The Ohio State Marching Band won’t walk down the ramp into Ohio Stadium and perform its famous Script Ohio formation before Saturday’s Ohio State football game. It won’t be on the field to perform a halftime show, and it won’t be in the stands to play Hang On Sloopy before the fourth quarter or Carmen Ohio after the game.
Because the Big Ten made a conference-wide decision not to allow marching bands or cheerleading squads at games this season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Saturday’s season opener at the Shoe will be played without The Best Damn Band in the Land in attendance.
The band is still doing what it can to keep those traditions alive, though, by recording virtual performances of its traditional gameday drills and school songs that will be played at the stadium, on Ohio State’s Scarlet Saturday livestream and on TBDBITL’s website and social media channels.
On Saturday at 11:30 a.m., we'll have you covered from every angle. Our "Hindsight is 2020" show premieres live on YouTube and Facebook just before kickoff. Click the link below to subscribe and catch the show. #GoBuckeyes— The Ohio State University Marching Band (@TBDBITL) October 22, 2020
: https://t.co/Le7tQ93EDa pic.twitter.com/LnT1516G13
Chris Hoch, the director of the Ohio State Marching Band, thought it was important for the band to be able to continue to perform and have a presence at football games even though they won’t be allowed to attend the game physically.
“No matter what happens, no matter what the situation, the Ohio State Marching Band is very much a part of the Ohio State community, and we are here to support our football team and our athletics programs to the very best of our ability,” Hoch told Eleven Warriors. “Regardless of the circumstances, we’re going to continue to fulfill our mission to do that.”
Putting those virtual performances together hasn’t been easy. Because Ohio State has limited the size of in-person classes to 50 people this semester, almost all rehearsals have taken place in small groups rather than with the full band together at once. The band has also had to adjust to several other new protocol due to COVID-19; brass players are wearing specially-made masks that still allow them to play their instruments and have bell covers on their instruments, while drummers are wearing regular masks, and all of their formations are far more spread out than usual.
Our first performance of the year, "Hindsight is 2020," will debut on Saturday morning. Here's a brief clip from the show, which features plenty of Buckeye classics including "Hang on Sloopy." #TogetherAsBuckeyes pic.twitter.com/Pup5JpyxeD— The Ohio State University Marching Band (@TBDBITL) October 20, 2020
As a result, the first virtual halftime show took over a month to put together, whereas the band typically only needs a week or two to put its show drills together. Because of that, there might not be a full virtual halftime show for all four of Ohio State’s home games, but there will be one on Saturday, and the band is planning to put together two more.
Brett Wiemken, a fifth-year sousaphone player who dotted the i in Script Ohio last season, said he hopes the virtual recording will showcase the “adaptability” of the band.
“I think a lot of people associate the marching band solely with just football, and while that’s true, that’s kind of our time to shine between pregame and halftime, we can kind of hold our own, we can do things without the football team, and I hope that they are able to watch these shows and see that our hard work has paid off,” Wiemken said.
Jackson Archer, a fifth-year snare drummer, said the virtual recordings will also allow fans of the band to watch them perform at different camera angles than they would typically see from a recorded performance.
“I think it’ll really actually be an interesting viewpoint for the audience this year, because in a normal year, we have all our performances recorded but it’s usually just from that high-up camera that’s all the way up in C-deck basically,” said Archer, who wore a GoPro camera on his hat during the recording of the first virtual show. “I’m sure that that high-up angle is still going to be a big component of the shows and the videos, but we also have tons of on-field views and different cameras, so you’re gonna get really a lot of up-close shots of what the horns are doing with their instruments and I’m sure some up-close shots of the drummers and things that we do.”
“No matter what happens, no matter what the situation, the Ohio State Marching Band is very much a part of the Ohio State community, and we are here to support our football team and our athletics programs to the very best of our ability.”– Ohio State Marching Band director Chris Hoch
Of course, band members are disappointed they won’t actually get to perform at the game on Saturday – or travel to Oregon and Penn State as they were originally supposed to this fall – but they’re trying not to dwell on it. Hoch said his students have “handled it really, really well,” and seniors like Archer and Wiemken still want to make the most of their final year as band members even if they don’t get to perform at any games this season.
“To me, I have to kind of try to put aside all the things I can think about that I should have been getting to do, and just really focus on spending that time in rehearsals with my friends and enjoying that,” Archer said. “But also, whenever we do a get a rep of things like Script Ohio or when we do our ramp entrance – those are actually a couple hints of what we’re working on for our next video performance – you just have to take every moment and not take any of it for granted, because somebody in my position only has a limited number of times for these things left. So you just try to enjoy every second of it and do it to the best of your ability.”
In addition to the recorded performances, some band members will be going out in small groups on Friday and Saturday to perform at various locations on campus, such as the Oval and outside the dorms that are currently housing students quarantined due to COVID-19, which they hope will bring some game day spirit to the students who also won’t be allowed to attend games this year.
“I think just being able to go around campus and play those school songs and some of the stand cheers and whatever we play, I think just being out there in the environment and doing what we can to hype up Buckeye Nation is rewarding in and of itself,” Archer said.
Through it all, the band is staying ready in hopes that the Big Ten will reconsider its decision between now and the end of the season and that it will be able to return to performing inside the Shoe during football games later this year. While the likelihood of that actually happening is unclear, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said Monday that getting the band back in the stadium would be Ohio State’s first priority if restrictions are loosened by the conference.
Hoch said he has told his students since the start of the summer to “be ready for anything,” and Wiemken said the band will be “ready to go whenever the call is made.”
“I think we’re all on the edge of our seats kind of hoping that something like that happens,” Archer said. “I know I am.”