Jon Waters

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Jonathan N. "Jon" Waters (born June 7, 1976) is an American marching band director. He served as the Director of Marching and Athletic Bands at Ohio State University (OSU), and was fired in 2014 after an investigation found that he failed to address a highly sexualized culture within the band that promoted sexual harassment. Some alumni of the marching band have disputed these claims. Waters sued OSU for defamation; the lawsuit was later dismissed.[1]

In 2016, Waters was hired to be an assistant professor of music and the director of bands at Heidelberg University, Ohio.[2]


Early years[edit]

Waters was born and raised in Elmore, Ohio. He was a guitar and saxophone player in eighth grade, when he saw The Ohio State University Marching Band on television with his father, and decided he would one day dot the "i" in the Script Ohio. He switched from saxophone to sousaphone. Upon entering Ohio State in fall 1994 with a plan to become a lawyer, he tried out for the Marching Band, but was cut during tryouts. He earned a spot the following year. In 1996, he switched his major to music. He went on to dot the "i" on November 21, 1998 at the home game against Michigan. Waters was a band member through 1999.[3] In 2000, he received a bachelor's degree in music education.[4]


In 2000, after completing five years as a band member, Waters began his professional career as a band director, staying on with The Ohio State University Marching Band as a graduate assistant. In 2002 he was hired as an assistant director. Upon the retirement of director Jon Woods in September 2011, Waters was given the role of interim director.[3] On 10 October 2012, executive dean and vice provost of the College of Arts and Sciences Joseph Steinmetz, announced his promotion to director.[4]

On October 6, 2012 at the home game vs. Nebraska, Waters' band performed a video game tribute show featuring unprecedented use of animations, including a horse which galloped down the field and then reared up on its hindquarters, as well as the Tetris and Pac-Man video games.[5] This show received national attention, with a YouTube video achieving four million hits by the following Monday.[6] In 2013 the band began using iPads to reduce paper usage and to design and execute more complex shows. Waters and his staff created shows with extensive animation, including a Michael Jackson show which animated Mr. Jackson moonwalking and doing "the splits", and the Hollywood Blockbuster show with animations of Superman saving a falling building, Harry Potter winning a Quidditch match, a dinosaur eating a Michigan football player, and an epic battle at sea between two sailing ships.

The band and Waters received national attention for these shows, and Waters was interviewed by a long list of national news outlets, including Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, and USA Today. In May 2014 he delivered a TEDx talk on "Tradition thru Innovation".[7]

Dismissal controversy[edit]

On July 24, 2014, Ohio State president Michael V. Drake announced that, following an investigation of the marching band culture, Waters had been dismissed, alleging that the marching band was a highly sexualized culture that promoted sexual harassment. Waters was fired on the basis that he "knew or should have known" about the alleged problems within the band but failed to address them.

Subsequently, several problems were found in the investigation report that was used as cause to fire Waters. Several witnesses stepped forward and claimed that their testimony had been used out of context, and that they disagreed with the conclusions of the investigation. The former Title IX coordinator for Ohio State alleged that she was prevented by her superior from doing her job effectively with respect to the marching band, however a third-party investigator determined that there was insufficient evidence to support this claim.[8]

On September 11, 2014, the Department of Education announced that it had agreed to conclude a four-year investigation of Ohio State ahead of schedule due to its handling of the Jon Waters case.[9] The following day the marching band alumni organization released its own investigation report into the circumstances around Waters' firing, alleging many problems with the original investigation, and suggesting that Waters was sacrificed to prove Title IX compliance to the Department of Education.[10]

Waters sued for reinstatement later in September, accusing the university, President Drake, and a provost of discriminating against him by disciplining him differently than a female employee and denying him due process. Ohio State responded with a press release, now claiming that Waters had concealed the culture, and "took it upon himself to take corrective action".[11] On October 23rd, Ohio State filed a response to this lawsuit, renewing its claims of a sexualized culture, and offering additional evidence of that culture. The filing also emphasized claims that Waters misled investigators regarding the degree of problems in the band.


  1. ^ Etchinson, Amanda (July 20, 2016). "Ohio Court of Claims dismisses Jon Waters lawsuit against Ohio State". The Lantern. Retrieved October 13, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Former Ohio State band director Jon Waters gets job at Heidelberg". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2016-04-05. 
  3. ^ a b Briggs, David (28 July 2014). "Elmore native's career hits highest note at OSU". Toledo Blade. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Jonathan Waters Named Ohio State Marching Band Director". Ohio State University, College of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "The Ohio State University Marching Band - TBDBITL Halftime 10-6-12 Video games Nebraska". YouTube. HandMRowGoBucks. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  6. ^ Lesmerises, Doug (9 October 2012). "How the Ohio State marching band pulled together the video-game halftime show everyone is talking about". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  7. ^ "Tradition through innovation: Jonathan Waters at TEDxUniversityofAkron". YouTube. TEDx. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  8. ^ Hickman, Logan (28 August 2014). "Meeting about band culture draws discord". The Lantern. Retrieved 24 October 2014. 
  9. ^ Chandra, Meena Morey. "Letter to President Drake regarding Resolution Agreement" (PDF). U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 24 October 2014. 
  11. ^ Binkley, Collin (27 September 2014). "Fired band director Waters sues OSU". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 24 October 2014. 

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