If someone told you a story about a 51-year old going back to college, joining the marching band, and proving to be an inspiration to a bunch of 18-22 year old college kids you would probably think that person had just finished watching some new, sappy movie. This week I am telling such a story and this time it is true.
Most people know that the biggest honor the Ohio State Marching Band can give a non-band member is the honor of dotting the ‘i’ in Script Ohio but few people know about the biggest honor a band member can receive, the Most Inspiration Bandsperson award. The MIB award is given out annually at the band’s concert at Veteran’s Memorial and is chosen by a vote of all the band members. Normally the recipient is a senior member of the band who has proven to be inspirational due to their leadership or their service to the band or something. This year was different though as the band voted on the MIB going to Kris Frey Tikson, a 51-year old rookie who plays mellophone in R-row.
Kris originally arrived at Ohio State in 1979 as only the second person in her very large extended family to attend college. She recognized how much her getting an education meant to her parents and how much they had sacrificed to get her there and thus felt an obligation to make the most of her opportunity and devoted herself to her studies. In addition to earning an academic scholarship, Kris worked 20 hours a week and managed to graduate Summa Cum Laude with a B.S.B.A. in Accounting in just over 3 years. As one could imagine, between work and graduating early with such a high GPA, Kris didn’t have a lot of time for extracurricular activities.
While Kris’s dedication to her studies helped fulfill her family’s dream for her and set her up well for a successful life, there was of course a cost which she came to realize. In the early 90s Kris was watching the OSUMB perform at halftime and was hit with an overwhelming sense of regret that she had not at least tried out for the band while she was in school. However instead of just lamenting a lost dream, Kris decided to do something, making up her mind that if she was able to retire young enough, she would go back and try out for the band. Kris retired in March of 2010 and after confirming that OSU offered marching band as part of their continuing education program, she set about making her dream a reality.
Kris had originally been a clarinet player and had played mellophone for two years in high school but hadn’t played or even looked at music since 1979 and essentially had to start from scratch as she had forgotten everything. Fortunately the internet and libraries are great resources for a person wanting to learn things and Kris utilized them extensively as she retaught herself how to read music and play. She started out on trumpet as that was an easier instrument to rent than a mellophone but after OSU agreed to let her borrow a mellophone for practice. Working from beginning band books, she would spend 2 to 2.5 hours a day playing, slowly improving and eventually moving from basic etudes to school songs; some early lessons from a trumpet teacher at her local music store also helped Kris to improve.
In the summer of 2010 Kris started to attend summer sessions at OSU. These optional practice sessions occur twice a week during the summer and are run by older band members with the purpose of helping everyone learn TBDBITL’s marching and playing style and prepare for tryouts. While she may have been a bit older than everyone else, Kris was surrounded by 100s of people with the same dream as her at these summer sessions, to make the OSUMB. It wasn’t long into that summer before Kris suffered her first setback as she injured her MCL; while she continued to practice that summer she knew that she wouldn’t be able to tryout. Now many people would have taken this as a sign that they were too old and their dream was meant to remain just that, Kris didn’t give up. After taking a few months off to heal, Kris enlisted the help of a personal trainer she knew through her husband and together they designed a series of workouts specifically designed to get Kris into the proper physical shape for the intense, grueling style of marching that TBDBITL employs.
In 2011 Kris returned to summer sessions and finally was able to try out for the band. Kris made it to the final round of cuts but was unfortunately one of the candidates who were not lucky enough to hear their name called when Dr. Jon Woods read out the band roster. Kris at first didn’t intend to tryout again, after all she had at least finally given it a shot. However after thinking about it for a few months and with the words of encouragement from the directors and band members still echoing in her head, she decided to give it another shot.
Kris recognized that she needed to make big improvements in her playing, her music audition had gone poorly and she had been so nervous that she was literally shaking. One good thing came from that audition though as Lisa Galvin, a former band member and graduate assistant director, had been the audition adjudicator and she offered to give Kris lessons. Kris took Lisa up on that offer and the lessons greatly improved her playing. Kris also joined the athletic band, which performs at men’s and women’s basketball game and men’s hockey games, to give herself even more playing experience. She kept up her physical conditioning and once again attended summer sessions to prepare for tryouts. This time her tryouts went better and Kris was lucky enough to hear her name called as a member of the 2012 Ohio State Marching Band. Kris was in shock and was overwhelmed as all the years of hard work had finally paid off, she had accomplished her dream. She had overcome not only the physical challenges of getting her 50 year old body in shape and through the demanding tryouts, she had also overcome the self-doubt that had plagued her at times along the way.
