The Ohio State University Marching Drumline (JI Row) is comprised of two rows, I – Row being the snare drums, and J – Row being the bass drums, tenor drums, and cymbals. I – row marches 12 members for pregame and halftime, J – Row marches 12 for pregame and 15 for halftime. Snares have 14 members and the basses, tenors, and cymbals all have 6 members each, giving J-Row a total of 18 members. Each year, all members of the line, including squad leaders, are required to audition for their spot in the marching band. This competitive process ensures that the best 32 individuals are a part of the ensemble each season.
History of JI Row
No band would be complete without a percussion section! Since the early days of the OSUMB as a 12-piece fife and drum corps, the percussion section has been a regular part of the marching band. In those early days, the percussion section consisted of no more than a pair of tenor or snare drums, a bass drum, and a pair of cymbals.
As time went on and the band grew, so did the percussion section. During the 1930’s under the direction of Eugene J. Weigel, the percussion section consisted of six snare drums, a pair of cymbals, and two bass drums. In fact, it was during Weigel’s tenure as director that the bass drum heads were first decorated with “Ohio” and “State.” Another interesting fact is that until Manley Whitcomb took the helm of the OSUMB during most of the 1940’s, the snare drums were worn at thigh level, closer to the knee. With Whitcomb introducing the 8-to-5, 22 1/2-inch step marching style, the snare drum began to be carried at hip level.
In 1972, Director Dr. Paul Droste expanded the band in size for the first time in forty-two years, adding two more snare drums to the percussion section. Susan Johnson became the first female percussionist when she joined the snare drum section back in 1973, when women were first permitted to join the OSUMB. During those days, the percussion section was known as I-Row, and before that known as L-Row. The second expansion of the OSUMB in 1974 doubled the size of the percussion section. I-Row now became a row of ten snare drums and a new row was added, known as J-Row. The new row consisted of two pairs of cymbals, four bass drums, and four tenor duos.
In 1987, under the direction of Dr. Jon Woods, the tenor duos became trios. In 1988, the 16-inch cymbals became 18-inch cymbals. In 2000, the bass drums began using different sets of drums for pregame and halftime, using four drums of two different tones for pregame and four drums of four different tones for halftime. In 2012, The Ohio State Drumline switched from drum providers from Yamaha to Pearl Drums, which brought with it a handful of changes to the line. It was the year that the tenor drums began wearing the drums on harnesses worn underneath the uniforms, providing more stability with the heavier Pearl drums. During Skull Sessions, the drumline began playing on stands during the halftime music performance. In 2014, the snare drums and bass drums joined the tenors in making the switch to harnesses for halftime shows, blending the contemporary style drum playing and drum position with the traditional OSUMB chair step. 2016 ushered in an expansion of J-row under the leadership of Dr. Christopher Hoch and percussion instructor Mark Reynolds. One cymbal, tenor, and bass drum were added to each sub-section to create three extra marching spots for halftime, though the pregame block of 12 J-row members remained unchanged. As a result, J-row has two alternates per sub-section; a pre-game alternate who marches halftime, and a regular alternate. In 2018, The Ohio State Drumline changed to Mapex as their drum provider. The tenor drums were innovative by using a custom combination of 10″, 12″, 13″, and another lower-tuned 13″ drum to provide the percussive capabilities needed to carry sound across the field, without sacrificing mobility and weight. The OSUDL has seen a fair share of changes in the last 20 seasons, and continues to pride itself on “tradition through innovation.”