Former Ohio State Marching Band director Jonathan Waters returned to Ohio Stadium for the first time for alumni weekend Saturday.
“To see all those people that I love, the students, the alums, and buckeye nation. It is going to be a terribly emotional day for me,” Waters said.
Tears streamed down Waters’ cheeks as he played Carmen Ohio during the pregame festivities inside Ohio Stadium. He later conducted the alumni marching band during the first half.
Waters explained, “Today is our day to show the true culture of the band.”
Waters was fired on July 23 after a two-month investigation by the university.
The Ohio State investigation allegedly revealed cultural issues that Waters was allegedly aware of or should have been aware of. It was further alleged that Waters failed to eliminate the “sexualized culture” and prevent it from reoccurring.
More than 700 marching band alumni joined Waters marching onto the field. He was met with many hugs as he exited the field following the pregame performance.
Scott Sears played four years with Waters from 1996-2000, and was one of the hundreds of marching band alumni who showed their support for Waters this weekend.
“There’s a lot more emotion, I think, this year and rightfully so. We’ve had something happen to one of our family members and we’re just trying to pull together,” Sears said.
Alumni members wore scarlet shirts with black buttons featuring the initials JW in support of Jonathan Waters.
Band Alumni Sandy Davis-Quarles said she was participating, “because we are a family and a family sticks together.”
Waters did not join the marching band alumni during skull session, saying he did not want to be a distraction from the pregame tradition. But, there were plenty of signs of support. Posters proclaimed “We Stand With Jon” and shirts did, too. The alumni marching band even played “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” to salute the marching band’s former leader.
Waters added, “[This weekend is] a family reunion. It really is. And we share the DNA of the buckeye nation, we share the DNA of music.”
And, this family continues to play through adversity one note at a time.
“We are going to honor the current band, we are going to honor the people who came before us and we just really want to put on a good show for the crowd,” Davis-Quarles said.
Former and current band members have spoken out in favor of Waters, saying that the university overreacted to the concerns of a few, and that Waters was working to correct some of the questionable, decades-old traditions.
The investigation report released by the university outlined numerous activities that related to the band’s culture, including Midnight Ramp, nicknames, Rookie Introductions, Rookie Midterms and Physical Challenges, Trip Tic, Songbook, and other misconduct and conditions on buses.
Current and former band members have said the report is an exaggeration, and more than 13,400 supporters have signed an online petition to have Waters reinstated.
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