MOUNT VERNON — When The Ohio State University Alumni Marching Band takes to the field Saturday at Ohio Stadium, it will once again feature a local Mount Vernon flair as it does each year in the Buckeyes’ football opener.
Robert Atwell, DPM, of Mount Vernon, has been participating in the OSU alumni band’s annual reunion for the past 30 years. The reunion coincides with the tradition of performing at the first home football game each season. “It’s just a lot of fun,” Atwell told the News about why he chooses to participate each year. “I enjoy the camaraderie and the atmosphere of us all getting together.”
Atwell is a 1973 alumnus of OSU and plays snare drum in the alumni band. He has traveled to various other functions with the band, including recent visits to the Bratwurst Festival in Bucyrus and to Lakeside in July and Kenyon College in June.
The OSU Marching Band has for many years been known as “The Best Damn Band In the Land.” When asked what it’s like playing in the alumni band vs. the collegiate band, Atwell said, “It’s kind of like the same thing, only I need more Ibuprofen.” Just as the collegiate band has to practice, so does the alumni band. Two practices were on tap earlier this week with a final rehearsal scheduled for early Saturday morning.
Another local member of the alumni band is Sara Lawhorn, who helps organize the annual reunion and has been playing in the alumni band for nine years. She plays the Efer, which is an E-flat coronet. Her husband, Ryan Rupp, also participates in the alumni band playing trombone. Lawhorn explained there is the reunion band, an active band and a hyperactive band. The active band and hyperactive band will participate in extra events other than the reunion performance. Some of the these trips have included England and Australia.
“So many people have said this is something they look forward to all year long. It was so fun in college,” said Lawhorn. “And if I can help organize and help make it run smoothly and just have that many people have fun once more, it’s a worthwhile thing.”
Lawhorn told of instances of a reunion participant from New Zealand and another who took time off from the service in Afghanistan to participate.
Another local participant who has been playing in the alumni band for 30 years is Steve Bechtel of Fredericktown. A 1972 graduate of OSU, Bechtel plays alto horn in the alumni band. “It’s just a great group of guys. There are no lawyers or doctors or whatever. We’re all just band members,” said Bechtel. “It gives us a chance to play in the active band and to do fundraisers for student scholarships.”
Timm Mackley, superintendent of the Knox County Educational Service Center, is a 1973 OSU alumnus and has been playing in the reunion band almost every year since graduation. “I enjoy seeing the people that you see only once a year,” said Mackley. “It’s a rare privilege to be on center stage at the Ohio State show. It’s nice to be able to get out in front of 100,000 people and hear them cheer.” This year’s performance will be an extra special one for Mackley. His oldest son, Joshua, who lives in New York City, will also be playing in the alumni band this year. And his youngest son, Andrew, is playing in the collegiate band as a junior. Mackley, who lives in Groveport, added that he also takes part in numerous summer concerts with the active band.
Other Mount Vernon area participants in the OSU alumni band are Jerry Goetzman and Sandy Siegel.
“A lot of people have reunions, be it family reunions or class reunions,” said Atwell. “But I think what sets us apart is that as a band, we’re doing something together. It kind of differentiates us from other types of reunions.
“We always use the expression ‘one more time,’” said Atwell. “The guys that were there from the 1930’s, they’re gone now. And when we come back every year, you never know. It could be a person’s last year for whatever reason.”
So when you’re watching the Buckeyes’ football game on television Saturday, be sure to look for the local musicians in the alumni band. “I always tell people I will wave to you. I’ll be the one wearing a scarlet shirt and gray pants,” said Atwell.