This week is obviously an important week for the Ohio State football team as it gears up the opening game of the 2011 season. This week is also important for another group that is a major part of the football season, the Ohio State University Marching Band. After a summer of practicing and preparing, hundreds of hopefuls will descend on the OSU campus this week hoping to have their dream of becoming a member of The Best Damn Band in the Land.
One of the reasons that the OSUMB is so highly regarded is that every member of the band must tryout every year; this helps to ensure that only the best people make the band each year. Because of this policy, veterans and potential new members spend the summer practicing and getting into shape for tryouts. To help people prepare for tryouts, informal summer sessions are organized at the band center every Tuesday and Thursday night during the summer. These sessions see over 100 people come out to practice music and marching, with veterans helping to teach the basics of the OSUMB marching style to new candidates. People will often drive several hours in order to come to these sessions in the hope of improving their chances of making the band.
Tryout week begins on Sunday when people who have never been in the band before arrive at the band center for candidate days. The goal of candidate days is to teach the OSU school songs and marching style to people who have not been in the band before, giving them the best possible chance of being successful during tryouts. The candidates are put through their paces for two days by the band row leaders, who were chosen by the director the previous spring and who had gone through their own tryout the previous week.
Tryouts themselves start on Tuesday when the returning OSUMB veterans join the new candidates at the band center. Tryouts consist of a music audition on Tuesday morning and four marching sessions over two days. The music audition consists of each person who is trying out appearing in front of a judge, often a school of music professor. The music audition involves playing a selection of school songs from memory and doing some sight reading, playing a selection of music that the individual has never seen before.
Each marching session of tryouts starts with all the potential band members separating into their individual rows (the OSU band is made up of 16 rows consisting of 14 members). The two leaders of each row call the members of the row up two at a time for a tryout. This tryout will consist of the pair performing a series of marching maneuvers that are told to them by the row leaders who then evaluate the pair on their ability to do each maneuver as well as the confidence and poise with which they carry themselves while doing so. Once all of the people trying out have performed their tryout for the row leaders, all of the rows assemble for a large block band. The block band portion of the tryout features the row leaders and the directors judging the candidates as they perform a series of maneuvers called out by the directors, perform a tryout drill that was given to them on Tuesday morning while playing a school song, perform Hang on Sloopy, and perform the on-the-field portion of the band’s ramp entrance and Buckeye Battlecry.
The people trying out for the band will go through four of these marching sessions, two on each Tuesday and Wednesday with a lunch break between the morning and afternoon sessions. Following the last marching session the directors adjourn to the band center to go through the tryout evaluations and determine who makes the band. After a nervous dinner, all of those who tried out reconvene in the band room where the 225 members of the OSUMB are announced. Tears of both disappointment and happiness are shed with those who did not make the band having to wait another year to try again. The members of the new band head out to celebrate but their celebrations cannot go too late into the night as they will have practice at 9am the next morning. The next two days are a whirlwind of hectic activity as the band has to prepare a show for that Saturday’s football game. The two days are even more of a whirlwind for the rookies who also have to learn such things as how to properly come down the ramp for the pre-game entrance and how to march Script Ohio. All of this hard work pays off on Saturday as the new band comes down the down ramp to one of the best experiences that they will ever have, the sight of that bright green field under a sunny sky with the stands packed with over 100,000 Buckeye fans cheering for them.