Tuesday, August 12, 2014

John Flesher, Current Band Member and Squad Leader

This season will be my third year as a band member. I will be the assistant squad leader of H row. In my 22 years on this Earth, I have never met a kinder, more humble person than Jonathan Waters. From the first day I met Jon Waters, I knew I was in a safe environment managed by one of the greatest, if not the greatest person the university has ever had the pleasure of employing.
I began in athletic band in the spring of 2012. Through his guidance and assurance, and professionalism, I was able to improve as a member of the band and contribute to the band, the university, and the community. He taught me so much and I could not have asked for a better person to be under the direction of.
When I made the marching band, Jon Waters immediately welcomed all first year members with open arms. Not once did I feel unsafe. He put in place rules that all rows would live and operate by to ensure the safety of all members.
As a first year member, I was given a nickname and I was proud of that nickname. It was actually one of the nicknames listed in the initial investigative report. I have never once found it to be offensive or rude. I embraced the name as my own. I was asked to perform a "trick". My squad leaders asked me if I wanted to perform a song and, being a lover of music, I immediately said yes. I wrote my own song and loved performing it. I wish I could have performed it more! That being said, my squad leaders made it clear from the beginning that anything we did not wish to partake in, we did not have to.
Midnight ramp, my rookie "trick", my nickname, and the other things asked of me, I agreed to do all. I loved what they represented and I wasn't just desperate for acceptance. That had already happened when I made the band. There was nothing I had to do to win the respect of the rest of the band. I was respected and treated well. I never felt unsafe or harassed by any means.
My second year went just like my first but this time, I had younger members to take care of. Any time they expressed concern with anything, we took control of the situation and worked it out. If they had any questions, we answered them, and if they didn't want to do something, they didn't do it. We became a family last year, as a row, and not a single person wanted to leave the band due to any "hazing", "harassment", or anything else mentioned in that report.
This year, I was chosen as a squad leader of H row. I am so proud to have been selected by Jon Waters. I cannot remember a moment in my life when I was happier. I am an Eagle Scout, I have a degree from Ohio State, and I have won many awards and competitions with several musical groups I am a part of. And being chosen as a squad leader is the number one thing on my list of greatest achievements. I will forever hold that dear to my heart. But this position is not about me.
Being a squad leader is about what Jon Waters preached and practiced: servant leadership, respect, and leading by example. Jon was never afraid to help somebody, tell the truth, or fix something himself. He taught us all so many lessons that we can use in band, in school, and in life. Without Jon, I would not be the person I am today. And I'd like to think that person is pretty incredible.
I am a masters student at Ohio State, having received my bachelors degree in city and regional planning; I am a dedicated member of Kappa Kappa Psi, national honorary fraternity for bandsmen; I was a brother of Pi Kappa Alpha, one of the most successful Greek fraternities on Ohio State's campus; I am the secretary of the A Cappella group, Buck That!, we are a group of college men that sing for competitions, charity, community, and university events; I graduated with honors and Cum Laude; I hold a wonderful internship position with the Ohio Department of Transportation, and previously the City of Columbus; and I am actively working to improve others lives by being a squad leader in the Ohio State University Marching Band, where I teach others skills in band and life through my actions and words.
I am not a sexualized, homophobic, antisemetic, racist, sexist, crazed college student like the university's report made it seem like.
I am a hardworking, dedicated, talented, mature, kind, trustworthy, chivalrous, active student. And this would not be the case had I not tried out for the marching band in 2012. And the only reason I have changed to be this person is because of the man the university recently fired.
Jonathan Waters.
I will always stand for that man and his words and actions. He has changed my life for the better just as hundreds, if not thousands of other students.
Please take the time to learn the true facts about who Jonathan Waters and the Ohio State University Marching Band are. I'm sure you will learn we are exactly who you've seen on YouTube and the international news the past two years.
God Bless and Go Bucks,
John Anthony Flesher

The "Oath of Secrecy"

On July 24, 2014, a report released by the Ohio State University's Office of University Compliance and Integrity (now known as the Glaros Report, named for Chris Glaros, the Assistant Vice President of Compliance Operations and Investigations for the Office of University Compliance and Integrity) charged, among several other things that are now proving to be false, that members of the Ohio State University Marching Band were forced to swear oaths to secrecy about "inappropriate" goings-on in the organization. The Glaros Report mentions secrecy oaths three times in the report:
"On May 23, 2014 a parent of a Marching Band member visited the Office of University Compliance and Integrity and reported that she had concerns about whether the Marching Band’s culture was sexualized, and stated that its members were made to swear secrecy oaths about objectionable traditions and customs." -Page 3, The Glaros Investigation Report

"The complainant reported concerns about whether the Marching Band’s culture was sexualized. The parent further stated that the Band’s members were made to swear secrecy oaths concealing objectionable traditions and customs. ... take oaths not to tell about Fesler" -Page 4, The Glaros Investigation Report

It's true. We were sworn to secrecy over the most horrendous, sexual, abusive, and harassing things one could dream up. (That was sarcasm in case you missed it.)

Until yesterday (8/11/14), I was perplexed that a written "secrecy oath" had even surfaced. How ridiculous! I thought. I never swore an oath to secrecy. It turns out I was wrong. I honestly had forgotten about this because it was so innocuous. See for yourself.

This "oath" was given at the start of "Fesler Night" which is a casual gathering of the newly assembled band, held in the band room, at which skits are performed and the squad leaders play a couple school songs for everyone. Truth be told, I personally found many of the skits boring, uninspired, or just downright lame. Others were rather creative. Some were crude, using language we wouldn't use in public. Then again...we weren't in public. We were friends trying to make each other laugh in our own unique an quirky ways in order to hasten the bonding, and therefore, the effectiveness of how well we worked together in getting a job done that requires both individual effort and teamwork.

Will I tell you the specifics of the skits at Fesler Night? No, I will not. And it's not because I am ashamed or have anything to hide or that I think other alumni will be mad at me. I choose not to tell you because those are my memories. They are things that I experienced that not everyone can, and to me that means something. To you they are a curiosity. To you, they are a glimpse into a world in which you can't be a part. You may be looking for prurient details that simply aren't there. To you, my stories are mere hoped-for pornography. No, my memories and my experiences are mine.

-Sherri Rapp

The Unremarkable "Culture" of the Ohio State University Marching Band, Part 2

Much ado has been made of the underground songbook that has persisted over the decades in the Ohio State University Marching Band. It must be noted that the songbook has persisted despite ongoing efforts by the directing staff to eliminate its existence. The following was found on the University of Wisconsin website at http://wilson.engr.wisc.edu/rsfc/fightsongsII.txt. It has been copied and pasted in its entirety without alteration. As you will see, "alternative" lyrics to other schools' fight songs are nothing new and are not restricted to Ohio State.

