Drum major tryouts honor Ohio State Marching Band's tradition of excellence

April 17, 2018

Drum major tryouts honor Ohio State Marching Band's tradition of excellence

Drum major John LaVange performs a back bend

Every fall, talented Ohio State students strut, toss and twirl for a chance to be in the Ohio State Marching Band. Among the trumpets, sousaphones and snare drums, a small group of individuals can be found holding no instruments. Instead, they hold a singular silver baton and have their eyes on the ultimate reward.

Those who try out for this group, D-Row, strive to be the drum major for OSUMB one day. After making it through OSUMB tryouts in August, D-Row members spend a mandatory season of training in the band. Following their first season, members have the opportunity to try out for the role of drum major or assistant drum major every spring.

This year, six current and former D-Row members will attempt to prove that they have what it takes to be the 62nd drum major of TBDBITL.

Drum major tryouts consist of multiple components, beginning with an interview with OSUMB staff and drum major alumni to evaluate off-the-field leadership qualities and potential. The performance tryout includes the traditional pregame ramp entrance, which involves the high strut from the north side of the field, the toe touch, salute, backbend and the goal-post toss. 

Candidates also perform an individual twirling routine choreographed to a piece of music performed live by members of the band. Finally, each candidate demonstrates their technique with a series of five high aerial tosses and catches. 

The candidates are judged by a panel consisting of selected OSUMB staff and drum major alumni. The most recent Most Inspirational Bandsperson, the recipient of the band’s top peer-voted award, also sits on the panel.

Fourth-year band member John LaVange served as head drum major for both the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He said that the tryout process is one of the many ways that the OSUMB maintains its tradition of excellence.

“As tradition is one of the cornerstones of the OSUMB, drum major tryouts are no different. I'm fairly sure we've had almost the exact same tryout process for over 40 years,” LaVange, a fourth-year finance major, said. “It's a tried and true method that really showcases the important aspects of the drum major on the field.”

The drum major has been an essential component of The Ohio State University Marching Band since its beginnings as a drum corps in 1878. Prior to 1920, the drum major was a stoic figure whose sole job was to lead the band in marches and drills. However, that all changed when Edwin “Tubby” Essington took the lead. 

Essington served as drum major from 1920 to 1922 and is considered the first drum major of the modern era. He brought a new sense of style and color to the role with his boisterous personality, flashy uniform and enthusiastic march. Essington set a new tone for the position, establishing a new model of showmanship that all drum majors after him would follow.

LaVange said that leading the OSUMB has provided him with friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. From performing in front of 100,000 people to working behind the scenes to train aspiring drum majors, he has enjoyed representing TBDBITL and gets a bit emotional when he thinks about having to pass the baton.

“I couldn't have been more grateful for all of the wonderful experiences the band has provided me,” LaVange said. “While some people may think it's just marching band, I promise it is far, far more than that.”

Drum major tryouts for the 2018 season will take place on Saturday, April 21, at 1 p.m. at the Lincoln Tower Park practice field. The event is open to the public, but seating is limited. Guests are welcome to bring lawn chairs or a blanket. The event will conclude with the announcement of the drum major and the assistant drum major for the 2018 season.


Hannah Smith, fourth-year journalism major