Last Saturday’s game at Indiana marked the first time that the Ohio State Marching Band had not been with the team for a football game and it certainly looked like the team missed them. I am not entirely joking on that statement, while how the game goes is ultimately up to the play of the team and the play calling of the coaches, having support from your fans helps, especially when you are on the road. The marching band is one of the most vocal supporters of the team at games and their presence helps to get the rest of the crowd going, anyone who has seen the band perform at an OSU road game can attest to how the Buckeye fans respond to the band breaking out the fight song, Sloopy, or the ‘Lets Go Bucks’ cheer. Coach Tressel recognized the value that the band can bring to the football team on the road at it was one of the reasons that he tried his best to get the band an extra road game in the 2004 season; Tressel wanted the band to go to Purdue the week after the band had been with the team for their important win at Michigan State. The SEC also recognizes the value of the band on the road, hence why SEC bands travel to so many road games each season.
While the OSUMB wasn’t with the team last weekend, they did not take the weekend off; the band gets very few weekend off during football season no matter how much they may need the break. Instead of going to Bloomington, the band was in Columbus hosting the Buckeye Invitational which saw more than 30 of the best high school marching bands in Ohio get the chance to perform in Ohio Stadium. For many high school band members who have grown up as Buckeye fans, the chance to perform in the Shoe is an amazing opportunity and the Invitational serves as a great recruiting opportunity for the band as students not only get to perform in Ohio Stadium but they also get to see TBDBITL’s state-of-the-art band center and get an idea of what being a member of the OSUMB is like. Of course the highlight of the invitational for many in attendance is the performance of the OSUMB and this year TBDBITL had the perfect show as they once again performed their now world-famous video game show. For an event where the band is trying to recruit people to come to Ohio State and join the band, they could not have chosen a better show as the video game show combines recognizable music with impressive and enjoyable formations, really showing off what the OSUMB can do.
I tried to read the comments on as many of the online articles about the video game show as possible and one of the most common comments was concerning how long it took the band to prepare and learn the show, with many people speculating that it must have taken the band a long time to learn the show. In reality the band did not have much longer than the standard one week to learn that show. The OSUMB performs a new show at each home football game, away games area repeat of a previous home show, so many, if not the majority, of shows have to be learned in one week. The week before the Nebraska game, Ohio State traveled to Michigan State and while the band went and performed at that game, the fact that it was an away game meant the band was doing a repeat show (in this case it was the season opening Beach Boys show) and thus the band could use two days from that week to get an advance start on the video game show.
The OSUMB practices for 2 hours a day, five days a week; people who work in the towers on campus can attest to this as they get to see the band on the practice field each day. The band also will have a morning rehearsal the day of each home game, the band will typically report six hours before a home game in order to get in their morning rehearsal, lunch, and skull session. The band members will typically get the music for a show one to two weeks before a show is performed. All music performed by TBDBITL is memorized and band members will normally try to get started on memorizing as soon as possible. Most music memorization is done outside of rehearsal as there is just not enough time in rehearsal for the band members to memorize the music. The earlier a band member can get the music memorized, the more they can focus on learning the drill and putting the music together with the drill. Each Friday before a performance the band members will be tested on their music memorization; a member that fails a music check will spend the next week as an alternate and three failed music checks result in a member being removed from the band and replaced.
For each show every band member is given a set of drill charts where each formation for a show is plotted out. The drill charts depict a football field divided into a grid with the position of each band member indicated. The band will learn the drill one set at a time, first just marching between the sets while counting out the appropriate number of beats. The next step has the band marching between sets while a recording of the music is played to help the band members link the music and movements together. Finally the band will march through the sets while playing the music. For most shows this is done in just a week, or a total of 10 hours of practice which also includes time for warm-ups and indoor music rehearsal. It is a challenging task to learn a new show that fast and it requires band members to be focusing and working hard each day in rehearsal. This can get tiring over the course of a season but the thrill and pride that comes from a good performance in front of tens of thousands of cheering fans makes it all worth it and gives the band energy to keep going.
This week the football team returns home and the band will be there waiting with a new show. Coming up with themes for shows can be challenging and often times they are linked to recent events. This week’s show is very timely and concerns a possible event that may occur in December, at least according to people’s interpretations of some carvings by ancient Mayans, a potentially time warping event. The music will very recognizable and was arranged by Steve Pfaffman and will be set to a drill by Chris Hoch which will feature many picture formations. The Purdue band will also be making the trip to Columbus along with their world’s largest bass drum, or second largest if you believe Texas.
I hope that everyone has enjoyed these TBDBITL previews so far and for the rest of the season. I started these previews in an attempt to give the band some much deserved attention and to try and educate people more about the band. To that end, please post any questions that you may have about the band in the comments section and I will answer them in a future article.