-Sherri Rapp

Monday, August 11, 2014

Julie Essman Stevens

I am a member of a three-generation OSUMB family. This band has shaped my entire life and now I tell you our story.
My father, Jim Essman, was in band in the unexpanded, unisex era, serving as a squad leader in the baritone section. He was also a member of the trumpet section, I believe, when he first made the band. He loved that group, and has continued friends with many he met then. He is a past president of the board of governors and has marched almost all if not every reunion. He made the band on grit, talent and determination though he will tell you he had very little actual playing ability. That is nonsense, and I grew up listening to him practice – wanting to be just like that. When he returned from service in Vietnam the first thing he did was play Christmas music. The second was to play all his OSUMB recordings. I am told I marched around the living room to Le Reg, but what child can resist? He was very involved in the active band throughout my childhood, and we kids went to all his performances – Park of Roses, Upper Arlington 4th of July Parade, reunion rehearsals. My mom made lifelong friends among the other wives and we all made friends with the other children. My dad was rejuvenated by alumni active band practice, and sometimes I’d take the COTA bus in to Columbus from Pickaway County to go to rehearsal with him. The other members always made me welcome.
I was not expected to make the band. That is a pure truth. My band director, Mark Hosler, had been Most Inspirational in his day and knew what it took. I don’t think he ever really believed I had that, and my family was dreading what would happen when I was cut. Summer sessions are student run and the best way to learn the skills and build endurance. I had never known my shins could sweat – I was a hard working person whose parents expected a lot, but I had never in my life exerted myself like that. My best friend fell to the music audition and we both cried. I was named M-14 – the last name called, and I was delirious! I must have made that band on my own grit and determination, with the dedicated help of Mike Coggins, Jerry Canterberry, and Al Notestine and Lisa Cozad Galvin(though he and she had graduated and were just back to motivate candidates). My squad leaders, Tom Hartman and Greg Schilling, did their best with me and I actually got to march the Patriotic Show three times. The deeply shy and introverted child that made the band was nicknamed “Cindy Brady” and managed to overcome terror and tell a joke to a busload of people who heckled me through it, patted me on the head as I went to sit down, and in general cheerled me into greater confidence. Some of my favorite people were in band with me, and you all know who you are. I was so proud to be part of this greater family, to have done something so closely tied to my dad. Every year I was terrified of being cut and ran miles and miles to prepare. I had my own 5 yard by 5 yard grid laid out on the patio (I know lots of us did that) and practiced 270 spin turns and horn flashes till I was no longer dizzy. The expectations are identical for every candidate – there are no female or male requirements. I can’t emphasize that enough. Why are there fewer women then men in the OSUMB? Because it is hard to make, because everyone completes the same drills and skills and puts in the same time. I play baritone. That bad boy weighs 8 pounds, and we were required to hold it at arm’s length during a horns up drill. Not to abuse us, but to build the strength necessary to complete a flawless halftime show. EVERYONE did this. I used full gallon jugs of milk to build up to holding that horn. Colleen Nutter Kent was my ideal, so musically talented, strong and a wonderful leader. She was one of my squad leaders also and the first female Most Inspirational Bandsman. By my last year I was so much better, so much more confident – I could march an entire tryout drill or series of ramps without missing a note, could march down the field with no horn movement, could march Sloopy with no drifting, could fall out and instruct a candidate whenever asked. As M-7, my dad and I were at one time the only two family members to have marched the same spot. That may be different now, but still fabulous to us!
I met the love of my life in band, Brian Stevens, who has gone on to become one of the best high school band directors in the state in my humble opinion. His cousin had been in the band, so Brian knew he wanted to try out for himself. Although he was cut the first time, he did not let that stop him as he had his own store of determination. When he made the band on his second try, his parents were so incredibly proud of him. That learning experience has allowed him to reach out to students who may experience failure and encourage them to persevere, then succeed with the victory all the sweeter. A member of Trumpet Cheers, he also became a squad leader his last year. We continued attending the TBDBITL alumni reunion together when his fall schedule allowed, and we do so to this day. Also the director of the Brass Band of Columbus, he has many former OSUMB, now TBDBITL alumni members in his band. We share an heritage of pride and excellence. Brian’s high school bands have long marched in the Buckeye Invitational, and he and Jon worked together often to hone and enhance the role the Ohio Music Educator’s Association plays in high school music programs. You have never seen anything more lovely than the look on a student’s face when they come off Ohio Field having marched their competition or exhibition show. A dream come true for many, and a powerful recruitment tool for Ohio State.
My brother, Steve Essman, also made the band. He played sousaphone, has emotional and deeply felt memories of dotting the “i” and was in K-L Row with Jon. He told me at the time what a wonderful person Jon was, and was so incredibly thrilled for him last year when named the head director, at long last. Steve’s five years in band shaped him, also allowing him the chance to grow into the strong, wonderful person he is today. Steve also comes back for reunion every chance he gets.
Three years ago, our son, Dan Stevens, auditioned for the first time, on trombone. There is nothing harder than knowing exactly what your child is facing and having no power to influence the outcome. He wore the same grid into the yard, ran miles and miles, and went to every summer session. Like my dad had done, I asked him what he would do if he were cut. Try again next year, like dad did, he said. Dan is such a bold soul, with a big heart and incredible talent, and I was so scared. He made the band as an alternate, one of only five freshmen to be selected that year. He has done very well and this year is assistant squad leader In Q-Row to his best friend. He plays in Trombone Cheers and has been known to serenade our pastor, my mother, various friends and family if he knows where they are seated in the stadium. Another best friend from high school is also in Q-Row and Dan has never been happier. Brian and I are so proud of him. He was interviewed last year by Channel 6 at the height of the positive hoopla, and again a week ago at the depths of despair, and acquitted himself well. His sister has the talent and strength to make the band, but would choose to be the band PT, providing her insight and wisdom in other ways. His younger brother has expressed a wish to try out when his time comes, as well, so the tradition continues.
I submit this family history to make a point. This is not an institution based on degradation, humiliation and negative practices, nor could it do so and persist for generations. I carry that family connection with me wherever I go, continually meeting people who also have a deep pride in our history. I stand with my band family and the current OSUMB.
I stand with Jon Waters.
Respectfully yours,
Julie Essman Stevens, M-Row 1985-1988

