Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Time and Change

This year, a 38-year-old chapter in the history of the Ohio State University Marching Band is ending: Dr. Jon Woods is retiring after 28 years as its director. (Plus 10 years as assistant director before that!)  Most current and former band members, myself included, literally cannot imagine the band without Dr. Woods.  (He became director the year I was born!)  What will it be like to not have his grandfatherly, good-natured yet demanding presence around?  What would gameday morning be like without seeing him goad you into stretching exercises on the field at 6:30am by yelling "ENTHUSIASM!!!" and bursting into jumping jacks and push-ups himself?  (Now as you're picturing that, remember he's a gray-haired 70-something who usually walks with a shuffle!)  Countless college and high school marching bands have been influenced by his innovations, and he has certainly played a huge part in contributing to TBDBITL's tradition of excellence.

While he will continue teaching in the School of Music through June, marching band season is basically over after the bowl game and he has already directed his final home game.  At that game, he received the biggest honor the band can give someone: dotting the "i" in Script Ohio.  (At the beginning of the video, you can see him talking with OSU President Gordon Gee, and then you can see the i-dot from field view.  He is lead out by the drum major and the senior sousaphone player who gave up the spot.)  I was able to be at the game and his i-dot brought tears to my eyes.

Tonight, we (current band members + alumni) are going to Dr. Woods' house to surprise him with a serenade in honor of the end of his final marching band season.  This is something the band traditionally does to honor important people who are leaving the university: coaches, presidents, athletic directors, etc.  We surprise the person by showing up at their house and putting on a little private concert for them of all our traditional school songs.  When I was in band, we played at Athletic Director Andy Geiger's house when he retired.  The most famous instance of a serenade was in 1987 when the band played for Earle Bruce the night that he got fired on M*ch*g*n week.  Rachel Maddow actually talked about this moment in her show on MSNBC earlier this year:

Hopefully that gives you an idea of what it's all about!  It's a surprise to Dr. Woods and I'm not sure how he'll react but I'm sure he will be happy and honored.  We are so excited to be a part of this traditional "thank-you" to him.   It's one of those wonderful moments where I can feel all the honor and tradition of the band's history flowing through me, reminding that it's so much bigger than my own experience.  In the words of our Alma Mater: "Time and change will surely show / how firm thy friendship, O-HI-O."


  1. What a wonderful tribute to a special educator in your life. This will be a special memory for everyone involved. Your excitement shines through your words. Enjoy your evening!

  2. It's quite a lovely tribute to your director, and the fact that so many of you continue to be involved is also the tribute to what he is. My brother has long been involved at the Univ. of MO band program in Columbia, & their long time music person just retired this year too. These teachers influenced so many as your words show. I love the idea of your serenading too. He will love it!
    As far as the cafe I wrote about, they've been on national tv several times plus NPR, and so on. I imagine you've read or heard about them that way. Thanks for the comment Jennifer! Happy last weeks of school!

  3. Wow, watching him led out onto the field choked me up too. So much tradition and pride. Loved hearing the crowd cheering also. Great moment indeed! :)


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