Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Engaging Story Behind Innovation, iPads and the Ohio State University Marching Band

You may have seen the mind-blowing performances of the Ohio State University Marching Band on YouTube or the Today Show or read about them in USA Today.

During the fall of 2013, the Ohio State Marching Band hit the big time with 20+ million views on YouTube and six billion media exposures worldwide. More than 1,000 media outlets internationally wrote about the band which was also featured in part of an Apple tv commercial.

It began with a new band director and a downpour during band practice.

Jonathan Waters had recently been named director of the Ohio State University Marching Band and was looking for “what can we do better.” Even though he had been a student member of the band and had served as an assistant director for more than 10 years, Waters said he was really nervous about assuming leadership for a band steeped in tradition. The traditions included being the first ever college marching band, performing the inspiring Script Ohio and more.

Water’s incorporated a “traditions with innovation” theme to the band. “Today’s innovations become tomorrow’s traditions,” Waters said.

Early in his tenure, a quick downpour drenched the band as it practiced outdoors. The fast and heavy rain ruined all the paper music and drill charts. It meant producing thousands of more pages before they could continue rehearsing.

Waters shared that two student members of the band thought “there must be a better way.” The students approached him about using iPads with special apps for both the music and drill charts. After asking a lot of questions and finding more info, Waters approved a pilot project.

Soon, all band members were equipped with iPads.

The iPads allowed paperless performances with amazing moving images in front of more than 100,000 fans on Saturdays. It wasn’t long before millions were passing along YouTube videos of the band. The media followed.

It all started with a “we can do it better” mindset, a willingness to empower student members and a culture of tradition with innovation.

Those are three pretty great ways for associations to engage members, innovate and succeed.

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