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Karen Crockett

President Drake and OSU Board of Trustees,

As someone who has worked with The Ohio State University Marching Band (OSUMB) for over forty years, I have an important perspective relevant to understanding the work of Jonathan Waters and the culture of our Marching Band family.
In past decades, long before Jon Waters held any position of leadership in the band, student behavior did include examples of sophomoric, inappropriate “humor”-based behavior. These trends were not specific to the marching band, but rather exemplify the broader culture present among college student populations in general, and within the broader society. Some of the specific behaviors that found their way into our marching band culture were a by-product of our military beginnings as an organization. Even those deeply rooted “traditions” were already in the process of being successfully eliminated through the initiative, high moral values, and tenacious efforts that Jonathan Waters independently brought to his role as Director. His work was moving us all toward more currently acceptable expectations.
Jonathan Waters is deeply committed to students, focusing on the quality of not only their education but to also to their college experience in a wholesome and safe environment. As the Director, Jon has worked diligently and tirelessly to improve the culture of the band. In less than two years, he has done more to improve the culture and student behavior than anyone in the band’s rich history. Some of the many improvements already accomplished include:
• Elimination of inappropriate nicknames
• Elimination of poor behavior on busses
• Elimination of “midnight ramp” 
• Forbidding excessive alcohol consumption before/during the annual Band Dance
• Implementing trainings for staff and student leadership 
• And most importantly, fostering a focus on respect for self and others.
These changes, in order to be effective and long-lasting, were being accomplished in a holistic way, by including the participation of our well-defined student leadership and were implemented with full collaboration between all staff members. An organization of this size cannot be reformed without including the layers of influence coming from all levels. Through this comprehensive approach, Jon Waters has made great strides in improving the band’s culture, thereby protecting students from inappropriate behavior including outdated “traditions”. But even he cannot and should not be held responsible for behavior off-campus, during non-band hours, and not connected to band events.
A more thorough and accurate investigation would have also clearly revealed the band’s positive cultural components focused on service, patriotism, and on citizenship. Under Jonathan Water’s leadership, the band has significantly increased service projects, charitable efforts and fundraising for the OSU community, as well as for entities reaching far beyond the University.
The students in OSU’s Marching Band are intelligent, hard-working, respectful, dedicated people who move on to impressive life accomplishments as professionals and community leaders. We should take pride in their accomplishments as doctors, teachers, clergy, artists, soldiers, engineers, attorneys, social workers, … the list goes on and on. Instead the dismissal of Jon Waters, based on a narrow and erroneous “report” has tarnished all of us, including the thousands of former members whose lives were forever enriched by their membership in our band.
What sad, embarrassing irony that our organization, OSUMB, steeped in excellence and respect, has been so wrongly characterized by a “report” that was poorly conducted, one-sided and misguided.

Our honor defend…

Karen Crockett
1302 Peppercorn Drive
Galloway, OH 43119

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Chris Haller

[Editor's Note: I have removed all instances referencing Jonathan Waters as "Dr." as he has not yet achieved that designation.]

Originally found on http://www.thebuckeyebattlecry.com/2014/08/another-tbdbitl-alumnus-speaks/

An open letter, concerning the Ohio State Marching Band and Jonathan Waters:

In an age where an ever critical eye has encouraged us to find and exploit even the smallest of faults in each other, long standing institutions are crumbling under shockwaves of judgment. As we strive to uncover weaknesses and errors in each other, our hypersensitivity has made us all but incapable of forgiveness and acceptance while camouflaging the truly unacceptable. We have nurtured such a paranoia of potentially offending someone that we ignore the individuals we supposedly seek to protect, placing our opinions before theirs in a fit of pure ego. Too often is the right to speak freely misperceived as a right to not be offended.

