The Ohio State University Marching Band is one of the few all-brass and percussion bands in the country, perhaps the largest of its type in the world. However, Ohio State’s band had humble beginnings. The first instrumental musical organization on campus was a 12-piece fife and drum corps organized in 1878. A 16-piece band performed for the commencement of 1879.
In 1896 Gustav Bruder, a professional musician with military band experience, was hired to lead the band. Under Bruder, the band grew in size and began playing and marching for all military and athletic events. In 1920, by combining the Marching Band with the Varsity Band, a 100-piece band marched under the leadership of Edwin “Tubby” Essington, the first strutting drum major.
Many marching band innovations were first tried and developed at Ohio State. Among them are: floating and animated formations, measured step marching, script writing, and the fast cadence with a high knee lift. Brass instruments especially designed for marching bands were also first used at Ohio State.
The school fight songs – “Buckeye Battle Cry” and “Across The Field” – were first performed in the early 1900s. Others such as “Hang On Sloopy” have become modern traditions. “Script Ohio,” the “Trademark of The Ohio State University Marching Band,” is considered by many to be the most memorable tradition in college band history.
The Ohio State University Marching Band has gained, and continues to enjoy, national and international acclaim, having been honored with the Sudler Trophy as the outstanding college band in the country. In the fall of 1988, USA Today saluted the band with a feature multi-page article highlighting the band’s many fine traditions and continued innovation. It is this rich tradition upon which the band has established what many experts agree is its trend-setting foothold in the modern marching band arena.
“The Tradition of Excellence” extends to another integral ensemble known as The Ohio State Athletic Band. The Athletic Bands are non-auditioned groups and open to any student at OSU with prior high school (or equivalent) instrumental experience. They are completely separate ensembles from the OSU Marching Band, though some students play in both. Each Athletic Band features full contemporary concert band instrumentation, including woodwinds. The course number for Athletic Band is Music 205.02.
The Athletic Band has been performing since the early days of the Ohio State Men’s Basketball program. See the University Registrar website for course information