Drive through it OSUMB

As a female former member of The Ohio State University Marching Band in the late 90s, I have been heartbroken reading and following online the firing of my friend, Jonathan Waters, and have been compelled to write in his and my beloved OSUMB’s defense here on my blog.


My first introduction to the OSU Marching Band was in High School, when our concert band went on a trip to Columbus and ended up in the Stadium Band Room (the old one), for a presentation by Dr. Jon Woods.  We watched a video of the band, and I just knew it was for me.


I (just like Jonathan Waters) was cut my freshman year of college from the OSU Marching Band.  I was heartbroken because I came from Louisville, Kentucky to OSU because I wanted to be in the band.  I loved (and still do) their discipline and perfection on the field.  I tried out my sophomore year and made the band.  While a member of the band, there were fraternal social customs that went on that I did not participate in nor feel threatened to participate in if I did not want to.  More often, I was protected and always given an out by the upperclass in my row, both men and women.  I had more big brothers and big sisters looking out for me than I could have ever imagined.

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I am a Christian and was a Christian while in the band.  While I chose not to participate in some of the cultural norms of the band, I never saw anyone coerced into participating if they did not want to, and participation in “off the field” events did, in no way threaten their marching spot in their row or influence Monday challenge outcomes.


The band helped me be the person I am today.  It took this naïve girl and taught me what goes on in the world, both the good and the bad.  It showed me that in every situation, it’s MY decision to choose to participate or not.  As a Christian, I could have quit the band at the first sign of something I didn’t believe in, but I was trained better than that.  There will always be things going on around me that I do not believe in.  I chose to stay in the band and tried to be a positive influence on my friends.


I have read the report and the allegations against my friend, Jon Waters and the band.  I am sickened to read the media writing about something they know NOTHING about.  I experienced more sexual harassment working the night shift at Meijer stocking groceries one summer than I ever did in my three years in the band.

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The OSUMB made me strong and disciplined.  Any group who trains hard and strives for perfection will blow off steam when they’re not “on the field”.  Although I don’t agree with all actions and believe that some of the traditions need to be removed or changed, I don’t feel that a voluntary event of “marching in your underwear” (just to name one) taints college kids’ minds.  If you can march ramp in your underwear, you can march in full uniform in front of over 100,000 people.


I agree with Sonny Fulks in his article from the PressPros Magazine, “Opinion: Culture of the OSU Band not Jon Waters’ Fault…!” ( He says, “No, if you want to blame someone for what goes on in the OSU band, blame yourself…and the culture of America that has generally become “sexualized”, and accepted, apparently.”  Kids did not learn these behaviors in the band, they knew them way before they landed at OSU, or any other college campus for that matter.


Now, as a mom of three boys, I am training them to be strong and make good decisions.  Although they are small, I hope and pray they will be men of honor when they grow up.  Men who look out for each other and others (as my OSU bandmates did for me), who honor and respect women as their father respects me, and who are capable of making their own decisions and owning the consequences of bad ones.


Since being in the band, I have worked on university campuses.  My experiences in the band have given me greater perspective on the things that go on with kids on college campuses.   Jonathan Waters was the man best equipped to lead the OSUMB both on and off the field.  He was making necessary changes to the cultural climate of the band behind the scenes, while we all watched on YouTube the wonderful shows that were being performed on the field.  You can’t teach an old dog new tricks overnight, as seem to be the expectations of President Drake, who has only been in office for three weeks.  Your actions have hurt a century old organization and the entire university.  I do not know what you were trying to prove by firing Mr. Waters, but I know what you proved to me…that you know nothing about the OSUMB and nothing about preserving one of the best things about the university – it’s band.


To the OSUMB – hold your head high, turn your corners square, and drive, drive, DRIVE!


To Jonathan Waters – hold your head high and drive through it.  We love you and stand with you.

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41 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Craig Hamm on July 27, 2014 at 11:30 am

    This post means a lot to me. You probably don’t know how much. I will be linking this article on my Facebook page, along with a sincere, heartfelt message to you. I hope you have time to read it. 🙂


    • Thanks so much Craig. I read your message, thanks again for your words of encouragement to me. I hope that Jon Waters feels encouraged by the words we are writing and the love we all feel for him.


  2. Posted by Jennifer Mercer on July 27, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Thank you for this heart felt post! I hope Jon Waters gets his job back!


