This weekend marked not only the start of the 2011 football season for Ohio State but also the annual Ohio State University Marching Band Alumni Reunion, where band members from across the decades (the oldest marcher this year was 93) return to campus to go down the ramp and perform “just one more time.” Reunion weekend is often an emotional experience for those involved; the joy of seeing old friends and getting to perform something you love, the pride of seeing the organization that you cared about so much continuing to improve every year, and that little bit of longing to be able to go back to your college days. This year’s reunion was already going to be memorable due to the celebration of 75 years of “Script Ohio” and the debut of the first time four full Scripts were done on the field (the alumni game normally features a full script by the alumni on each sideline and smaller scripts in the end zones by the regular band) and it was made more memorable and emotional by an announcement at Skull Session by OSU President Gordon Gee that Dr. Jon Woods, director of the marching and athletic bands, would be retiring at the end of the year (I would like to thank Eric at tBBC for getting this news out on Saturday before the game). The announcement was met with surprised gasps from many in attendance as after spending 28 years as the director of the band, with 10 years spent as the associate director before that, Dr. Woods had started to seem like OSU’s own version of Joe Paterno.
Dr. Woods earned his bachelor’s degree from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, his master’s from Penn State, and his doctorate from the University of Michigan, making his becoming the director of a group that is instrumental to OSU game day atmosphere somewhat of a surprise. Being the director of the Ohio State Marching Band is not an easy task; it requires a careful balancing of tradition with the innovation necessary to keep the band at the top of the college band world. Dr. Woods managed this balance well, keeping the traditions of the band while introducing new innovations such as the use of computerized drill writing programs, contemporary asymmetric concert formations, and quad tom drums. He also started the Buckeye Invitational Marching Band Contest which saw high school bands perform at Ohio Stadium with the OSUMB performing at the conclusion of the contest, this proved to be a great recruiting tool for the band.
Directing TBDBITL also requires another type of balancing act, this one concerns balancing show selection to keep the attention of football fans while also showing off the musicianship and musical sophistication of the band. Once again Dr. Woods has excelled at this balancing act. Under his leadership that band has played everything from television and movie themes to classic rock to showtunes to jazz to classical music and opera. The band has performed shows featuring complex optical illusion drill, picture formations with props, and appearances by celebrities like Jack Hanna and Brutus Buckeye.
Throughout his long career as director of the OSUMB, Dr. Jon Woods has continuously brought the band to new heights while still maintaining the style and traditions of the band that make it a much loved and integral part of not only the OSU football gameday experience but the university as a whole. With current assistant director Jon Waters taking over as interim director of the band next year I have no doubt that the OSUMB will continue to entertain crowds and be one of the best bands in the country. Despite this Dr. Woods will be missed by band members, alumni, and OSU fans around the world. In an effort to show Dr. Woods how much he means to OSU fans everywhere, I would like to ask you to share your favorite OSU marching band memory or other message either by commenting on this article or emailing it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will compile all of the submissions at the end of the football season and will put them together on a website that will be shared with Dr. Woods.