BWW Exclusive: OSU Music Alums, Teachers, Parents Sound Off on Marching Band Sex Scandal - Is Jon Waters a Scapegoat?
As BWW reported yesterday, The Ohio State University has fired Band Director Jon Waters citing "serious cultural issues and an environment conducive to sexual harassment within the Marching Band." The two month investigation and findings showed that conduct of the band and staff "is inconsistent with the University's values and Title IX requirements."
Read the full investigation report here.
Fresh off an incredible year for the OSU Marching Band which catapulted them to national success, Jon Waters is now forced to hand over his baton because of years of a "sexualized culture" for which he did nothing to stop.
Several current students and past alum are rallying together in support of Waters and The Best Damn Band In The Land. Should one man burden generations of an entire "sexualized culture"? Is Waters a scapegoat for other band directors across the country who have the same internal issues? Some, however, take the stance that Waters should serve as a lesson to other university bands across the country to stop this sexualized behavior. What is your point of view?
Although current band members have chosen not to speak out at this time, below are various former musicians who are sounding off on the scandal.
Former OSU Marching Band Musician, Drew Thompson (2010 Graduate):
Honestly - I'm shocked..it's gone on for so long and it's a part of life in every university organization that functions at that high of a level. It never boardered sexual harassment...it was all in good clean fun. Jon is a good man and has worked diligently to take that band to new heights...He has placed OSUMB in a spot to drive some serious revenue for the university - and he has created some phenomenal works on art on the field. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family right now.
Former OSU Classmate, Melanie Richards:
I have known Jon since we met in 1998 taking a music ed class at Ohio State. It has been a true joy to watch him rise through the OSUMB ranks to the position of head director. He has worked so hard for so long to get where he was. It saddens me that our new president, Michael Drake, is choosing this action of firing Jon as his defining moment thus far in his 3 week tenure.
Having had close friends that were in the MB in the 80's, I was fully aware of the "culture" to which they refer in the report. It went on during the tenure of Paul Droste and Jon Woods. Why does anyone think that Jon Waters could change it in 2 short years? Why now? Only because someone's mom complained. I told my son today that he had better never call me from college and tell me he wants me to complain on his behalf. Ridiculous!
I am saddened and disgusted by the actions of my beloved alma mater today. There were so many other options that could have been taken before firing Waters.
Former OSU Marching Band Musician and Retired Band Director, Dale Nawrocki (1982 Grad):
I think Waters is taking the fall for things that have been going on in colleges around the country for decades. Doesn't make it right. Doesn't mean more shouldn't have been done. But, to go to the nuclear option......... I disagree. Vehemently. I was a part of this. As a freshman and sophomore. I heard, sang, laughed.......... not proud, just being honest. These things went on long before I got there ('78). Never saw any of the things typed up (guess we were a little smarter in that way). There are hundreds of us.......maybe thousands. WE ARE ALL GUILTY! Those that participated, those that didn't speak up, those that kept it quiet. Top to bottom. My apologies to Jon and the current staff. We did this. And, it is entirely feasible that "we" did this all over the country. Blame the 60's revolution or whatever you want to, but it happened. I just don't think the nuclear option should have been initiated. "New kid on the block" tactics are Little League. This is something many of us bear responsibility for, yet one or two will bear the brunt of the responsibility, quite possibly for hundreds of schools around the country. I stand with Jon Waters. Not perfect. But, not deserving of this, either. I am sorry, Jon. God Bless.
Former OSU Graduate, Amy Spires-Rucker (1985 Piano Performance and Music Education Double Major):
I really do not appreciate the handling of this situation. Waters was already making changes. Why not, as the president, help him by giving him clear options for making the changes systematically within the band? Why has he sullied the reputation of OSU and the band by making such a knee-jerk move? The president has been there 3 weeks. And this is how he starts his term. What about all the hazing in other campus groups? What about other colleges? All kinds of traditions exist- whether they are appropriate or not. The firing of Jon Waters was the wrong course of action. What did they teach the current students about correcting mistakes, or changing a culture? Nothing. How does the firing of someone who took the band to even greater heights teach the students anything?
