band in August of 2003. That first year I made the band by the skin of my teeth and will never forget the feeling of hearing my name called as a member of T-row. The rest, you could say, is history.

I was a proud 4 year member of T-row and felt honored to serve as assistant squad leader my senior year of college. I have always been a vocal and proud TBDBITL alum, and the last few years of innovation by the band have done nothing more than strengthen my pride in the organization.

The news today saddens me.

This post is not meant to address each and every issue raised in the University’s 23-page report, nor to demonize those that felt the need to complain; however there are some things weighing on me that I felt the need to say.

I came to Ohio State as a very sheltered and na├»ve 17 year old (sorry Mom and Dad). I had never smoked a cigarette (and still haven’t) or drank any significant amount of alcohol. My knowledge of the opposite sex was limited at best. Upon making the band, I found myself as a young, female member of a male-dominated organization of 17-23 year olds.

Was there alcohol? Of course. Were there crude jokes? Of course. Did some people make questionable decisions? Absolutely. 

However, never once did I feel unsafe or forced to participate in something that made me uncomfortable. I was always free to walk away. The idiot outliers were not part of mainstream OSUMB culture, and more frequently were laughed at than revered. The guys I was in the band with were some of my best friends, and fiercely protective of me. I trust them wholeheartedly. 

I would challenge you to scrutinize any organization of over 200 college students, as these vilified behaviors are undoubtedly present in each and every one of them. And anyone that truly believes otherwise is kidding themselves.

It sickens me that we will now be judged by the “outside world” from a few extreme examples in a university report. However, what saddens me most is that this organization, which is over 120 years old, will now be remembered for this debacle and not the decades of exceptional music and marching. It is our job as alumni to bring the conversation back to those basics: the music, the marching and the tradition of excellence.

The people I was in band with are some of the best people I’ve known in my life. Despite how we will be described, we were good kids. My fellow alumni are now scientists, accountants, teachers, lawyers, NASA engineers, meteorologists, police officers and physicians.  They are moms and dads, little league coaches and volunteers. They are leaders in their communities and they will continue to be - because that is who they are to the core.

When I became a member of TBDBITL, I became a part of a family. My time with the OSUMB was the pinnacle of my experience at Ohio State. I will always be honored to have been a part of this organization and will stand up for it now more than ever. I can only hope that the thousands of TBDBITL alumni will stand with me.

How firm thy friendship ... WB.  




28 comments:

  1. Very well said and I agree with you whole-heartily. Although I was 21 when I was in the band, I had a very similar situation. The guys in my row would have done anything to protect me and I was never forced to do something that I didn't want to do. My row, and the others that I knew, had, and still do, integrity and honor beyond the typical college behaviors. It was a complete honor to be apart of such a dynamic organization.

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    1. I'm a producer at ABC 6. Your article is well-written, and seems to reflect a common feeling within the band. Would you, or anyone you know be willing to do an interview to defend the band? We do not have to show your face, or use your name. We just want to be sure to tell all sides.
      Here is my number 614-205-5021

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  2. I think you have people too little credit. Over the past couple of years there have been MANY articles on the OSU marching band, videos regarding their choreography and the like. You may not have felt pressure to do something, but some of the other students did. Hazing isn't supposed to be tolerated at institutions such as OSU, whether it be mandatory or not. I would imagine those that don't participate (if there are any) wouldn't have 100% support of their fellow band members.

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    1. You are wrong. I refused to participate in many activities I thought were contrary to my personality type and I was voted Most Inspirational Bandsman my fifth year.
      You said it yourself...'I would imagine those that don't participate..." You are right; it's all in your imagination. Please stop the conjecture and stick to the facts.

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    2. I guess they all had to participate then, and that's why that guy has been fired. He allowed a culture of sexual harassment from within. You all act like NOTHING happened, or that hazing is fine as long as everyone is on board with it. Not everyone is on board, they just go along.

