MGHS Grad Dots the “I”
By Christopher Williams -
“O-H-I-O, Ohio” is all you can hear as members of The Ohio State University Marching Band prepare for what many have deemed the three most grueling minutes a band member will endure.
As the snare drums start the cadence and the silver sea of brass start marching out of the tunnel arm swings so precise it looks robotic, all you see is more than 102,000 fans cheering on “the best damn band in the land.”
Since 1937 the Ohio State University pre-game show has been the biggest college tradition to date according to www.althonsports.com. Every home game, a senior sousaphone player is honored with the opportunity to dot the “I” in the script Ohio. Many legends have beamed with pride at the top of the “I” such as Jack Nicklaus and John Glenn. Kyle Grossman, a former band president/sousaphone player at Mount Gilead High School and senior at OSU majoring in new media and communications technology, will get his chance to walk in the steps of legends.
In the summer of 2009, more than 50 sousaphone players from various states gathered for auditions with only 28 spots available. After auditions concluded, only nine new members had the privilege of suiting up in the OSUMB outfit.
Kyle made the band his first year auditioning but not as comfortably as he may have liked to. Kyle qualified as an alternate. In order to earn a spot, one must show the directors they can play and march the show better than the current spot holder in a challenge.
“I remember I was extremely nervous listening to Dr. Woods read off the names for the other rows,” Kyle said. “I was originally slotted to audition for k-row. When he didn’t call my name in k-row my nerves were going crazy. When he got to L-13 and called my name I felt so relieved and excited all at the same time.”
Kyle missed earning a spot for the first game of the year but won his challenge to get the chance to march against the University of Southern California Sept. 12, 2009 in front of 106,033 fans. At the time, this match was a record attendance for the Buckeyes.
The OSU versus California game will be the 22nd home game in which Kyle has marched. But this game has a whole new experience that every Ohio State fan wishes they could have. Kyle handpicked this game to go down in history: this moment will be his turn to dot the “I.”
Participating in such a rich tradition has its high moments but hard work is a key for success.
Being in the band adds a lot of hours on top of a normal student’s schedule; 30 hours a week worth of practice. Members of the band practice two hours a day, five days a week. All band members report six hours before every game which can take four hours. Another 10 hours go into personal memorization each week and the horns do not stay so gleaming and shiny on their own.
“The time does not faze us,” Kyle said. “We know we have a reputation and we know what we have to bring to the field every week. If we’re not bringing our ‘A’ game then we will put in longer hours in order to be the best we can be.”
During pre-game, the band first forms a triple Block “O” formation then slowly unwinds crossing between each band member to form the famous letters while playing Robert Planquette’s “Le Régiment de Sambre et Meuse.” The drum major leads the outside “O” into a peel-off movement around the curves of the script, with each musician never slowing down. Slowly the three blocks unfold into a long singular line that loops around, creating the OSUMB’s signature script: O-H-I-O.
During practice held on Sept. 10, Kyle took his place for the first time at the top of the script.
“There were a couple of moments today, like standing at the top of the ‘I’ that it hit me,” Kyle said. “I am not a freshman anymore–this is my time.”
With 16 measures left in the song, the crowd’s cheer grows louder by the second. Two high-fives kick off the famous strut. The drum major stops and points dramatically to the post so many musicians have dreamt of standing at. Kyle grabs the bill of his cap and raises it, showing his face to the whole crowd, and bows deeply to both sides of the stadium.
“I remember looking up at the crowd and my heart just started pounding,” Kyle said. “My legs just started going, my adrenaline was so high I didn’t have to think about it. Right before I bowed to the crowd I took off my hat and just screamed it was an amazing feeling.”
The whole stadium rises to their feet, clapping and cheering so loudly it’s almost deafening to the ears for the one person standing at the top of the “I.” In an instant, the crowd goes silent as a sound from the top of the “I” fills the stadium. Fans and the rest of the band begin to sing the “Buckeye Battle Cry” as Kyle performs the solo he has dreamed of playing in front of more than 100,000 people. Nothing provides chills more than the solo performance of the sousaphone player especially from one who has put so many long hours at perfecting his skills, standing proud at the top of the script.
In the crowd, 11 members of Kyle’s family wear shirts designed by Kyle. Each “I” dotter designs shirts for friends and family to wear during the game and have as a memorabilia of the incredible experience. The shirts display a half-goat half-human person with a sousaphone draped on his shoulder. The representation of the goat person is an inside joke within the walls of Ohio stadium. On the back of the shirts are the two dates Kyle will dot the “I.”
“I am very excited to have my whole family at the game,” Kyle said. “They have always been so supportive of me my whole life. I am just really happy they get to share this moment with me.”
The emotions will never end. The memories made are embedded in thousands of hearts. All the sweat and stressful days it took to get to the top of the script has been worth it. Stories have been made and the experiences gained on Sept. 15, 2012 will be saved in Kyle Grossman and his families hearts forever.
“I can’t believe the reaction from the crowd it was amazing,” Kyle said. “This opportunity was amazing. All the hard work put in and stress that it took to get here was well worth it. I just want to live this experience over and over.”