This is the case of the Ohio State University’s gross mishandling of Mr. Jon Waters and the Ohio State University Marching Band. A prime news story in Ohio for the last week, the university’s publishing of a 23 page admonishment of the band’s conduct led to the firing of the most forward-thinking director in the band’s 140 year history.

First, it should be made absolutely clear that sexual harassment and hazing are categorically unacceptable in any organization. This type of reprehensible behavior physically and psychologically damages individuals and should be treated with the utmost contempt. There is, however, a clear difference between the intentional harms suffered by sexual harassment and hazing, and pure-intentioned ribbing, devoid of malice. Our willingness to believe the worst in each other has rendered us incapable of understanding this difference.

As a five year member of the active band family at Ohio State and a ten year alumnus of the OSUMB, I observed the evolution of the band culture and the budding career of Mr. Waters, first hand. In the past week, numerous personal accounts have surfaced, disproving the university’s 23 page indictment of the band, its directors, and its alumni. Character witnesses have voluntarily come out of the woodwork to praise Mr. Waters and his accomplishments with the band. I wholeheartedly echo their praise of Mr. Waters and equally support their acknowledgements that occasional misconduct occurred as it would in any other organization comprised of young people experiencing their first freedoms and beginning to learn the skill of adulthood.

So eager have we become to expose fault that we disassociate ourselves with those under scrutiny. An organization of people marching, scantily clad, through a stadium somehow seems more depraved than group of college kids running around a pool in bathing suits or, heaven forbid, skinny dipping. We overlook the fact that multiple institutions share and promote a similar tradition, be it a naked mile or an underwear run. When members of an organization consume alcohol to excess in the privacy of their own homes and completely of their own accord, it reflects poorly on the organization while tailgates, block parties, and sporting events are not only sponsored by beer companies on university grounds but are considered the norm.

That an individual voluntarily participating in a group, without being singled out and without being stereotyped, may take offense from a conversation is a vile enough threat that it should shake an organization to its core. Surely sticks and stones now cause less hurt than words, and suffering mild, unintended offense is an injury so egregious as to merit taking a man’s job. This is as clear an argument as can be found to illustrate the right to not be offended trumping the freedom to speak as one pleases.

How strangely must the lens of time distort our own pasts that we now expect perfection where our mistakes once educated us. Instead of considering ourselves fortunate enough to learn, consequence-free, from our errors, we now cry foul and assume mistakes to mask far darker intentions. A popular phrase among business professionals is assume the worst, hope for the best. Our eagerness to ignore the latter part of this phrase belies our rampant fear that we no longer possess the ability to differentiate between innocence and malice. We so strongly shore up our defenses against fear that we fail to leave room for hope, for forgiveness, for mistakes.

In the race to defend against this fear of depravity among our college students, simple truths have been cast aside. Testimonial after testimonial after testimonial that the OSUMB fosters relationships so close as to be called family have been ignored. The voice of a “victim” identified in the 23 page report has fallen on deaf ears as she refuted the claim that her time in the OSUMB was offensive, depraved, harassment because, surely we, the greater populace, know more of how she felt than she did. So easy has it been to write off Mr. Waters for perceived cultural issues that no one has registered the fact that, since his days as a student, Jon has relentlessly worked to negate objectionable behavior while simultaneously raising the group to new heights and national prominence.

Every group has its outliers and rule breakers. The OSUMB has not been immune to this. I have both born witness to and experienced firsthand, the processes in place to correct any infractions to the strict set of band rules. I am thankful to Mr. Waters for the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and I know that my character has been strengthened by those opportunities. My fellow students at the time were not so privileged and made far greater mistakes in order to learn the lessons the OSUMB afforded me. Despite their transgressions and despite a national spotlight on these transgressions, not a person identified the Ohio State University as a home of depravity. Many of these peers were allowed to learn from their mistakes without greater consequences and considered simply to have made the errors of youth.

Once, we were capable of differentiating between youthful transgressions, innocently made and learned from, and malicious actions, intentionally inflicting physical and psychological harm. Our fear has blurred this line so much so that all but perfection is considered a threat. An extreme minority of misbehavior is being allowed to taint the overwhelming positivity of an organization that has produced a well-rounded family of upstanding citizens and world contributors. For a university that claims the world to be a lesser place “but for Ohio State,” let us see the OSUMB as an organization making incredible headway in both pioneering performances and in upgrading its own culture under Mr. Waters “but for Ohio State.”