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  3. Great article and nice rebuttal anonymous.... You surely have insight and guts to not even put your name on your reply. I am a proud 4 year member of tbdbitl. I never once had to do anything other than have my uniform cleaned and pressed, when in the correct manner, my music memorized, my shoes and horn polished and March my butt off. I was offered alcohol and refused any times with some no thanks. I started a bible study and never once lost friends. I never had to get groped or March naked nor in my underwear. I am certain that I did not get hated and had 100% respect of my fellow band members. You see, it takes a ton of work, skill and dedication to make the band and that commands respect right there. In fact, to counter your point... I did all of that and was elected squad leader my 4th year, displacing the previous leader who was a 5th year..... And my assistant squad leader.... Hmm let's see, I never her perform a sexual act, innuendo nor sip alcohol and she was elected assistant squad leader by her peers. Thanks for the anonymous comments... They were not made wb.

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    1. Ok Uncle Jeff, I'm back... So you didn't have to do anything outlandish, but others did. You all are taking your personal experiences and trying to make it sounds like everyone was a fucking bible thumping, non-drinking, dickhole nerd. Obviously some people took offense to what was going on. If you can't see that, you're an idiot.

      -Mike

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    2. But if you read the report- all the students (all 8 or so that were interviewed) said they were not forced to do anything. And no students complained. There was ONE complaint by a students mom. When they get a job is there mom to complain to HR for them?

      And if you read the report it is clear that over half of what is in it took place outside of class and practice. So if I get a OVI on Friday night is my boss responsible for my behavior or am I?

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    3. To Anonymous

      Your use of vulgar and disrespectful language to respond to what was otherwise a civil discussion tells me a lot about you.
      I find it odd that you use such language in an attempt to belittle someone who has simply related their experience of being in the band. It appears to me that you are displaying a behavior similar to what you are condemning in others.

      I tend not to give much validity to someone who can't express themselves in a civil manner. Were you a member of the band and have some first hand experiences to share? I assume not, otherwise you would have surely told us.

      I am also signing as "Anon", but only because I don't already have a profile and am short on time. I also have no desire to start a discussion with someone who is likely to berate me with vulgar language.

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    4. ^pussy

      Language is a tool that people can use however they fucking want to. If you don't listen to people that swear, then I don't give a shit. I pepper words here and there for effect, and I guess it worked the way I intended.

      Holy shit, 8 students out of hundreds were interviewed, and they didn't complain? Wowsers. Riddle me this, do people lie? Yes.

      So yeah, the band director was not the one hazing the students, other bandmembers were. All of your comments regarding what has happened, and none of you even address what went on. Hazing, albeit not beating or something worse, but still, hazing. That type of behavior isn't legal in all 50 states. So when the band director knows what's happening, and then he/she does nothing, yeah, he should get fired.

      And yeah, I was a former band member. Like others before me, nothing was that bad, but you are forced by peer pressure to do things you may not want to. Hazing motherfucker, hazing.

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    5. When someone resorts to name calling and vulgar language, they are showing a lack of ability to carry out an intelligent and reasoned discussion. They also give the impression to others of being somewhat of a bully and harasser themselves.

      Not one person here has defended the actions that were included in the University's report. The objectionable behavior is disgusting and does need to stop. No one has said otherwise. They have simply shared what their experience was with the band. So, why is it that you feel the need to call anyone vulgar names and use language that would be inappropriate in any classroom or workplace conversation?

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    6. I'm allowed to swear in my workplace, so I'll say what the fuck I want. Language is just that, a communication tool. Swearing is a color in the brushstrokes we can make. Just because you're a fuckwad that doesn't like a few words in our language, doesn't mean I'm going to stop using them. I get my point across just fine.

      And yes, people are defending the band directors actions on here. Can't you FUCKING read? They are saying "I never had an issue" and "you don't have to participate", blah FUCKING blah. Everyone acts like they have choices. In that case, you have the choice to be raped. Not everyone is choosing that band life, they go along because of peer-pressure. We teach our kids that we shouldn't follow said pressures, but it's hard not to. The band director is responsible for the action, enough FUCKING said.

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  4. Ok, I'm a different Anonymous (no relation) and I think that your experience is very similar to just about every OSUMB alum --and very well expressed. Those that know Waters and the Band also know that the "charges" are rubbish. The truth is, not every university official likes the marching band. They didn't want Waters as director. However, destroying an asset worth hundreds of millions in prestige and fund-raising --not to mention destroying the cumulative work of thousands of alumni-- to further their own political goals gives the term "sociopath" new meaning. It will be instructive to see what changes the new "interim director" imposes.

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  5. Great article. I was in the OSUMB and loved every minute of it. I was in the band in the 70's and talk about male domination. Try 200 men and 5 women! There were a few jerks and there always will be. You have to put them in their place. Everyone in X-Row was great and I loved them like my brothers. We are still friends today which is 40 years later! I was also the first female in the OSUMB to become a HS Band Director. You should have seen all the crap I had to put up with with Coaches and other Band Directors in a male dominated field. OSUMB was nothing to compare with real life, jobs and working with the people in steel valley. I am thankful that I was able to make the band and I thank Dr. Droste and Dr. Woods for making me the teacher that I have become today. Now I am retired and I am a country music artist @ 60 years old! I've worked with many famous people and guess what.........there are still jerks out there!!!!! The band made me tough and able to handle people like that and the life lessons I learned were invaluable. My greatest achievement was making the OSUMB and I proudly proclaim that in all my Nashville interviews! GO BUCKS!!!!!

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    1. Congratulations on your musical achievements. Just wondering in your days as a HS Band Director did you permit your students march in their underwear or worse nude? Did you have X-rated nicknames for your band members? Did you permit them to drink alcohol on the bus? Did you allow the freshmen to try and walk down the bus aisle and get disrobed and groped by the upperclassmen? Did you let your students perform any flying 69's? Of course you didn't because you didn't want to get fired by the school administration. Well that's what happened to Mr. Waters. He's a nice man and very ingenious with his band shows. He will be missed but you can't let the inmates run the asylum.

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  6. Well expressed! We've become a society expecting unicorns and cotton candy, everyone is a winner... Simply isn't that way and, unfortunately, the actions of a very few tarnish the lot in many cases. Thank you for coming in defense of a great tradition of excellence that is, TBDBITL!

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  7. I'm a producer at ABC 6. The opinions you all are sharing here seem to be reflected by a lot of people in the band. Is anyone willing to do an interview? We do not have to show anyone's face, or use their name. We just want to tell all sides to the story.
    Here is my number 614-205-5021

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    1. To ABC 6: I'm not sure that I'm in a position to comment in a more public manner than this, but you're welcome to use the information in this post as you see fit. Thanks.

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  8. Not sure which is more disappointing, the fact the band is involved in childish crap like this or the nicknames/songs, etc. that just aren't very funny. Serious lack of imagination and humor.

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    1. You are dealing with college kids here. 225 of them. If you think Jon doesn't have more important things to do than babysit 225 college kids, you are insane. There is going to be alcohol and profanity. It's college. The important thing to realize is that the average gpa of the band is above 3.5, and each member in the band has to go through a gruelling two day session of being marched into the ground every year. These are smart, hardworking, driven kids. Don't try and demonize a 120 year old tradition of excellence because of a few preposterous complaints.

      -OSUMB member

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  9. No sympathy from me. If you want to be respected for all of the hard work, talent and on-the-field excellence fine. But you also want to be excused for acting like a bunch of college "kids" (legal adults really, the vast majority). So you want respect for admirable achievements and a pass on all the embarrassing stuff. Doesn't work that way.

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  10. I think you are stereotyping the majority of good, decent band members based on the actions of the ones who acted inappropriately. The ones who have posted their positive experiences here did not ask you to excuse their actions. They do not need to. They also did not ask for your sympathy. They have merely related their experience. On the other hand, there is no excuse for you judging these individuals when you do not know them, based on your stereotyping mentality.

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    1. I didn't stereotype ANYONE. That's a bald faced lie . The blog author HERSELF related that members drank alcohol, made poor decisions, and told crude jokes. She then goes on to explain that the really objectionable stuff was done by "idiot outliers". Well then presumably if it wasn't for the idiot outliers the band wouldn't be in this mess. If you don't care enough about your organizations's rep to STAND UP and object to the idiots who are doing these things that could potentially destroy it then don't whine about how unfair it all is when EXACTLY that happens. The "good" members tolerated this crap for DECADES. They now reap what they allowed others to sow.

