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Ohio State Band Marches On After Director’s Firing

Ohio State Marching Band and Alumni Marching Band Members perform Script Ohio at an Ohio State football game.
Thomas Bradley
The OSUMB is scheduled to play this weekend at Picnic with the Pops.

One day after its director was fired, Ohio State’s marching band is scheduled to perform with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra in what’s often considered the band’s unofficial season kickoff.

CSO spokeswoman Rolanda Copley says the picnic with the pops shows tonight and saturday will go on as scheduled.

On Thursday, OSU president Michael Drake fired band Director Jonathan Waters for ‘failing to eliminate’ sexual harassment among band members and preventing its recurrence.


The University said it had a “duty to act” following what it called ‘acts of sexual harassment’ and creation of a ‘hostile environment’ for band students. Band Director Jonathan Waters was fired, in part,for creating a hostile environment. In one piece of audio supplied to OSU investigators, Director Waters upbraids a band member.

The university has called in an outside investigator after it found students were pressured to march in their underwear, sing lewd songs and perform sexually themed stunts to earn often explicit nicknames.

Waters’ attorney David Axelrod called his client’s dismissal “inappropriate” and “unfair” and vowed to clear Waters’ name. He says much of the behavior cited in the University’s investigative report occurred prior to his appointment as Director in 2012.

University president Michael Drake ordered a review of all marching band policies to insure compliance with federal civil rights mandates from the Department of Education. The federal agency Friday declined an interview request from WOSU.

Revelations of a sexualized culture within the university marching band brought quick reaction on campus. Student Corey Kemp and visiting Chinese scholar Houng Guer both say they were surprised the university took such quick action. Houng Guer says Waters firing sends a strong positive message.

“I think it’s very perfect. I like that, you know. I just come from China and I’ve been here only four months and I feel that kind of thing gets me excited, you know.” Guer said.

Corey Kemp says he was shocked by the quickness of the university’s action.

“Honestly, me personally I was shocked at the whole thing. Just having a high position like that, the band director, he got fired over something like that. It was crazy to me personally when I heard it,” Kemp said.

Other students expressed a mix of reactions. Student Justin Chumita is a football season ticket who says he never misses a halftime show by the band.

“I’m definitely saddened and hopeful that the band still puts on a show the way they did the last couple of years,” says Chumita.

Junior Kendra Kinnear anticipates more negative reaction.

“It stinks because we are the best band in the land. So to hear something like that I mean, I know we are going to get trashed for that this upcoming year by other bands,” Kinnear said.

Ohio State says it will now search for a new band director.

Content from the Associated Press was used in this story.