I am writing to express my disappointment over the dismissal of Jon Waters as Director of the Ohio State University Marching Band and to counter the misinformation and mis-characterizations made by the media.
I was a member of the OSUMB in 1989 and 1992-93. I have read the complete university Report and have seen the attached Exhibits. While I agree that much about the student culture of the marching band needs to be updated, it is important to keep in mind that the traditions and activities mentioned in the report existed long before even I made the band. I personally never felt forced, coerced, or otherwise made to feel uncomfortable in any situation during band activities. I was never forced to strip or change on a band bus. I was never forced to participate in Midnight Ramp – in fact as a rookie I was informed about it ahead of time and had ample opportunity to decide if I wanted to participate or not. I have never heard from any other band member, male or female, that their experience differed markedly from mine in those regards. Furthermore, the songbook (Exhibit B in the Report) has existed for decades as you can see from the credits in the beginning. It started being published when Mr. Waters was still an infant, two directors ago. When I came out as a Lesbian my fellow row members were nothing but supportive. I never felt discriminated against because of the song lyrics, and my row mates and band mates never harassed me in any way as a woman nor as a Lesbian nor made me feel less of a person or that I did not belong in band. I was and still am a sister in this large family. Never did I observe or hear about sexual harassment or sexual assault occurring between band members during my time in band; but I sure knew about it in the general university community.
The “culture of sexualization”, as it has been dubbed, has been long embedded and is not due to the negligence of this one man or one directing staff. Despite its long history in our band, Mr. Waters was attempting to eliminate much of the raunchiness we see reflected in the report. But that cannot be done overnight and it cannot be done in one season. As a former band member himself, Jon Waters is uniquely qualified, more than anyone else, to help bring the OSUMB into a new era. At the very least, he should be granted a public apology, reinstated, and given the support and direction he should have had in the first place to make the changes needed.
Marching band taught me perseverance, time management, respect for different cultures and viewpoints, tolerance for personality differences in order to achieve a common goal, absolute excellence in doing anything, and it taught me to never give up. Ask any one of today's band members what they are learning and you will get a similar answer. The funny nicknames and inappropriate song lyrics will be a smirk and a shared laugh among friends, but the real life lessons will endure.
OSU, B.A. 1994
OSUMB 1989, 1992-93