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  11. You did say: "But you also want to be excused for acting like a bunch of college "kids" ", implying that they had acted inappropriately and directly stating that they wanted to be excused. It did appear to be stereotyping to me. I didn't think that was "a bald faced lie". But I'm not going to argue the point with you. I'll even apologize if you took my comment as an insult. I did not intend it that way. I was only observing that I don't think it is fair to judge the majority on the actions of a few.

    I actually agree with your comment above that "the good people" should stand up and confront people whose bad behavior is crossing the line and endangering the reputation of the group. That is one solution to this type of situation.

    It is probably overly optimistic to expect that a group of 17-21 year old students will have the maturity to confront and stop the behavior on their own. Some may try to stop it, others may just not participate in some activity, some may "go along, to get along", but not behave badly themselves. In an ideal world, they would all speak up and ask the band leadership to remove the offenders. Unfortunately, the offenders who lead the bad behavior are often bullies and intimidate others into not speaking up. Many 17-21 year olds don't have the maturity and confidence to confront the offenders. And, sadly, I see some kids today that are raised in families where some inappropriate behavior is considered "normal", and anyone who objects is a "prude". That is my opinion. I wish it was not the case.

    Even better would be that the band director and staff put a stop to any behavior such as in the University report. They are the adults in charge, and should set the tone. Even then, there will be times when something happens that they are not aware of or a part of. When they are made aware of it, they must take immediate action. I hope the University's actions will accomplish this. It is unfortunate that the previous director(s) allowed this to get to this point.

    I happen to believe that the adults in charge are more responsible than "the good kids" who are excited about their college experience - and their chance of being accepted and a part of something like the OSU Marching Band. I don't think it is fair to put all the responsibility for the problems on them. The most responsibility is on the "idiots" who behaved badly, then on the adults who should have removed them. And of course, this is just my humble opinion.

    Peace. It's better than war.

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  12. GREAT BLOG, MMF! I too was in TBDBITL in early 80's in I-Row. Along with K & L, JI was one of the most intense rows for a rookie to fit in. Yet, my experiences were similar to yours in that I was never forced to do anything. Last night, I looked through my band memorabilia. I found a card from a female in our row...she was a year or two behind me. She was asking me to come back for another year. She thanked me for my support and encouragement. She was very demure, but she clearly enjoyed every minute of her band experience and treated her row-mates as brothers and sisters, just as we thought of her as a sister...and would have protected her as one. So, after seeing her note, I asked myself, "how could a demure female have made it through one of the most intense rows of the band and still express nothing but appreciation for the support and encouragement of an older male row-mate?" I was graduating and had no further impact on her band career...or life in general. So, her note was optional and likely heartfelt.

    Many express disgust with theses reported college antics and pranks. I find it more disgusting that there are some who take joy in trolling online sites, spouting utter garbage about a topic about which they have no first-hand knowledge in the hope to pick a fight. They can act really tough behind their computer screens/keyboards or tablets. Ask them to learn and memorize pre-game and halftime music and marching routines, while carrying a full course load, and they would wet their pants, tuck their tale between their legs and scurry back to their hole under a rock. They deserve to be ignored.

    As for those the have legitimate concerns about the band culture, I certainly don't downplay their concerns just as I wouldn't expect them to understand the context of camaraderie under which these voluntary activities occurred. That said, I am deeply disappointed in the superficial investigation and the apparent lack of desire by the investigators to get at the whole truth especially as it relates to Jon Waters. It is disturbing that their gross, hair-trigger actions could so jeopardize that man's career. It seems as though the fair thing to do would be to re-instate him and put him on probation. This is certainly an approach that can be applied in the real world (ie, industry).

    As for the TBDBITL alumni, I think it is very telling that thousands, men and women alike, are coming to the defense of the band and Jon Waters. These alums are not monsters. They were kids then, feeing their first freedom away from mom and dad while living in an intense pressure cooker that demanded their very best. Many of us our professionals in fields such as engineering, medicine, law, politics, aviation and otherwise. I have designed computers that have ranked in the top ten of supercomputers worldwide. They have solved complex medical and energy problems to name a few. I have a nine year old daughter. I would have no hesitations whatsoever if she came up to me one day and said she wanted to go to OSU to be in the marching band.

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  13. Doesn't "WB" mean "with balls"? That's another overly-sexual thing that the report missed.

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