Of course making the band isn’t the end of the story or the challenges a band member faces. The marching season is hectic and grueling with practices and performances as well as hours of your own time spent to memorize music. Music memorization proved to be one of the biggest challenges Kris experienced as a member of the band. Back in college people are used to memorizing things but once you are out of college memorization is a skill that is used less often.
While Kris’s story is certainly not typical of members of TBDBITL, many other members of the band have faced challenges similar to the ones that Kris did. Many band members played a different instrument in high school, often a woodwind, and learn a new instrument in order to try out for the OSUMB; in most cases they do this on their own or with the help of a friend or a high school band director outside of school. The majority of high schools do not march the same style as the OSUMB and so while most people trying out had marched more recently than Kris, many of them would essentially have to relearn how to march from almost the beginning thanks to the difference in style. This need to learn and perfect their marching is the reason that hundreds of prospective band members go to summer sessions every summer, some of them driving a couple hours each way every Tuesday and Thursday all summer. Most of the band members that try out are in the 18-22 year old range and while their bodies on average can handle the rigors of tryouts and being in the band better than the body of a 50 year old, tryouts and rehearsals are intense and grueling for everyone and dozens of band members have to fight through pain and injuries each season. It is common to see several band members on the sidelines before practices and games getting taped up by the athletic trainer or putting on braces, and marching through pain is pretty standard for everyone in the band at some point. Kris’s drive and dedication to be in the band are commendable but they are not unique, rather they represent the drive and dedication that everyone in the OSUMB has and that has made the band the best band in the land.
Kris being voted MIB by the band also says a lot about the other members of the band. Remember back when you were in college, you were 18-22, recently moved out of home, enjoying and savoring your first true taste of freedom. Your sense of humor was probably not appropriate for polite company, you wanted to drink, party, and have a good time. Now how many of you would want to spend a major part of every week hanging out with someone your parents age, not just in class but on bus rides to away performances, in hotels on away trips, during social activities with your friends. A lot of you probably wouldn’t put that at the top of your list and I think none of us would have been very surprised to hear that Kris’s age made her sort of an outsider in the band. That wasn’t the case at all though; Kris has been accepted by the band members and made to feel just as much a part of the band as anyone else. This was ultimately demonstrated when the band members voted her as the MIB, showing an impressive amount of maturity for college students; trust me, band members are just like all other college students and are nowhere near as nerdy as stereotypes would suggest. On behalf of all of us at Our Honor Defend I extend our congratulations to Kris and hope that she continues to live her dream as a member TBDBITL.
As everyone knows this is Michigan week and the band gets at least as pumped for this game as anyone else on campus. This year the game is even more special for a portion of the band, as the football team’s bowl ban means that this will not only be the final home game for the seniors in the band, it will also be their final game as a member of the band, period. After many years of hard work to make the band each year and more hard work to perform at the level demanded by the OSUMB, the band becomes a very important part of your life and the other band members become like a family to you. Thus the last game is a very emotional experience, one that you wish you could pause and appreciate more.
Thanks to last week being an away game, the band had extra time to work on this show, though some of that time was lost due to the Thanksgiving holiday, and you can expect the band to leave it all on the field this week as they look to cap off what has been an incredible season. The Michigan band will of course be at the game and as normal the bands will be splitting the pregame and halftime performances. The OSUMB will perform a traditional pregame with a history making Script Ohio. This week’s ‘i’-dotter will be Jocelyn Smallwood, a senior from Upper Arlington who is majoring in international studies: security and intelligence. Jocelyn will make history as the first woman to dot the ‘i’ at a home Michigan game and the first African American woman to ever dot.
This week’s halftime show will feature some very recognizable and powerful classical music. I have always loved when the OSUMB did classical shows over the years as they tend to feature some very powerful music that really shows of the band’s musicality, something which takes a lot of effort when you are marching while playing. This week’s show will feature the Respighi’s Pines of Rome, Tchaikovsky’s Russian Dance, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and the theme from Stravinsky’s The Firebird. The music was arranged by Lisa Galvin with percussion parts by Aaron Bell, the drill for the show was written by director Jonathan Waters. I eagerly look forward to seeing this show, especially the Pines of Rome as it is a great piece and I have fond memories of performing it as part of the band several years ago. As always, I will have a video of the show next week.