COLUMBUS, Ohio - Imagine running down a ramp in full uniform, strutting through 192 people before stopping at the front of the group and then contorting your body into the shape of an “O.” After a dramatic pause, the plume of your hat touches the turf as you arch backwards and music begins to play. Oh, and all of this is occurring in front of 107,000 screaming fans.
Only 60 people can say they have performed this back bend as a drum major for The Ohio State University since it was founded in 1870. Joshua Halter is a member of this prestigious group.
Halter served as Ohio State’s drum major in 2008-09, leading the marching band during seasons including a Fiesta Bowl game against the University of Texas and a Rose Bowl appearance against the University of Oregon. Halter even performed with the band at President Barack Obama’s inauguration in January 2009.
Becoming a drum major for one of the most famous college marching bands did not come easy for Halter. He said he practiced year-round, up to 10-15 hours week outside of football season.
“We worked, developed training and improved our craft,” Halter said. “You put a lot of heart and soul, and blood, sweat and tears behind that.”
Halter grew up an Ohio State fan in Hebron, a small town outside of Columbus. He started playing trombone in fifth grade but admittedly said he was terrible at memorizing music. He stayed with the band and knew he only wanted to continue his education at one place.
“My dad said I could go anywhere for college, as long as it was Ohio State,” Halter said.
While he was in high school, Halter attended a “Skull Session” (think of a pre-game pep rally) before an Ohio State football home game. The band was performing, and the drum major attracted his attention. Halter said he went home after the game, e-mailed the band director and asked how drum majors were trained.
It turned out the university was starting a high school drum major training program for high school students. During the eight-month program, Halter and other students learned basics of leadership, twirling, strutting and performing from the university’s current drum major.
Fast-forward to college. As a freshman, Halter was named to the drum major training squad. In his sophomore year, he was named assistant drum major. Then, in his junior year, Halter was named the 56th drum major in Ohio State history.
Not only was Halter charging out of the tunnel and performing the back bend, he also had the honor of leading the band through the “Script Ohio” formation, considered one of the iconic traditions in college football.
Halter said a typical game day would start six hours prior to kickoff with video review of Friday's practice and a final rehearsal prior to performing before, during and after the game.
In his senior year, Halter was voted by his peers as the most inspirational band member. He said he holds that honor higher than his drum major position.
In college, Halter joined a corporate and institutional banking development program, created by PNC Bank. He was later promoted to an underwriter and now serves as a relationship manager in that department. Halter maintains and grows a portfolio of customer relationships for businesses with $50 million or more in annual sales.
Halter has paid his success forward, now mentoring prospective high school and collegiate drum majors. He advises the students on how to improve their performance, both on the football field and in school, and to pursue an education and career that is rewarding for them and their interests. Combining their talent with the marching musicians in the band also helps to foster teamwork and push the band to new levels.
"Enjoy and cherish this moment that you’ve worked so hard for, but don’t let this be the best thing you’ll ever do," he tells students.
You have plenty of life to live and the same personal determination and sacrifice it took to make this dream a reality – take it and apply it to something bigger, greater and keep pushing to improve yourself.
Halter is part of Ohio State’s alumni band, a multigenerational ensemble of band members. He also takes part in parades, festivals and even weddings with former band members.
Halter recently joined past Ohio State drum majors on the field for the first home football game in September. He shared memories with the select few who have led the band out of the tunnel and onto the field.
“Standing in that tunnel is the only 30 seconds of quiet you have the entire day,” Halter said. “You know there are 100,000-plus people waiting for you. You hear the whistle and the crowd. You just go. Once you run out there and perform the back bend, you see and hear 107,000 people upside down.”
There are only so many people who are able to see the packed stadium, with music blaring, upside down.
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