  3. Posted by Kathleen Sowell on July 27, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Thank you so much for speaking up on behalf of Jonathan Waters and TBDBITL! It’s clear that Mr. Waters (who went to my high school!) was the scapegoat in this whole situation. I was in marching band in college. Let’s just say that we weren’t always “model students” on bus trips. I read the entire report. Should changes be made? Probably. Should complete blame be put on one man’s shoulders? No. Changes to DECADES of traditions can NOT be made in the short time he was head director. Support to Jon! No support to new OSU prez.


    • Thanks Kathleen, for your support. You are correct on many counts in your comment. Change is necessary and inevitable, but it won’t happen overnight and I feel Jon was moving in the right direction.


  4. Thank you, I have been trying to find a way to express my feelings for this situation. Your posting has done it in a way I could not have done. Thank you


    • Thanks so much Judy, for your comment. I think all of us have been struggling with our conflicting emotions over this whole unfortunate situation.


  5. Posted by Heidi Mosd on July 27, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Great job! I am sharing as many other testaments as I can from everyone, but I do think we female alumni have an especially important voice in the matter. I will be posting a link on my FB ASAP!


  6. Posted by burleso6 on July 27, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    I would really be interested in hearing your thoughts on the posted video recording of the director swearing at a student leader. I come from a big 10 band background as well and we have always respected the OSUMB immensely due to so many similarities between our bands in love of tradition and the art of marching band. I understand what you’re saying about your band experience. However now being an educator, I would have had no choice but to fire the director for his unprofessional actions toward his students evident in the recordings posted. I would really like to hear your perspective on that part of the allegations.


    • Posted by Dan Burkett on July 27, 2014 at 9:50 pm

      The real world isn’t all sunshine and roses. The band practices and trains at a very high level. I was in the Marine Corps and watching them practice motivated me and brought me back to bootcamp days. Emotions run high when perfection is demanded and achieved. These are all adults. There’s a reason OSUMB is The Best Damn Band in the Land.


    • Posted by Chuck Nelson on July 27, 2014 at 11:50 pm

      Each situation drives the reaction. Each student has different buttons to push. Should the bands be judged differently than the football teams? Or how about a reprimand in a military organization? Students like Melissa will never see that side of an instructor, but that’s because they’ll never put themselves in a situation that warrants that response. In any row in the bands the squad leader gives that reprimand. When you’re the drum major there’s only one person who can kick your (apparently arrogant, irresponsible and insubordination) butt down a notch.


    • I normally don’t comment on editorials but, this has me thinking. She knew thing s were happening after practice and her choice was to keep quite because she was strong enough to walk away. She was sexually harassed while working at Meijers and her choice to say nothing. It was ok as she states: I don’t feel that a voluntary event of “marching in your underwear” (just to name one) taints college kids’ minds. If you can march ramp in your underwear, you can march in full uniform in front of over 100,000 people. Marching in your underwear makes you better able to perform in front of 100k people. Hmmmm. I suppose it would make better athletes, students, teachers, etc to practice in their underwear. I am glad you are a strong person and know right from wrong. Not everyone young person entering college does or do they have upper classmen to watch their back. I also understand there are always two sides to every story and I will wait to hear both.


    • Posted by ShoCo on July 28, 2014 at 1:57 pm

      Hey Burleso6,

      So in the interest of not knowing tone via text, I’ll let you know right now mine is respectful and perhaps devil’s advocate in nature. So you’re saying as an educator you would have no choice but to fire him for his actions toward the student (drum major) in the recording? Do you know my 8th grade basketball coach cussed at us more during practice? And I played for a Catholic School team! You said you come from a Big 10 band, so whatever school you’re at, can you imagine if someone snuck recorder into a meeting between the head football coach upset with his Quarterback? Yes, in both instances these are students, but they are also young adults, college students, not elementary school kids. “Adult” language is going to be used. If it offends or bugs someone, why not say, “Your language offends me?” THEN in that case you hope that individual is professional enough to alter their tone.


  7. Posted by Carolyn Pettit on July 27, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Beautifully written. Thank you.


  8. Posted by Paul Brinker on July 27, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    As a Christian, if you were aware of activities going on that endangered the health and well- being of your band mates, didn’t you have an obligation to speak up?

    If, as leader of the Band, Mr. Waters was aware of those activities, he SURELY had an obligation to put a stop to them. What if someone was raped? Seriously injured? Or died?

    All you have to do is look at what is going on at Florida A&M to see the possibilities.

    The band may have helped you in many ways. But the alleged activities were wrong. If Mr. Waters knew about them and did nothing, then he was wrong, and he deserved to be fired.

