COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Jonathan Woods, the longest-serving director of Ohio State University’s marching band and a music professor who helped lead the group into the computer age, died Saturday, the university confirmed. Woods was 76.
Woods spent 28 years directing the marching band until his retirement after the 2011-12 academic year. Then and now, fans often refer to the band by the initials TBDBITL, for “The Best Damn Band in the Land.”
Woods’ innovations, including using computers to chart band formations in the 1980s, won awards for the band and Woods himself, including the 2010 College Band Directors Association Lifetime Achievement Award. He took the band to Washington to march in four presidential inaugural parades.
“Woods was dedicated to precision performance on the field, and this remains the hallmark of the Ohio State Band,” the university said in a statement on his death.
Woods, who went by Jon, became assistant band director in 1974, and was named director in 1984.
“Whether teaching students, leading a memorable halftime show or assembling alumni from across the globe, Jon has earned a reputation of eminence,” former longtime Ohio State president Gordon Gee said in 2011 in announcing Woods’ retirement.
Word of his death spread through Ohio Stadium Saturday where the football team hosted the University of Hawaii.
“Thank You Dr. Woods,” said a video display with his picture. Fans were asked to honor him by singing along to the band’s rendition of school song “Carmen Ohio.”
Woods received his bachelor’s degree from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, his master’s degree from Penn State University, and his doctorate from the University of Michigan, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
Woods was struck by personal tragedy toward the end of his career after his 21-year-old daughter, Catherine, was killed in 2005 by an ex-boyfriend in New York City. Woods said he never got over her death.
“It could not have been more traumatic,” he told the Dispatch at the time. “Catherine is on my mind most every day.”
Woods was succeeded by Jonathan Waters, a 2000 graduate of Ohio State where he was a four-year member of the band.
Waters brought the band new renown with computer-generated dance formations that included a giant horse appearing to gallop across the field.
But the university fired Waters last year after an investigation concluded he ignored a “sexualized culture” inside the celebrated band.
Waters denied the charges and claims in a federal defamation suit that the school discriminated against him because he was a man, failing to give him the second chance it gave a similarly-situated female employee. Ohio State denies those allegations.
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