Once a person has earned a position in the marching band they forever become part of the OSU ‘band family’. No matter where they go or what they do; they will always be a part of the great history and traditions unique to the OSUMB. For Dale Wagner, Drum Major in 1989, one could say he was born and raised into the ‘band family’. This is because the OSU Marching Band is a part of his own family history. Wagner’s father, Tom Wagner, played trumpet in the OSU Marching Band from 1947-50, and is still active today with the Alumni Band. Two of Wagner’s older sisters Marion and Carol marched in the band during the late 70’s and early 80’s. In addition, Wagner’s brother-in-law, sister-in-law and wife were also marching band members.
When Wagner was young, his sisters invited their friend Oliver McGee - who was Drum Major at the time - to the Wagner family farm. Young Wagner asked McGee about drum majoring. In response, McGee picked up a tree branch and showed Wagner how to twirl for the first time. After this first lesson Wagner and McGee became good friends and a passion to become drum major began to form inside Wagner. “After I met Oliver, I took my first ‘official’ lesson late in my sophomore year in high school. And he was a major influence on me. He was the one that gave me a push towards going for the position.” Wagner said.
After graduating from River Valley High School in Marion Ohio, with two years as a high school Drum Major under his belt, Wagner knew he was going to Ohio State for school.
“ In the fall of 1986 when I got to OSU, I worked with Bruce Hart and got back to working with Oliver some more. As a freshman at OSU I had only been twirling for two years but I thought I was a little better than I actually was.” said Wagner.
“ For me those first two years on D-row were a real blessing. I could mature and develop my twirling. When I was Assistant Drum Major to Rich Parks, Rich did a lot for me. He helped me develop and learn everything I needed to become Head Drum Major.”
One of Wagner’s greatest memories happened between his last year as Assistant Drum Major and first year as Drum Major. The OSU Marching Band was invited to march in the Inaugural Parade for President George H. Bush.
“ We didn’t have any great bowl games – we stayed home for two years - so to experience and visit Washington, D.C. was a big highlight for me.”
Having been known as a shy personality, being Drum Major changed Wagner in many ways, which developed his outward confidence. “It was a position that taught me how to work for obtaining goals. My first ramp entrance and running out in the stadium almost scarred me so much I never wanted to do it again. My first game had a lot of drops. But I went out and did it again and each performance I decreased my drops and got better. I always had something I improved upon. I remember Oliver telling me at my last game as Drum Major to go out and do everything I ever wanted to do- because after that it would be all over. And I did that; I did everything I wanted to do. When it was over, I was ready for it to be over, and I had had my time and I was ready for it to be someone else’s.”
“ The biggest thing that being Drum Major taught me was that the biggest things you do in your life won’t last forever. For two years it was great, after it was over and after I graduated I realized there were other things besides being a Drum Major out there. It helped me go out in the real world.” said Wagner.
For Wagner being Drum Major was a great opportunity to be part of a history and also be a part of a group of only around 50 individuals that have had the same position. “It’s not quite like being the President of the United States, but it’s a unique thing to be a part of. There are a lot of people that have had tried and haven’t had the position.”
“ For me, going through what it took to be Drum Major was a family thing. I had a tremendous amount of support from my family. To be able to see my dad and everyone in the family relive the marching band experience again through me was probably one of the neatest things. Also, without the band I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet my wife, Kelly.”