    Christ calls us to care for each other. Was your silence Christ-like? That is for you and your conscience. Hazing is ALWAYS WRONG.


  9. Posted by Cassandra on July 27, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Sorry, totally disagree. This is a classic example of hazing and a hostile environment; the day he took the reigns is the day Mr. Waters had the responsibility to put an end to all of it. If OSUMB members want to have that kind of organization, they need to separate themselves from a (public) university that has Title IX obligations.

    Also, due respect, your experiences in the 1990s don’t give you a ton of expertise on what’s happening in 2012-14. Clearly at least some students do feel intimidated, forced into behavior that they object to, etc. And, FYI, coercion doesn’t have to be violent to be unacceptable, cruel, and frankly evil.

    (Disclosure: I was severely sexually harassed at OSU – not in the band, but as a student employee – in the late 1990s, as an eighteen-year-old freshman. I had no idea what my rights were, or that making a complaint would produce any results, or that there were people who had the responsibility to protect me and fix things. I just got massively depressed and quit the job, thinking myself a failure and a wimp. I wonder how many young kids in the band have done the exact same thing over the years, and what kind of talents they would have brought to the organization.)


  10. Posted by Disgusted on July 27, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Shame on you


  11. Posted by Mandy on July 27, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    There is a petition going around on facebook to sign to get him reinstated….
    I hope you are able to find….my family and i and many more support Jon Waters here in Port Clinton!!! Love your story!!!


  12. Posted by E. Robert on July 27, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    I’ve expressed this opinion elsewhere, but I think it’s appropriate here. In 2012, a member of the Florida A & M Marching band was beaten to death during a hazing activity. Many students had been injured previously during this ritual, but none had the courage to come forward and report this illegal and demeaning activity. 18 people were charged as accessories to this crime, and the A&M Band was suspended for 2 years. As a result, College marching bands (and other organizations) were told that the field had to be leveled at ZERO. Zero tolerance means zero, folks. Times have changed, and what some perceive as harmless pranks or rites of passage have been categorically forbidden on college campuses. Title XI also now expressly prohibits sexual harassment in any form in these organizations. I’ve read the report issued by Ohio State, and have been told by a band parent that every single allegation in the report is true. This type of behavior simply must stop, and in my opinion the best way to stop it is to dismiss the people in charge at the FIRST sign that any of these rules were broken. Moving forward, I foresee a time when a student can proudly be a member of TBDBITL without having any concerns for their physical or emotional well-being, and know that they have an ombudsman to support them, without fear of reprisal.


    • Posted by Jennifer on July 29, 2014 at 10:57 pm

      Who is this band parent that confirmed the complaints? And, an even better question, why does the report not include ANY interviews from individuals other than those cited by the people who presented the initial complaint? It sounds like a very one-sided “investigation” to me.


  13. Posted by JShaff on July 28, 2014 at 1:07 am

    I am also an Ohio State Alumni, and a huge TBDBITL fan, but I must say that the way Jon Waters handled at least one of the sexual harassment/assault situations was absolutely horrible! He decided not to report it for a while after it was brought to his attention, as well as saying that both the alleged harasser/assaulter and the victim could not go on one of the trips, which is completely unfair to the victim. I think he was a great director, I mean some of the best shows OSUMB have ever done has been under his leadership, but I think he deserved to be fired because it is not acceptable to treat sexual harassment and especially assault lightly and just brush it off. If he would have reported it and dealt with it right then he wouldn’t have been fired and you wouldn’t have been writing this blog post.


    • Posted by drmk on July 28, 2014 at 5:05 pm

      Actually, the decision to suspend both the assaulter and the victim came from the Athletic Director, not from Jon Waters. When Waters found out about the allegations he took it to the AD (as he was supposed to do), who issued their decision to suspend both. It wasn’t until it was taken to the Title IX office that that decision was overturned. That was the AD’s boneheaded decision, not Waters’.