Former 1996 OSU Music Ed Grad, Parent and Current Music Educator (Anonymous):
As an OSU grad (MA MusEd '96) and present OSU parent, I'm appalled at what was clearly started so very long ago and what has perpetuated until now. "Tradition" is important to organizations like any large marching band, but quality leadership knows when to draw the line and teach the students the difference between tradition and reprehensible behavior. I feel for Jon and his family, and yes, this should have been addressed years ago, probably when he was a student. However, as the college-level educator charged with the safety and security of other people's children, his perspective should have been more professional than it was (as evidenced in the report, printed via the Columbus Dispatch). OSU has some hard choices to make about the rest of their band staff, and the degree to which the incredibly supportive alumni should be involved in the future. Good luck from this alum!
Former OSU Classmate, Christina (Perez) Halley:
I have been involved in music and theatre for 30 of my 35 years and if there is one thing I know, it's that people in the arts are weird. It's a good weird. A great weird, really, but sometimes, often times, it is not understood by non-artsy people. We are crazy people! We talk about things that most would consider a major "over-share." We are closer than average, non-artsy friends. There is just something different about us, the artists.
Non-artists appreciate the arts. They see the arts as refined. Cultured. Dignified. The arts are things you go see because you are well-rounded. But you don't really understand the artist.
Now turn to the events of the day. The curtain has been pulled back and the non-artsy world is getting an in-depth view of the backstage and they are judging what they see. Not only are they judging it, but they want someone to pay for the horror, the abuse, and the downfall of humanity taking place behind the curtain. Enter Jonathan Waters.
I met Jon as a freshman at Ohio State in the School of Music. Jon is a class act. While the rest of us weird artists were being immature, he was walking to his next class, focused on his goal: to become the director of the OSUMB. He worked his tail off. He practiced like crazy, studied like crazy, and even took some criticism for being more like a teacher than a student.
In the meantime, and this is in the 1990's, all of the stuff you have read about was going on. The midnight ramp, the nicknames, the tests, etc.. We don't mean any disrespect, we know it isn't appropriate, but it isn't meant for anyone but us. It's our inside joke.
Turn the pages a few years and we graduate. I go off to teach music in the inner city, and Jon stays at OSU, continuing to follow his dream. All of us who know him knew he belonged there. He worked SO hard and was the perfect talent for the job, so when Woods retired and Jon got the job, those of us who went to school with him were thrilled for him! It was his dream come true, and he earned it.
Then he goes on to turn what we already believed was TBDBITL, into the best damn band in the world. His work becomes a story on national and cable news and a part of commercials for the technology he employs. Jon was revolutionalizing marching band! I could not have been prouder of or happier for him. All the while, and not making national news, he was working behind the scenes to undo decades of this aforementioned weird behavior, because he wasn't dumb. He knew that the politically correct, scrutinizing world we live in would not approve or understand. And we learned today that they don't.
Jon Waters is a scapegoat. He is the man who just picked up and is now holding the baton as decades of so-called "inappropriate sexually-themed behaviors" come into the public's view. He was working to fix the system that has been in place, and instead, is having his name and reputation dragged through the mud. Jon Waters is a classy, dignified, hard-working, talented, and compassionate man. He is not, in any way, responsible for how the band got to where it is culturally. He was trying to change that undignified culture. He wanted to bring the band to a more mature level, ensure members were protected and cared for. Jon wanted it to be the best damn band in the land in every way.
Shame on you, Ohio State. Shame on you for doing this to Jon, to his reputation, and not the people who created the culture for which he is being held responsible. Shame on you for hurting his family, his wife, his kids.
My artsy, undignified, inappropriate friends and I are saddened today. Jonathan Waters is a wonderful man with an incredible work ethic. He deserved to have his dream. He does not deserve this. All who know him, know that.
Jon Waters catapulted The Ohio State Marching Band to national fame when they performed a "Michael Jackson Tribute" during their halftime show in October 2013. Since then, they went on to execute nothing but perfect shows, solidifying their title as "The Best Damn Band In The Land." Below is a recap of their Michael Jackson Tribute show: