• Student with WJ ties earns spot as OSU drum major

    • By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
    • June 5, 2006

    When The Best Damn Band In The Land takes the field this fall, a West Jefferson native will lead the way.
    Stewart Kitchen, 19, son of Chris and Mitzi Kitchen, formerly of West Jefferson, and grandson of Pete and Sue Kitchen, owners of Kitchen’s Cardinal grocery in West Jefferson, is Ohio State University’s new drum major.

    Kitchen competed May 9 against last year’s drum major and assistant drum major, both fifth-year seniors, and came out the winner. The achievement is one to which the young man has been looking forward for a long time.

    “ I’ve been going to OSU football games since I was 4,” Kitchen said. His mother is a graduate of the university, along with several members of her family. His father and his family are avid Buckeye fans, too.

    “My favorite part always was when the drum major would run out on the field and do the back bend,” he said. “As soon as he takes the field, the entire stadium goes wild just for him. I wanted to be that guy.”

    For Kitchen, the journey to becoming that guy began his sophomore year in high school when he went to see a graduate from his school dot the “i” in Script Ohio at an OSU home game.

    “At that time, I met the drum major briefly. Then I met him again that year at the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., when OSU won the national championship. That’s when I decided I want to be drum major,” Kitchen said.
    He actively pursued the goal by enrolling in OSU’s free drum major training for high school students. Every Monday and Wednesday night of his junior and senior year, Kitchen drove an hour one way from his home in Kenton (Hardin County) to the Columbus campus. The first proof of success came his senior year when he was named drum major at Kenton High School.

    Upon starting college at OSU last fall, Kitchen signed up for D-Row Squad, through which he served as an understudy for marching band members. His job was to fill in for anyone absent for Script Ohio and to continue training. All drum major hopefuls must spend a year in D-Row to be eligible to tryout for the big gig.

    Kitchen put in his time, tried out, and this spring achieved his goal. Now, he’s responsible for recruiting new drum majors and overseeing the high school training program. He must know Script Ohio inside and out, and he serves as president of the OSU Twirling Club.

    “I’m also an ambassador not just for the band but for the university,” said Kitchen, who already has been called on for special performances with the OSU Alumni Band and for the university’s College of Agriculture.

    Jonathan Waters, OSU’s assistant marching band director, said Kitchen will make an excellent ambassador.

    “The job of a drum major is important within the band. He or she is the figurehead leader in charge of fronting the band,” Waters said. “Stewart is going to be the perfect person to do that. He is well respected by the band members, and he has great leadership credentials.”

    Waters said Kitchen has the potential to be “one of the best” drum majors OSU has ever had, thanks to his athleticism and showmanship.

    Energetic creativity appears to be Kitchen’s trademark. While he won’t tinker with the entrance ramp routine, which has remained relatively unchanged since the marching band’s inception, Kitchen does plan to put his own stamp on half-time.

    “What makes my routine unique is gymnastics and athleticism,” he said.

    The former high school wrestler and soccer player constantly works on strength and conditioning.
    “ A lot of people don’t realize the workout that goes into being drum major. I run, lift weights and workout all the time,” Kitchen said, adding that his girlfriend, a member of OSU’s all-female cheerleading competition team, helps him with his gymnastic moves.

    Anyone involved in OSU football game days has to be in shape, if for the endurance only. Kitchen’s game days will begin with a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call to allow time to report to the Steinbrenner Band Center at Ohio Stadium by 5:30. While the band runs through scales and songs, Kitchen starts stretching and warming up. Between 8:30 and 9, the band heads to the practice field to run through the shows. After “lunch” at 10 a.m., the whole crew heads to St. John Arena for the first performance of the day, Skull Session, during which the drum major is featured for one or two songs.
    After Skull Session, the band marches to the stadium for the game. Their schedule then includes pre-game, half-time and post-game shows.

    “When it’s all done, the band is dismissed and we try to go celebrate a Buckeye win,” Kitchen said.
    Kitchen is a 2005 graduate of Kenton High School and an animal science major at OSU. He was honored last month as one of the top 12 outstanding freshman student leaders at the university. His father is a 1979 graduate of West Jefferson High School.

    To learn more about Ohio State’s drum majors and free training sessions for high school students, log onto www.ohiostatedrummajor.com. To learn more about Ohio State’s marching band, including free summer sessions for junior high and high school musicians, go to www.tbdbitl.osu.edu.

    Photo credit: Kristy Zurbrick