College Traditions: Ohio State’s Marching Band Dotting the “i”
Script Ohio, the signature formation of The Ohio State University Marching Band, is performed before home games. Script Ohio was first performed by The Ohio State Marching Band on October 24, 1936, at the Ohio State versus Indiana University football game. According to The Ohio State University Library, a similar floating formation was first performed during the 1932 season by the University of Michigan Marching band.
The Script Ohio is the most identifiable trademark associated with Ohio State Football and The Ohio State University Marching Band. It was devised by band director Eugene J. Weigel, who based the looped “Ohio” script design on the marquee sign of the Loew’s Ohio Theatre in downtown Columbus.
The script is an integrated series of evolutions and formations. The band first forms a triple Block O formation, then slowly unwinds to form the famous letters while playingRobert Planquette’s Le Régiment de Sambre et Meuse. The drum major leads the outside O into a peel-off movement around the curves of the script, every musician in continual motion. Slowly the three blocks unfold into a long singular line which loops around, creating the OSUMB’s trademark. Unlike a typical follow-the-leader drill, the Script Ohio is a very specifically measured and charted maneuver. Each band member is required to memorize the counts for each portion of the formation. Squad Leaders, as part of their tryout drills, are required to march a Script Ohio, individually, from their spot in the block to their final charted position to ensure they are counting and not just following the person in front of them. This is also required in the event that the Drum Major is incapacitated for some reason (injury, sudden illness).
Each time the formation drill is performed, a different fourth- or fifth-year Sousaphone player is chosen to stand as the dot in the “i” of “Ohio.” Because the Script Ohio formation was one of many new formations included by director Weigel, no extra emphasis was placed on the dotting. Originally, an E-flat cornet player, John Brungart, was the first “i”-dotter. Brungart dotted the “i” two more times that season, in performances during halftime shows against Pittsburgh and Chicago. The first recorded instance of a sousaphone player dotting the i was the final game of the 1936 season on November 21 at home versus Michigan. In the fall of 1937, Weigel turned to Glen Johnson, a sousaphone player, and shouted, “Hey, you! Switch places with the trumpet player in the dot.” A year later, when the drum major arrived at the top of the “i” three or four measures too early, Johnson turned and bowed to the crowd to use up the rest of the music. The crowd roared, and the bow has been part of the show since then. Glen then became the second sousaphone player to dot the “i” on October 23, 1937. Since then, a sousaphone player has dotted the “i” over 800 times.
Today, toward the end of the formation, drum major and the “i”-dotter high-five each other. Then with 16 measures to go in the song, they strut to the top of the “i”. When they arrive, the drum major points to the spot, and the “i”-dotter turns and bows deeply to both sides of the stadium.
There are two commonly seen versions of the Script Ohio drill: Single Script, and Double Script. A Single Script is performed with the 192 member block band and is the most commonly photographed. A Double Script is performed with 224 of the full 225 member band. The three J row alternates take turns “sitting out” during a performance of Double Script. Double Scripts are almost always performed at away games, NFL performances, and at home games when there is a large number of i-dot eligible Sousaphone players.
At the 2009 Ohio State-USC game, sousaphonist Frank Cosenza Jr. took his position dotting the “i”. In the course of taking his bow, the bell of the sousaphone struck the cameraman filming him.
At the 2013 Ohio State – Florida A&M game, the OSUMB performed a single Script Ohio, sharing the field with the Ohio State School for the Blind, which performed a Script Braille Ohio. The Ohio State School for the Blind hosts the only visually impaired marching band in the world. Some students are low-vision, and can march unassisted, but many have almost no visual acuity, and require the help of marching assistants, who guide the musicians on the field. Some students can read very large print music, others can read Braille music, while some simply learn by ear, memorizing parts played to them.