In 2012, Jonathan Waters' first year as the director of the Ohio State University Marching Band, his charges made headlines across the world for its video game-themed halftime show.
Last year, that type of excellence became the standard, as the OSUMB sent fans to YouTube nearly every week to check out its highlight-worthy music and drill.
In fact, one would argue that when someone in America thinks of a collegiate marching band, it is Ohio State's that comes to mind first and foremost.
So, does Waters feel pressure to top his first two campaigns in charge of the venerable institution that is The Best Damn Band In The Land?
Well, yeah. Wouldn't you?
"There's tremendous pressure going from season to season," he said. "To me, it's not really a replication as much as it is trying to take another step forward. 2013 was different from 2012, and I think that 2014 will be different from 2013 as we move forward and take steps to promote the band and do what we do."
Waters spoke those words Monday afternoon after taking part in the annual Cheryl Jacobs Waters golf outing in Holland, Ohio. Named after Waters' late mother, the scramble raises money – racking up close to $15,000 in 2013, with more expected this year – for the band, with Craig Krenzel serving as this year's Buckeye guest of honor.
An improved financial situation brought on both by events like the scholarship fund golf outing and a recent funding increase from the university have helped the band put together its now trademark shows, but there have been other factors at play.
Famously, technology on the iPad has helped the band learn the complex shows in a much more efficient fashion – and earned TBDBITL a spot in an Apple commercial. And Waters, who served as assistant band director to Dr. Jon Woods before the latter retired after 28 years in charge, has embraced a new philosophy known as tradition through innovation.
"Our philosophy, I think, is working," Waters said. "How do you take an organization that is so steeped in tradition and history like the Ohio State band and move it forward? There are a lot of alums watching everything that we do and lots of people passionate about every aspect of the program, and we have a wide demographic. We have 5- or 6-year-old kids in the stadium all the way to people who were there when the first brick of the stadium was laid.
"Expanding that history and moving it forward is, I think, our biggest challenge. I think we have done that well, and we will continue to innovate and try new things and add to our repertoire."
That repertoire over the past two years has included some of the most watched YouTube videos on the site. The famous 2012 video games halftime show currently has more than 16 million views, and last year Waters and the band put together a number of shows that went viral including nod to Hollywood blockbusters and a Michael Jackson tribute.
Popularity soon followed, including the iPad commercial, the chance to appear on "Good Morning America" and stories in just about every major news outlet in the country.
So, yes, it's a fun time to be in the band.
"If it comes up in conversation that I'm in the Ohio State band or if somebody sees me wearing a shirt that has our crest on it, they'll stop me and say, ‘Hey, I saw your Hollywood show and it was so amazing,' " said John Joyce, a mellophone player who has spent the past two years as the squad leader of R Row.
"It's like being an anonymous celebrity almost as a band member, but it's not about any individual, it's about the organization and the whole and the recognizing the organization. It's a really amazing thing."
Work is already under way to make sure the spotlight stays on in 2014. The band has already chosen what the themes will be for each show – Waters won't top his hand, though he did say the trip to the Navy game in Baltimore will patriotic-themed halftime show – and now the work comes down to choosing the music and planning the drills for each topic.
The band will also again be able to trip to most away games, including a return trip to Penn State for the first time since 2005 when unruly fans pelted TBDBITL with debris (Penn State has assured more security will be in place this time). Waters is also particularly excited about going to Michigan State, where OSU will attempt to get revenge for last year's loss and Waters has assured the band will "play until our last breath to support our team."
Of course, at the end of the day, much of the attention will be drawn back to whatever the band comes up with for its halftime entertainment.
"We have plans right now for every halftime show, and so we are looking at a wide diversity of music and show ideas," Waters said. "I feel it's very important to involve them from the inception of the show through to the end, so I want them to be able to brainstorm with our staff the ideas that we're going to do on the field, and once they're excited about those ideas, we're able to translate into the final product on the field and I think they're more invested in the final outcome.
"It's the students who bring it to life. It's the students who march and play the music and that's what brings it to life. Everything else that we do is just plans on paper."
Waters' tee shot at the Cheryl Jacobs Waters TBDBITL Golf Invitational