A student adjusted a video camera from the top of a tower in Lincoln Tower Park, while horns and iPads sat scattered across the sidelines.
Christopher Hoch, interim marching and athletic band director, turned his microphone back on and told the group of several hundred panting, sweating band members to fall back into formation and to look ahead.
The Ohio State University Marching Band gathered Wednesday evening for one of the band’s first partial-day rehearsals since fall classes began. The 232-member band is preparing for their first performance on Sept. 7 against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Nathan MacMaster, marching band drum major, said after rehearsal that the band’s energy is as high as he’s ever seen it.
“It might be the best or as good of a season as anybody could ever have in the band,” he said. “I know that’s saying a lot because last year we had the national championship. But feeding off of that momentum, our shows are going to be amazing, and we’ve got trips that are just unbelievably exciting.”
MacMaster, a graduate student in public administration, previously served as assistant drum major for the past two years. This will be his fifth and final year.
MacMaster said he’s a little nervous about the first game at Virginia Tech, but added it’s an “excited nervous” and that nothing compares to the first home game.
“We go on away trips, but when we’re in Ohio Stadium and we hear our fans cheering for us, it’s the coolest thing ever,” he said. “There’s nothing like being in the stadium in term of nerves and excitement.”
He added that his first time running down the ramp doing the back-bend is also causing some slight anxiety.
“I’ve only done it 10,000 times in practice,” he said. “Hopefully that’s enough.”
MacMaster also revealed that there will be a Pride of Ohio theme throughout OSU’s first home game on Sept. 12 against University of Hawaii. He added that the band will be joined by guitarist Rick Derringer of The McCoys, the original performers of “Hang on Sloopy,” for a special pregame performance of the song.
The band and Derringer will be celebrating the rock ‘n’ roll classic’s 50-year anniversary.
Lauren Vidmar, a baritone in M-row and a 2015 graduate in human resources, said the band is continuing to move forward from the negative media attention that arose after an OSU investigation into the marching band and a July 30 Wall Street Journal report concerning portions of the band’s songbook.
Last year’s investigation ultimately resulted in the firing of then-director Jon Waters.
“I think everyone is focused on making ourselves the best we can be,” Vidmar said. “Chris has really been a pioneer with us this year. We know who we are. Let’s outline our culture. You know, what does the band mean to you?”
She said that during the first week of rehearsals, the band discussed their “cultural blueprint,” and they’re taking time to ask themselves how they wish to be perceived moving forward and what kind of band they want to be by the end of the season.
“We’re mixing and matching different philosophies that different athletic teams here use,” Vidmar said. “Squad leaders, we go on a leadership retreat before the season starts every year, and we talk about things like ‘Why did you join this band? What does it mean to you? Do you think of family, perseverance, hard work?’ We’re taking all those ideas and trying to shape it into a map, like ‘What is TBDBITL, other than a marching band?’”
Vidmar said now that rehearsal time has been cut down because of fall classes, band members are getting more focused than ever, adding that the band’s hype for the first game is increasing with it.
“I think people are just trying to focus their efforts into making everything we do out here look and sound as good as it can,” she said.
The band is also scheduled to perform Oct. 25 at Wembley Stadium in London before the kickoff of the Buffalo Bills vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, which is one of three NFL International Series games scheduled at Wembley this season.
MacMaster said he is looking ahead as well and is excited to perform abroad. He added that he hopes to visit one of the palaces, possibly Buckingham Palace, and stand in full TBDBITL uniform next to one of the Queen’s guardsmen.
MacMaster said the band is way ahead of their rehearsal schedule this season and is basically done with their first two shows.
“We almost ran into this problem: we’ve learned everything so fast, what do we do next?” he said. “Everything is progressing along amazingly well.”