Marching Band (TBDBITL) Alumni Society

TBDBITL Alumni Society
Membership: 1,275
Number of TBDBITL graduates: 6,504 (including deceased)
Recent award: Gold Star Award, 2008 (goes to the top 10 percent of Ohio State alumni societies)

The Best Damn Band in the Land consists of instrumentation modeled after the traditional British brass band and is steeped in military tradition. It was formed in 1878 as a 12-piece drum and fife corps to provide music to which ROTC cadets could march. Most of the members were beginning musicians.

The band was an all-male organization until 1973. Since 1976, the size has held steady at 225 marching members. Members are chosen from more than 400 candidates, and all members audition each season for a position. The band's student staff consists of 14 nonmarching uniformed members whose job is to run the behind-the-scenes operations. Music majors make up only a small percentage of the band.

We rehearse twice a month and perform around the state regularly to raise money to benefit the Marching Band. Our formal board meets bi-monthly to govern our operations and goals.

Hyper Friday is the day before the Ohio State-Michigan game. Hundreds of band members travel around Columbus from 6 a.m. until after midnight, performing at numerous "Beat Michigan" parties.

Other appearances: The Active Band makes 10 to 12 appearances throughout Ohio each year, from marching in parades to performing formal stage concerts. The Hyper Active Band fills the demand for Buckeye pep bands and other small ensembles, performing at weddings, birthday parties, and corporate engagements.

Since 1966, former members of the Marching Band have been gathering on reunion weekend to march in Ohio Stadium "just one more time." Today, nearly 800 members reunite to perform the pregame ramp and a quadruple Script Ohio with the Marching Band. Fans who don't have game tickets can see the Alumni Band at the skull session in St. John Arena two hours before kickoff. This year's reunion will take place at the Ohio State-Navy game on Sept. 5.


  • As of January 2009, there was more than $557,700 in the TBDBITL scholarship endowment.
  • Approximately $27,850 in scholarship monies is awarded each year.
  • The alumni society awards one full in-state scholarship for autumn, winter, and spring quarters to the head drum major.
  • Qualifying members who have been in the band at least one year are awarded scholarships in amounts between $500 and $1,000 for autumn quarter.
  • $1,000 is awarded each year to the winner of the Richard Heine Arranging Competition.
  • The society hopes to bring the endowment fund to $10.5 million to pay for autumn quarter tuition for the entire band.

Script Ohio is the Marching Band's most identifiable trademark. It was first performed on Oct. 10, 1936. The University of Michigan claims to have first performed a Script Ohio in 1932; however, it was a set formation and was not written in script the way the Marching Band executes it. In the spirit of the band's military tradition, Script Ohio is performed to the French march "Le Regiment de Sambre et Meuse."

Dotting the "i" comes at the completion of Script Ohio when a fourth- or fifth-year sousaphone player, led by the drum major, struts to the top of the "i". At the first performance of Script Ohio, trumpet player John Brungart marched from the top of the "o" to the top of the "i" simply to complete the formation. More than 70 years later, dotting the "i" has become known throughout the world and is a prestigious honor for the sousaphones in the band.

The pregame ramp entrance dates to 1928, and the sequence remains virtually unchanged today. Although physically demanding, the ramp entrance is a favorite game-day experience for band members.
Anxiety mounts as members gather in and around the ramp underneath the stadium. A lone sousaphone player signals the beginning of the singing of "I Wanna Go Back." Cheers are chanted, hats pulled down firmly, and mouthpieces tightened.

When the call of "two minutes!" rings out, an excited yell echoes in the ramp area. The percussion leader sets the tempo, screams "drums on the side!" and the percussion section takes to the field, chanting "O-H-I-O". Then the familiar phrase "Ladies and gentlemen, the ‘Pride of the Buckeyes'" resonates through the stadium, the drum cadence roars, and the band emerges from the ramp, maintaining a perfect two-step spacing, and marches into place to break into "Buckeye Battle Cry."

The skull session, a concert set in a pep-rally atmosphere, began in the 1930s. The session starts two hours before each home game kickoff. The band plays all its pregame and halftime music, giving each member one last chance to go over the show in his or her head (thus, "skull"). Today, a visit from Coach Jim Tressel and the team accents each session. Skull session is free and open to the public. Fans pack St. John Arena up to two hours before the performance, so arrive early!

