O.U.’s Marching Band celebrates 50 years

On Oct. 6 and 7, Ohio University celebrated the 50th anniversary of the beginning of what is now called “The Marching 110.”

In 1967, Gene Thrailkill became the new marching band director and changed the band from the old military style unit wearing blazers as uniform to what is exciting style and uniforms still used today. The band not only played and marched but it also danced, which still goes on today.

However, the biggest change in 1967 was that the band became an all-male group then known as the “110 Marching Men of Ohio.” The school newspaper opposed the change, and there was some booing at the beginning to the first performance, which ended with a standing ovation. It also adopted the nickname of “the most exciting band in the land.” However, by the 1975 football season, federal law required the end to the all-male institution, and women again became band members, which is still true today.

The number in the 1967 band was literally a 110 men; however, the 110 signifies what the members called giving 110 per cent in their efforts to make the band it became. Many have considered the Marching 110 the top marching band in the country. It literally brings in millions of dollars in advertising for the university to attract prospective students, and many in the band came to Ohio University specifically to be in the band.

Some band members who later became became band directors took the Ohio University style to their own high school bands. However, current high school marching band competitions exclude these bands because of the totally different style to most other bands. The Marching 110 is made up of only a minority of students majoring in music.

The Marching Band has been so popular with the student body that many came to football games over the years only to see the band perform and then left after the half-time performance. Many felt that the band members received greater respect from their fellow students than any of the athletic teams.

Obtaining the athletic jacket worn by band members required that no non-members wear them including girlfriends, who understood this. When Laurie Lee Schaeffer of Ohio University was Miss America in the 1970’s, the administration wanted to present her with a band jacket, and the band refused since she never was in the band to earn it.

Band members from 1967 until today attended the special celebration. About 20 members of the original band were there along with the original director, Gene Thrailkill. At the alumni banquet, Thrailkill stated that it was a testament to his work that the marching style he adopted is still used along with the arrangements written for the fight song and the alma mater and the uniform style copied from the University of Michigan.

Among alumni band members of the 110 Marching Men attending who originate from Meigs County and their years in the band were Martin Osborn (1970-73) of San Francisco, Thomas Gumpf(1970-74) of Buchtel, Keith Ashley (1971-74) of Rocksprings, and Bill Beegle (1971-72) of Cincinnati. Osborn and Gumpf graduated from Eastern High and Ashley and Beegle from Racine High. Martin Osborn was also responsible for arranging several of the musical charts used from the Marching Men days to this very day and his work is original arrangements are displayed at Ohio University’ s Memorial Auditorium

At the end of each football season, the Marching 110 plays a Saturday concert in November at Memorial Auditorium on camps followed by a concert at the Palace Theater in Columbus. These concerts are usually given to sell-out crowds.

The Marching Band holds the distinction of playing Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1975. Nathan Robinette of Pomeroy was a member of the band during that concert. The band also holds the distinction of being the only college band invited three times to perform in the Macey’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It will be performing this year, while its competition, the Ohio State Marching Band, has never performed in that event. In the past few years, the band traveled to England, Paris, and the Vatican, where it performed to rave reviews.

Nearly everyone who has been in this unique band will say it was the best thing of their college career. Although the size of the band has more than doubled since the time of the Marching Men of Ohio, it still dazzles audiences and receives many stand ovations.

Article submitted by Keith Ashley.