2009 TBDBITL Reunion

(I took the Vimeo videos; just linking the YouTube ones)

I’ve been meaning to reprise the OSU Reunion.

While in college, I played trumpet in the Ohio State marching band. For the last 12 - 15 years, I have been returning to Columbus to participate in the annual alumni band reunion. At either the first or second game of the season (whichever one features the lamest opponent for which they can afford to give us free seats) close to 700 of us alumni get to play and prance around once again in Ohio Stadium. This year, the first game was against Navy; the second was against USC. Guess which one we got.

As I do every year, I spent the last two weeks of August practicing in the basement (click any photo to enlarge):

I arrived in Columbus Thursday evening of Labor Day weekend and met my youngest brother (also a band alumni) and his wife at the airport. On Friday, we walked around the OSU campus checking out new things and presenting sanitized versions of old things to my SIL (not an OSU alum). I’ve a feeling that she knows the worst of my brother anyway.

On Friday evening, the 24-hour whirlwind of the reunion started with a sit-down music rehearsal. It actually falls together fairly quickly. The drums warm up and exhort us all to our seats. Check out the 10-year-olds watching their dads. They’ll likely be in the band in 10 years:

Then we dive into the music. You know, I think over half of the alumni band grew up with Kurt Cobain as their soundtrack, but we still end up playing 30s swing music at the reunion. OK with me, I loved that stuff. Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy follows a snippet of I Wanna Go Back:

The director of the Alumni Band is the Marching Band director I had when I was in the band in college, Paul Droste. He’s an accomplished euphonium (baritone) player and a stickler for musical detail. Here he is last year, wringing a teaching moment from a group that has one eye on the music and one eye out for the end of rehearsal and a pilgrimage to the nearby Varsity Club tavern. Note the combination of venerable and youthful coif:

Kickoff for this year’s game was at noon on Saturday, which meant that we had to have our butts in seats at 6 am Saturday morning to put our shows together. The day begins with another seated music rehearsal and final head-count. Then, it’s outside to a practice field where we pull out our charts and find our places for the pregame and halftime show formations. We (the alumni band) run through our shows 2 or 3 times, and then the student band (another 260 or so) joins us for one more run-through at game speed.

Two hours before kickoff, we participate in Skull Session, a tradition that has evolved from a simple last-chance rehearsal into a full-on performance of all our show music in the basketball arena, with some 15,000 spectators. Here’s the student band making its grand entrance to this year’s Skull Session:

Since we were playing Navy, the varsity band inserted the Navy Hymn into their show. Here they perform it at Skull Session, and the remarkable, and actually startling, thing is not how well they play (which is superb - check the pedal bass note just before the singing), but how well they sing as a choir.  This is reputedly the world’s largest all-brass band (even without our 700+ gaggle of alumi).  Check how carefully the band follows its conductor, and responds to dynamic (when to be quiet/when to be loud) requirements of the music.:

After Skull Session, we go outside in the crush of people streaming toward the stadium, form up and march over to the entrance ramp, from which we’ll make our entry to the stadium for pregame. The Ramp Entrance is a venerated tradition with the band. The drums file out first, begin their cadence, then the rest of the band enters the stadium in two files, two-step spacing, horn flashes at every turn, to form a block band for Buckeye Battle Cry. Here’s how it’s supposed to look, as the varsity band leads out on 9/5/09:

The varsity band gracefully sidesteps in order to avoid any collisions with bumbling alumni. Then we make our flawed, but exuberant, imitation. Still, look at our lines - they’re pretty straight. A shame, at the end, that you couldn’t hear the entire playing of Chimes:

Here’s a still photo that my SIL took from C Deck (Click to enlarge):

And here’s one that the band’s photographer took that shows me (sunglasses, fanny pack laden with camera) at the end of the ramp entrance:

One Comment

  1. Fan-Frickin’-Tastic!!! Hardest working musicians out there!