The Adopt a Row program was the idea of former band member and current alumni society member Curtis Littlegreen. It was launched in 2006 after being unanimously approved by the TBDBITL board as a way to help current band members handle some of the expenses of being on campus before the dorms and cafeterias open for fall quarter. Many Marching Band members arrive in Columbus several weeks before the start of fall quarter, leaving jobs (and home cooking) to participate in preseason functions such as band auditions and the freshman ice cream social.

The Adopt a Row program also provides an opportunity to build relationships between current and alumni members of the band. The program has become so popular that even non-band alumni have become involved. One such host is former Alumni Association president and CEO Dan Heinlen.

How the program works
Prior to fall quarter, potential hosts contact the coordinator to learn about opportunities to host one of the rows of the Marching Band. There are 16 rows with 14 members in each. Student staff members also are included.
Hosts are notified in August and given available dates. Once a date is confirmed, the host contacts the squad leader of the row to provide details.

Some highlights of the 2008 Adopt a Row program:
• 40 percent more meals were provided than in 2007.
• Each row received at least three meals.
• Nearly half of the 2008 hosts (20 out of 45) were involved for the first time.
• 65 total meals were provided for the 16 rows and staff of the Marching Band.

Hosts participated in the program in a number of ways in 2008, even when they happened to be out of town:
• Some sent money to buy gift cards to local restaurants such as Tommy's Pizza, a favorite hangout.
• Some fed the band members in their homes.
• Some invited their neighbors to a potluck dinner with the row members.
• Because of the power outage caused by Hurricane Ike in September, several rows were fed in the Joan Zieg Steinbrenner Band Center in Ohio Stadium. This allowed director Jon Woods and assistant director Jon Waters to enjoy a meal as well.
• A few hosts took their rows to restaurants.
• One host set up a tailgate party for the student staff outside the stadium.

Frequently asked questions
My house isn't large enough to host 14 people. What other options are there?
You can host the dinner at the band center by having it catered, or by preparing the meal at home and bringing it to the band center. You can also take the row members out to dinner or meet them at a nearby park for a picnic.

How much does a meal cost?
The expense depends on the type of meal being provided. Some hosts hold a backyard barbeque or potluck. You also can purchase a gift card to a pizza place or other casual restaurant. About $150 will cover the entire dinner.

Do I have to be a band alumnus to participate?
No. A number of hosts are Ohio State alumni and friends of the band who want to give something back.

I don't live in the area. Can I get still involved?
You can send a gift card, which will presented to the row you are hosting.

FOR INFORMATION: Heather Phillips Smith, (614) 267-6690, (e-mail preferred)

"Playing at the last men's basketball game to be held at St. John Arena. While we lost the game, it was what happened afterward that really showed me what Ohio State means to people. The doors were opened, and as many people as that arena could hold were allowed in. I think every step on every stairwell had someone standing on it. There was a ceremony on the court, and there were so many former players, they filled the entire floor. The band played "Carmen Ohio," and the singing was so loud I could not hear the band around me!" -Scott Axel, TBDBITL '98-'99

"The energy of the band lined up at the end of the field after ramp, with the cheerleaders tumbling down the field. It still gives me chills when I go back to a game!" -Tamra George, cheerleader '93-'98

Anyone who was in the Marching Band for at least one year is considered a member of the TBDBITL Alumni Society. Please send a message to the e-mail address below to update your contact information and be sure you receive your annual membership notice in the mail.

Along with the opportunity for musicians of all levels to continue playing, the best benefit of being a member of the TBDBITL Alumni Society is the camaraderie that comes from belonging to such a reputable, close-knit organization. The network of TBDBITL alumni stretches across the country and around the globe, and meeting a fellow alum anywhere in the world is like running into an old friend.

For information on the TBDBITL Alumni Society or to book the Alumni Band for a performance:

President: Jeff Jordan, (419) 768-3311,
Active Band chair: Willis Burt, (614) 457-7624,
Hyper Active Band chair: Mel Ponzi, (614) 882-9427,
Adopt a Row coordinator: Heather Phillips Smith, (614) 267-6690, (e-mail preferred)
Update your information:
TBDBITL Alumni Society:
Ohio State Marching Band: