Here’s How to One-Up ‘The Best Damn Band in the Land’

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NEW YORK—We understand that The Ohio State University’s marching band is often referred to by its preferred nickname, The Best Damn Band in the Land (TBDBITL, for short). The band is perhaps best known—its modesty notwithstanding—for Script Ohio, a signature formation involving an integrated series of evolutions and patterns that result in the word “Ohio” being spelled out by band members on a football field.

This routine is a staple of Ohio State football games, and there’s always a special band member or other designated person who has the honor of dotting the “i” in Ohio.

Pretty special, right? Especially if you’re from Ohio.

Well, it seems there’s another school in Columbus, Ohio, that has found a way to top Ohio State’s TBDBITL.

This upstart band, better known as The Ohio State School for the Blind Marching Band (or OSSBMB), is likely the only visually impaired marching band in the U.S., if not the world, according to its website. Some student members of the band are low-vision, and march unassisted during performances. Others have almost no visual acuity, and require help and guidance from marching assistants. (Check out a video here of the band performing at a football game earlier this month.)

The OSSBMB keeps a busy fall schedule and has recently performed at the Circleville Pumpkin Show and the Millersport Sweetcorn Parade. Last Saturday, the band performed during a nearby college football game. Here’s what a local television station had to say about that performance by the OSSBMB:

“The Ohio State School for the Blind put on a special performance that would make The Best Damn Band in the Land proud Saturday. Capital University hosted the OSSB band Saturday during its game against Mount Union, allowing the band to put on a performance at halftime. The band did its version of Script Ohio, but did it in a way only the OSSB could, spelling out O-H-I-O in braille.”

The Ohio State School for the Blind – a kindergarten through 12th grade facility – debuted its marching band in 2005 as a 13-member ensemble that initially served as a complement the football program at the nearby Ohio School for the Deaf, according to the school’s website. Some students in the band do read very large print music, and others read the music in Braille.

The band, which has 18-20 student marchers in grades seven through 12 this year, meets five times each week, plus a marching practice once a week during football season. Participants also are required to attend a week-long band camp during the summer. OSSBMB performs at area football games and performs as a pep band at the School for the Deaf basketball games, also, according to the school’s website.

Yolanda Johnson, the band's director, said in a newspaper interview that "some of our students have limited vision in one eye or may have peripheral vision.” She also noted that any band member who is completely blind relies “heavily on the adults, who have an arm draped around (the band member's) shoulder and make sure they're not stepping in a pothole.” Typically, about 15 to 18 adult volunteers assist band members with their marching, Johnson said.

Johnson added, “When [the band members] are on the field, they are more vulnerable. They are giving some of their control to another person. They have to trust that the marching assistants will keep them safe and get them to where they need to go. This allows the students to focus more on playing, and they start to associate where they turn and where they stop moving to specific phrases in the music just like sighted marching students do.”

According to the bands’ websites, the Ohio State band and the School for the Blind marching band performed together at the 2013 Ohio State-Florida A&M game.

Now that would have been something to see.