Letter to the editor:
As a five-year member of the Ohio State Marching Band (2005-09), I have been deeply upset by the recent events. I am writing, not to only show support for Jon Waters, but to address the overall culture of the group. Jon has been one of the main driving forces of change and inclusion for the band. I feel so strongly about the marching band and Jon Waters that I feel the need to step out of my comfort zone to show my support. As most of my close friends know, the issues I wish to address are not something I bring up in conversation or when I introduce myself to others. I am a son, a brother, a friend, a musician, a colleague, a Buckeye, and I’m gay. It is nothing I am ashamed of. It is part of me, not who I am.
I graduated from a small high school, in a conservative town in Ohio. I didn’t have much support before coming to OSU and didn’t really accept who I was until I was a member of the band. It was then when I found support and acceptance through members in the band. My row (JI-Row/Percussion Section) became my closest friends and allies and, as stated by many others this weekend, my family. They supported me when I needed it, teased me as their brother when I did something stupid, and I did the same for them. I knew that I could count on any of them for guidance, support and acceptance. I could be who I was and it was perfectly fine; I felt safe.
The band is a melting pot of religion, political views, cultural beliefs and personal experiences. The band represents one of the most diverse student groups on campus in this aspect, as well as the variety of its members’ academic studies, ranging from accounting to zoology and everything in between. It would be a lie to say that I didn’t hear things that might have made me uncomfortable at times. I never once, however, felt like an outcast, harassed, disrespected, unsafe or unwelcome during my tenure in TBDBITL.
There have been many “traditions” that have been brought up, but the one I want to focus on is the “Unofficial ‘Song Book’” of the band. Did this booklet exist? Yes. Was it issued to all band members? Absolutely not. I saw this booklet maybe once or twice in my five years in the organization, rarely even getting a chance to look through its contents. It was always passed between student members with the purpose of ensuring that the directing staff didn’t know about it. If the staff did find one, they confiscated it immediately. While I’m not justifying the lyrics or even the fact that these books existed, because I know how offensive they are, I’m stating that this is a thing of the past. We did not sing these songs on the bus, mainly because most members have never even seen these lyrics or songs. In fact, the bus I was usually on would sing much different songs, usually more consistent to Broadway show tunes or Disney songs.
I want to state that the acceptance and inclusion of the LGBT community is not something that the OSU Marching Band struggles with; it is an issue that society in general struggles with. While we as a society have been moving forward, the OSU Marching Band has always been strides ahead in this matter. Most of these lyrics and songs were written many decades ago, when acceptance and inclusion were nowhere near where they are today. The band has even helped grow allies for the LGBT community. Many of the members also come from small towns and first meet and become friends with LGBT students during their time in the band. We are able to have open conversations with each other and answer any questions to help all parties feel more comfortable and included.
I want to ensure that future members and those interested in becoming a member of TBDBITL know they will be entering a safe environment, where they will be accepted and supported for who they are. I am speaking out to show support for this organization that has given me so much, as well as for Jon Waters, who has always been supportive of me and someone I call a good friend. I cherished each and every moment I had in band, from my first ramp entrance, my last game, and never, ever losing to “that school up north.” I have never missed an opportunity to march with the TBDBITL Alumni because I loved every moment I had with my band family. I am extremely proud to call myself a TBDBITL Alumni and will continue to work as an alumnus to ensure that it remains a safe place for all its members.
Class of 2009
OSU Marching Band member 2005-09