John E. Criss: 1949

John Criss OSU Drum Major

The development of a good leader for the Ohio State Marching Band has been an ongoing process with continual change and alteration in costume, manner of performance, and in twirling techniques. Other factors that appear less noticeable are constant and may apply to the very first drum majors as well as to John E. Criss (OSUMB 1949), and still continue to the present day.

In an interview in March 1969, Dr. Eugene Weigel was asked what he considered to be the most important qualifications for a good drum major. He replied with the following statement:

"This person is a part or function of the band that I hold in very high esteem. Without him there could be no field demonstration, for he is the field director of the band and all authority and responsibility are vested in him the moment he enters the field." Some of the attributes, characteristics and functional abilities that Weigel considered necessary are as follows:

1. Keen sense of leadership
2. Comprehensive memory
3. Pride in accomplishment
4. Style (in posture and dress)
5. Dependability
6. Loyalty
7. Technical mastery of baton twirling
8. Alertness — ability to see problems and to solve them at once
9. Personality (to be liked and responded to)

If a drum major is not at first aware of his responsibilities when he obtains rank, he is soon enlightened (off the field) as to the ways of the band. Criss is one who has retained message he received over 30 years ago. He says, "With regard to the story or incident that sticks in my mind, the one that made the greatest impression with me was in 1950 on our way to the Rose Bowl. We (the band and alumni) left by train and on our way to Denver from Columbus I spent a great deal of time in the club car, as the alumni all seemed to want to buy the drum major a drink. When (Director Whitcomb) called me aside one evening and asked me if I liked being the leader of this band, I told him that I did enjoy it. His answer to me was ‘Then why don't you act like it and get out of that club car and set an example!' The night our train pulled out of Pasadena on its way back to Columbus Whit called me and asked me follow him and he took me back to the club car, introduced n to the bartender, and said that whatever I wanted to drink from here to Columbus was to be put on his tab. His only comment was, 'Your job is done. Enjoy yourself.'”