Some years ago, a London drummer set a lofty goal: to be a member of the drum line in The Ohio State Marching Band, aka TBDBITL.
After years of work and some very intense work this summer, Hayden Conley learned Wednesday evening his goal had been achieved. He was selected as a drummer in “I” row of the 225-member group.
“Ecstatic” is the word his mother, Melinda Peters Elliott, used to describe her son’s emotion following the news.
Conley, a 2014 London High School graduate and former member of the London High School marching band, said it this way: “Just being in that room when they were announcing the names is definitely a night I won’t forget.”
His name was among those snare drummers who rose to the challenge of the difficult audition who played and marched well enough to be selected. At this time he’s an alternate, which means for the first two games, he will not be on the field. But thereafter he can challenge other drummers and with confidence he said he’d make it.
Conley has been drumming for 11 years and early on set the goal of being in the Ohio State Band.
“Just seeing the band and the ramp entrance, there’s no better motivation than that,” he said.
To attain that goal took a lot of work, Conley said.
In addition to memorizing music, including “Hang on Sloopy,” and fundamental drills, Conley had to learn an entirely different style of marching. At London, the band marched a straight-legged, rolling foot style of marching.
That won’t do at OSU.
The 225-member unit moves out at 180 steps per minute, with knees reaching 90 degrees from the body and toes pointed straight down to the ground.
“I spent a lot of time practicing,” Conley said. “It took a long time to become proficient.”
It was in the summer sessions, which preceded the actual audition, where he learned exactly what was required of the candidate during the audition. The summer sessions were conducted by students, whom Conley felt helped him grow as a musician, and would answer any questions he had.
He called the entire audition process “long and complex.”
He would be given a piece early in the day and have to have it memorized by the end of the day. He had to manage his own hydration, and be tested on fundamentals, drumming technique and drills — all of which he described as “a hodge-podge.”
When he survived two rounds of cuts on Tuesday, he still had to wait until the following evening to learn if he’d made it.
The closeness he experienced during the sessions gave him an opportunity to make new friends.
When asked about the recent controversy surrounding the firing of former director Jonathan Waters, Conley preferred not to comment.
Dean Shipley can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 1617 or via Twitter @DeanAShipley.