The Ohio State Marching Band always puts on a good show but sometimes they outdo themselves. This was certainly the case last week as the band’s halftime show celebrated American space exploration with a drill that hand the band forming and launching a space shuttle, landing on the Moon and raising the American flag, venturing into Gene Roddenberry’s future, and forming a script ‘America’ with the ‘i’ dotted by astronaut and Senator John Glenn and his wife. Picture formations are always fun and a crowd pleaser and they can be a bit tricky to perform. Since the band is making recognizable shapes, it is crucial that everyone hits their spots exactly. Adding to the difficulty is that a lot of these picture forms involve curved lines which are harder to guide than straight ones. During last week’s space show the band not only nailed the picture formations, the moved them across the field and formed them at a pretty quick pace, all things that are a bit harder to do. As normal a video of the show is linked at the bottom of this article for those who weren’t at the game, and even if you were you should watch it again, it is that good of a show.
This Saturday is a special day for the band as it is the annual TBDBITL Alumni reunion and hundreds of marching band alumni will return to campus in order to march in Ohio Stadium “one more time.” For most OSU fans alumni band weekend is a chance to hear the fight song after the ramp entrance a second time, to see a different group performing at halftime, and a chance to see four Script Ohios at once. Those fans probably don’t realize just how unique and special the TBDBITL reunion is. Most other Big Ten bands also have reunion weekends were an alumni band will take the field but those groups are normally only 200 or so people and they primarily stand in place; they may march in a block down the field or form one simple formation but they do not do a normal show with drill.
The TBDBITL alumni band is different as they are not satisfied with just standing and playing, they want to put on a proper show and they do it with little preparation. The night before the alumni game, the band alumni report to St. Johns arena for a two hour rehearsal to play through the music for the show the next day. Then the alumni disperse for a night of fun with old friends at their favorite campus area bars and restaurants. At 6am Saturday morning the alumni band members report to St. Johns for morning rehearsal. Most of the people reading this probably know how hard it is to get up that early on a Saturday and the band members, some in their 80s or 90s, have to not only be awake but ready to perform physical activity. After a short music rehearsal the band goes out to the practice field and in a manner of two hours or so learns and rehearses a brand new show. That is right, everything you see the alumni band do on the field on Saturday was put together in about 2 hours that morning – the ramp entrance, the halftime show, the quad Scripts, all rehearsed in only 2 hours by people who range from having graduate last year to those that graduated before World War II. I remember when I was in the marching band I would see those 400-600 alumni band members on the field and feeling inspired by what they were doing, I still hope that I can march down the field when I am in my 80s or 90s like some of the alumni band members are.
So what motivates 400 or so alumni band members to come back each year, get up at 5:00 am on Saturday, report to practice before dawn, and then subject themselves to more strenuous physical activity that many of them have done in years? Obviously reunions are a great time to come back to campus, see old friends, revisit old haunts, and see a Buckeye football game but all of those things can be done without marching. For many alumni they return for the same reason that so many elite athletes hang on well after they should have retired, they love that feeling of performing too much. Being in the OSUMB requires hundreds of hours of hard work, not only to prepare for tryouts and make the band, but throughout the season in order to maintain the level of quality that the band is known for. Obviously performing in front of thousands of people is a thrill for anyone but the amount of work band members put in makes that thrill even more special and something that you really can’t get anywhere else; it is impossible to describe the feeling of marching down that ramp, seeing the sun shine on that green field, the sea of scarlet in the stands, and to hear all those people cheering for you. The reunion game gives these alumni the chance to experience that feeling again. Sure their leg lifts won’t be as high, their flashes won’t be as clean, and their playing won’t be flawless but for a few hours the alumni band members can turn back time, push aside the effects of aging, and once again experience the thrill of performing in Ohio Stadium and that is worth the lack of sleep and the pain on Saturday and the next couple days.
As is typically the case for the reunion weekend, pregame will be all about tradition. Both bands will do the traditional ramp entrance with the current band going first and then the alumni band. The combined bands will then come back up the field to the song Beautiful Ohio before the alumni band exits the field and leaves the current band to finish the rest of a traditional pregame. For those of you watching at home, BTN has added a feature to their online streaming of the game where they show what is going on down on the field for the half hour leading up to kickoff which of course includes the pregame show by the band, make sure to check it out.
Halftime opens with the current band performing a show dedicated to one hit wonders which features Tommy Tutone’s 8675309, Toto’s Africa, and Dexy’s Midnight Runner’s Come on Eileen. The music for the show was arranged by first year graduate assistant director John Brennan, big shout out to John for this show as he was a rookie in band the same year I was. Percussion parts were written by percussion instructor Aaron Bell and drill is by interim assistant director Chris Hoch. Once the current band is done it will be time for the alumni band to shine as they enter the field to the traditional and appropriate I Wanna Go Back. The alumni band will then perform I’m a Believer, This Land is Your Land, and Stars and Stripes Forever. As always the reunion weekend halftime show will end with both the current and alumni bands joining together for a quadruple Script Ohio that will feature over 600 musicians, always an incredible sight.