• TBDBITL selects next 'man out front'

    • By Joshua Foster, The Lantern
    • May 14, 2004

    The Ohio State Marching Band selected its new drum major and assistant drum major yesterday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

    Eric Sommer, a senior in aviation engineering, won the position of drum major for the 2004 marching band season. Alex Neffenger, sophomore in education, was given the position of assistant drum major.

    "This is a great opportunity for me and it feels great to be a part of the band again," Sommer said. "I couldn't have been better today, I left myself out on the field."

    Four candidates were at the tryouts - each have been members of the drum major squad or in marching band for at least one year. Daniel Nash, a sophomore in theater and Michelle Cundari, a sophomore in criminology were the other two in the competition.

    Each competitor performed in three different categories to show off different skills necessary to be drum major. The first event was performing the traditional "ramp entrance," which involves the high strut from the north tunnel of the stadium at the beginning of OSU football games, the backbend and the goal-post toss. Next, each had to perform an individual twirling routine choreographed to a selected piece of music by the band. Finally, the candidates demonstrated his or her baton control and skill with five aerial tosses.

    "Judges look for a good ramp entrance, physical strength, strong aerials and good control of the baton," said marching band director, Jon Woods. But what needs to stand out more than any of those things is a presence that will be able to be seen by the fans in fall, Woods said.

    "Everyone's performances were much better then I anticipated they would be," said Matt Bally, drum major at OSU from 1999-2000 and one of 16 adjudicators at the event. "All these kids work very hard and it's a high pressure situation. You only get one shot to make it."

    Weather conditions were good enough for the event to be held outside, but the one factor that affected the competitors a little was the wind.

    "Weather is always a factor; you have to be very accurate and adjust to the situation if it gets windy," said Kathryn Mitchell, 2003 drum major.

    Sommer was in the drum major squad in 2000 and served as the assistant drum major in 2001. After that he left the band and spent time practicing and trying to become drum major.

    "(Sommer) worked a lot to become as good as he is. Its hard to be the assistant one year and out of the band the next, but this is the best I have ever seen him. I am very proud of his efforts," Mitchell said.

    Neffenger is excited to be back as assistant drum major. He held the position last year and retained his place with his performance this year.

    "Being in the band is the best part about being at OSU; it gives me the opportunity to be a part of something bigger then myself," Neffenger said. "I'm excited to be apart of it all, and I will look forward to next year and try to earn the spot of drum major."

    The marching band has established a training program for students at OSU and in high school, teaching students to be future drum majors. About 25 students from all over Ohio come to OSU for instruction on being a Ohio State-style drum major throughout the year.

    "Our efforts and work are finally paying off," Woods said. "We give students experience and training into getting into this role. We have always had a strong group tryout but this year's is among the best I have ever seen."

    The drum major has been an important part of the band since it was started in 1878. Originally the drum major's role in the marching band was to set the tempo of candences as ROTC troops passed in review for inspection on the Oval. When the marching band began performing at football games in the 1920s, the role of the drum major became more distinguished by his or her showmanship, personality and athletic ability. Today, the OSU drum major is one of the most prestigious and unique positions in the country. They also receive a full tuition scholarship through the Script Ohio Club.

    "Fans and students will be treated to an excellent performance in the pre-game, which the drum major does, and in the post-game, which is done by the assistant drum major. This year's squad is very good," Woods said.

    Photo Credit: Alysia Baker, "Eric Sommer, a senior in aviation engineering, flashes his winning smile at the drum major tryouts yesterday."

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