The Ohio State University Marching band no more engenders a culture of depravity than does the university of which it is an extension. To learn is to make mistakes and the trespasses of the OSUMB as an organization should be seen in the context of a global university system comprised of young individuals learning adulthood by making, and learning from, mistakes. The more we continue to punish the mistakes of learning, the further we remove ourselves from each other and from the human experience.

Mr. Waters has moved mountains with the OSUMB. Allow him the privilege we have all benefitted from, the chance to learn, and afford him the opportunity to return an exceptional organization to its once sterling status.

I Stand with Jon.

Go Bucks.

Chris Haller
E Row (2003-2004)
Athletic Band (2000-2004)
Ohio State Alumnus (Life)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Letter from the TBDBITL Alumni Club to OSU President Michael Drake

Jonathan Waters has served with distinction, honor and exceptional commitment as Director of The Ohio State University Marching Band.
Without question we believe that service should continue. The Board of Governors of the TBDBITL Alumni Club, Inc., the alumni organization representing decades of Band alumni,unequivocally and without reservation calls for the immediate reinstatement of Jonathan Waters as Director of the Marching and Athletic Bands at Ohio State.

Notwithstanding the apparent longstanding concerns revealed anecdotally in the unilateral Investigation Report now released by the University, we believe that only Mr. Waters can unite the current band members, the alumni, and the University community in addressing those issues.  No one is legitimately served by his removal.

Our own investigation over the last few days, since the wrongful termination of Mr. Waters, reveals the following:

1. The allegations contained in the University’s Investigation Report were not presented in writing to Mr. Waters until after he was given the choice to resign or be terminated, when he was handed the Investigation Report. He was not afforded due process and his attorneys were given no opportunity to make any sort of presentation in his defense.

2. The original complaint purportedly leading to the investigation involved a claim related to a reported alleged sexual assault off campus involving a student alleging misconduct by another student. Mr. Waters duly reported the sexual assault in accordance with University procedures.

3. The witnesses interviewed and quoted in the Investigation Report were recommended for the interviews solely by the Complainant. The investigators did not reach out beyond those designated witnesses. Only 4 of 225 current members of the Band were interviewed.

4. University Provost Joseph Steinmetz discussed continuation of Mr. Waters in his current position coupled with inclusion of an outside consultant to address “band culture” but unilaterally withdrew the option, terminating Mr. Waters instead. When Mr. Waters left his prior meeting with the Provost he believed he was keeping his job, only to be told a few days later that he must resign or be fired.

5. As OSUMB director for less than two years Mr. Waters had already instituted several unprecedented formal and informal means to address relationships, interaction, issue sensitivity and leadership within the Ohio State University Marching Band, which were the subject of praise within the University community, but not recited in the Investigation Report.

6. At no time prior to or after his termination has University President Drake met Jon Waters, let alone discussed the allegations in the Investigation Report with him.

The honor and traditions of generations of members and staff of the Ohio State University Marching Band have been misrepresented, insulted and dishonored by the release of the unbalanced Investigation Report, together with attachments long predating the term of Mr. Waters as the director. Specific anecdotes contained in the Investigation Report have been disavowed and repudiated by alleged victims in the few days since its release. We are shocked and disappointed that the University would prepare and release such a report.

The Board of Governors of the TBDBITL Alumni Club, Inc. will continue its own investigation of these matters involving the campaign against the OSUMB and its director Jonathan Waters, spearheaded by a special committee consisting of Alumni Drum Major Shelley Graf, TBDBITL president Brian J. Golden, TBDBITL legal chair Gary J. Leppla, and OSUMB Director Emeritus Dr. Paul Droste.  Additional recommendations for Board of Governors action will be offered by the special committee.

The leadership of the TBDBITL Alumni Club is following a plan and a process that is deliberate, actionable, and appropriate.  As we work through this difficult matter, we encourage you to continue your support of the OSUMB and Jonathan Waters. The Board of Governors will continue to work to review all information.

Board of Governors
TBDBITL Alumni Club, Inc.
The Ohio State University Marching Band Alumni