The Ohio State university Marching band is gearing up for its first performance after the firing of director Jon Waters.
The band is scheduled to play with the Columbus Symphony at Picnic with the Pops at Columbus Commons.
Russel Mikkelson, Director of University Bands, will conduct in place of Waters. “I was asked yesterday to conduct, and on behalf of our students, I was happy to jump in and help,” Mikkelson said on Friday. “Our students have come through this remarkably well, they are incredibly resilient, and so committed to this university and this band.”
Mikkelson says it was a “gift” the way band members came together to console each other on Thursday to discuss what had happened. “It was a really terrific thing, and then once we got down to work, it's like it always is. So in that way, the students have been pretty terrific about preparing for this and being focused in our rehearsals.”
Waters was dismissed Thursday after a two-month investigation determined he knew about and failed to stop a "sexualized" culture of rituals.
Investigators found students were pressured to march in their underwear, sing lewd songs and perform sexually themed stunts to earn often-explicit nicknames.
WEB EXTRA: The OSU Band Investigative Report (WARNING: Explicit Content)
Matt Leach - a former band member and friend of Waters - told 10TV that the antics have gone on long before Waters arrived.
Leach says the tradition for the band is to handle things internally.
"It needs to be addressed, in the sense, if someone is offended by something take it to your squad leader and so on. But to go straight to a parent or whoever at the university and they end up firing Jon and causing a great guy to lose his job, his career. He's a great family guy, great teacher, and great motivator. So, it didn't go up the chain of command and that's what the band is all about, the chain of command," said Leach.
Doug Lape is another who is on the march to defend his band and his friend.
“I would absolutely say that Jon Waters is a great man,” says Lape.
Lape and Waters marched in the band together at The Ohio State University in the mid-90s. Lape says even back then, band members were doing the same thing Waters got into trouble for now.
“Some of these things in the report that have come out are not new. These are things that have been going on for years, 40-50 years, way back into the marching band. So this is not something that is new on Jon Waters' watch”
“I think these allegations are completely blown out of proportion, especially when they are pinning it all on him when this stuff has been going on for years.”
Ohio State President Michael Drake says the university values respect and diversity and he was disappointed and shocked by the investigative findings.
Waters led what's known to fans as "The Best Damn Band in the Land" since 2012. His halftime shows were considered revolutionary and draw millions of viewers on YouTube.
Waters' attorney released a statement on Friday that says that in his "brief tenure as Marching Band Director, Mr. Waters did everything possible to move the Band's culture in the right direction."
WEB EXTRA: Read the David Axelrod Statement
The statement from David Axelrod also claims the Ohio State University report is based "in large part on statements by an unreasonably small and unrepresentative sample of present and former Band members. The university interviewed only four of approximately 225 current Band members, and five of the hundreds of recent alumni."