  14. Posted by Susan Dirr on July 28, 2014 at 8:46 am

    I went to Ohio State in the mid to late 1960s and have been an avid fan ever since. We go to all of the football games and support OSU in many ways. This news about the band was heartbreaking and disappointing. I was happy to read your response telling of your experiences in the band. I am sure it was a positive experience for so many students. But my concern is ‘how much has it changed since you were there?” That still remains to be disclosed. As a 35 year educator of children, I can also say that 15-20 years ago, interactions with kids were so different than when I retired last year. Negative comments and behaviors 15 years ago were not like they were in 2013.They were so much tamer than what I heard and have seen in recent years. I had kids on anti-bully contracts in my classroom, Parents changing their kids to different busses because of bullying behavior against their kids. Kids laughing at others and not in fun. And this was in an upscale suburban district. I could give more examples, but my point is this. Is the band still the same as years ago or has the culture spiraled down a path of degrading and humiliation far beyond what it should be?” Leadership is doing what is right even if it is hard or goes against the grain of the culture. And leadership has to come from within as well as with the administration and directorship. I wish Jon Waters had more time to make the changes that needed to be made. He is a brilliant, creative director. I wish nothing but the best for the band, the students, and the university as they all have to sort through the information and make some tough decisions. I value our children as they grow and develop into the kind of adults we want in our society, Thank you again for your perspective.


  15. Posted by Michael Smidutz on July 28, 2014 at 9:07 am

    I was a member of the band starting in 1973, the one that had the first 5 female members. I agree, nothing was ever forced on anyone, and I can’t speak for the women, but I never saw anything out of the norm. We sang bawdy songs and drank a ton, but I experienced far worse in the Air Force and at any workplace that allowed humans. It doesn’t make it okay, but to go to this extreme is unnecessary and kind of stupid. They had better investigate the other 300 plus big schools…we (OSUMB) probably don’t hold a candle to some of them .I saw no racism, sexism, gay bashing, or any of that. Paul Droste was our director then, and I feel the same way about him as you do Mr. Waters. Thank you for this, and GO BUCKS and OSUMB stand tall, you are still the best damned band in the land!


  16. Posted by Heather Davis on July 28, 2014 at 9:39 am

    You took the words right out of my mouth! I was introduced to TBDBITL when I was still in grade school thanks to my father’s love of them. I did not get the privilege of going to OSU but I did play in the band in High School. When we went to band camp we had to go through some rituals like what was discribed in the report however none that bad. We were not given a chance to not participate without being labeled something much worse by the upper classmen. It was not the fun time it should have been but I LOVED being in the band. I hope someone will see how wrong the actions are but we live in a country where our leaders and lawyers say we must not offend others so I don’t think anything will change in regards to the final outcome. I too encourage the band to drive through and hold your heads up with pride!


  17. Posted by Gena Bukur on July 28, 2014 at 9:50 am

    Well written and well said. All involved are in my prayers. I come from a long line of musicians and it is a shame that someone who knows nothing about the kindred family spirit of the band program would try to think they are solving problems.


  18. Posted by K on July 28, 2014 at 10:10 am

    And yet what was done to STOP this culture? A good man lost his job and perhaps his reputation. The behavior seems to have been accepted as the norm.
    Bad things happen when good men and women do nothing.


  19. Posted by Janet on July 28, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    You have said eloquently what many of us share in our hearts. Jan


  20. Reblogged this on Awkward Ever After and commented:
    Excellent opinion


  21. Posted by Rocky on July 28, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Thank you for this blog! I love the Buckeyes!


  22. Posted by osubest1 on July 28, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    My son spent 4 years on one of the best high school bands in the country and I hate to tell some of you naive people, but that kind of stuff is rampant in high school. The girl who’s mother started all of this must have had blinders on through high school. Did her mother really think she was going to send her to the largest campus in the country and she was never going to hear a swear word or see people in their underwear? My son’s high school band at the end of band camp every year would wear their bathing suits and have shower cream fights. I attended them all and took photos, never once thinking of it as a sexual thing. To totally wipe out a man’s career over something like this is just beyond me. Especially when the school knew this had been going on for decades. How can you blame one man who just took over this position? I think this is more about a new president who wanted the first notch in his belt and got it. When you send your child off to college, you need to realize that they are no longer children. They are adults now and you need to quit fighting their battles for them. Her daughter is not going to make it through 4 years of college without hearing swear words. She will see people in their underwear. She will probably even have someone swat her on the rear end. As for the songs being rewritten- you can pull those on the internet. Every band in America does that. Seriously, did you really think this was just an OSU thing? You give them too much credit. EVERY band does this stuff. And yes, I am sure some of it needed to be reined in, but to fire the man for it? Maybe the parents need to look at their children and teach them about sexual harrassment and where to draw the line. To compare these things to what Fla. A&M did is really disgusting. Those kids picked on one person until they killed him. It had been going on for weeks, little by little until he died. I hardly think any of this rises to that level, so let’s leave that out, ok? I didn’t read anywhere that any student was denied the right to leave if they really felt threatened or harmed. Did I miss that? I am not being dismissive of what happened. I merely want to let people know that these kinds of things happen in any school and it isn’t just a band problem. School officials can try to keep your children safe, and I suppose you can require them to stay in their room when not attending classes, but short of that, I am not sure what more you can do. If you have not taught them right from wrong by now, they probably are not going to learn it at college. If you have taught them, they are probably going to walk away from what they see as wrong.


  23. Posted by Vicki on July 28, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    I definitely do not feel it is right for a student/athlete to be sworn at ,etc. but I know it happens……….sometimes we see it on the football field/basketball court. Probably in the dugout & other sporting venues. Maybe even professors/teachers in the classroom? So will OSU president be investigating these people? The band, as it now is, has been in existence for over 60 yrs. To think that the members were comfortable in their organization all this time & now ONE member’s mother has turned it all inside out ???!! Another symptom of our current society………….the minority rules.


  24. Posted by Phil Grimes ("Pole"), TBDBITL 78-81 on July 28, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Thank you for a true picture from a female perspective, and the perspective of one who chose not to participate in things you did not want to. I was in JI-row in the late 70s, and I can attest (at least from the male perspective) that we saw our fellow bandmates as friends and family. Any time someone chose not to participate in something, or language started going past the line of good fun, that was respected and no retribution ever happened. There were times, also, when the upperclassmen would shut things down BEFORE they got too crazy. I predate you and Jon by a couple decades, but the lessons and friendships made in the band still stay with me today. By far, the best experience and the best lessons I ever got from OSU involved the Marching Band.


  25. Posted by NE Ohioan on July 28, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    I can understand feeling like the underwear march and even the suggestive nickname issues were perhaps blown out of proportion, but I am much more concerned that there was one incident of sexual assault and one of sexual harassment during Mr. Waters’ time with the band, and that in one case he attempted to punish both the victim who reported and the alleged offender and was only stopped by the University administration. After that he ignored a recommendation for a sensitivity training in this area and didn’t implement it until there was a second incident. If this is true, then it’s a serious error in judgment by the leader. I appreciate that some, perhaps a lot, of women involved in these activities had an overall positive experience, but these two reports indicate to me that there may be a problem and that the people who aren’t comfortable may be reluctant to come forward for fear of at worst getting disciplined themselves, or at best being ostracized by band members and alums. For people who say “oh well it’s only a small sample”, I would ask how many cases of assault or harassment have to happen before you think it’s worthy of attention? And for people who say, “Much worse things go on in the Greek system and elsewhere on campus,” that’s really not putting OSU in a good light.


    • Posted by NE Ohioan on July 28, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      And now Mr. Waters’ attorney is saying in an article on CNN (cut and pasted), “You know he experienced inappropriate behavior as a rookie band member himself. He was deeply affected by it and that’s why as band director he did everything he could to stop anything inappropriate.” If Mr. Waters himself felt he was exposed to inappropriate behavior when he was a band member, doesn’t that suggest that there may have been some long-standing problem? That it wasn’t just all in good fun and a supportive environment?


  26. Posted by Bob Davies on July 30, 2014 at 12:12 am

    I’m troubled by the respondents who seem to feel that profanity, sexual harassment etc. shoukd be tolerated because the victim should be tougher and/or just take it (because that’s how the real world supposedly works). Also, I can’t reconcile any acknowledgement of Christian belief with the lyrics in the OSU songbook. The band is a mess. I’ve lost respect for the organization.


  27. […] atmosphere was not unsafe for himself or the women he shared the field with. Or maybe just another mommy blogger like myself who was happy to be a band member in the 80s and thinks this has all been blown out of […]


  28. Posted by Eyes wide open on August 9, 2014 at 7:37 am

    Our society is great for passing the blame. When will people start taking responsibility for their own actions. The world has changed and along with it ~ morals. Parents, your children are subjected to plenty on the television, public schools and probably from several of you if the truth were known. Everyone is to quick to blame others and lets not forget ” lawsuits”. God has been removed from public places so as not to offend those that are not Christian. We can only teach our children well at home and pray that they make the right choices when they are not at our side. People need to lighten up. Those without sin, cast your stones. I however am human, I am not perfect and I have learned to be responsible. This being said, please think before you start your crusade to ruin someone’s life. Remember, you will one day be judged as well.


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Even A Girl Like Me

A Preacher's Kid... Prodigal Daughter... Sinner Saved by Grace... Redeemed...Recovered...Renewed

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