By George Mauzy
You could hear the passion in their voices.
One after another, Ohio University Marching 110 members came to the podium Friday night's kickoff fundraiser for the band's upcoming Rose Parade trip and described how joining the band has made their college experience better.
Senior field commander Jerod Smith, who played his saxophone at Carnegie Hall in May, said 95 percent of his decision to attend Ohio University was because of his desire to play in the band.
"My freshman year, the Marching 110 came to my high school to perform and I had no voice for the next four days after screaming from the bleachers," Smith said. "It was the coolest thing ever and from that point on I said 'I have to be in that band somehow.'"
Senior sousaphone player Darryl Baker said he didn't plan on joining the band when he arrived at Ohio University, but was blown away when he saw a practice.
"The Marching 110 is such a finely tuned instrument and is a group of people that come together as a family," Baker said. "We have some of the greatest leaders and most well known students on campus. We are so excited to go the Rose Parade and not only represent Ohio University, but also to represent our state in such a momentous occasion."
Held in the Baker University Center 1804 Lounge, the fundraiser attracted about 50 people and also served as a welcome reception for Rose Parade President-Elect Sally M. Bixby. She and her husband, Harlan, were visiting campus from Pasadena, Calif., on behalf of the Tournament of Roses Foundation, which sponsors the parade.
Sally Bixby's visit was fulfilling the parade's annual tradition of having its officers visit the hometowns of every band selected to play in the Jan. 1 parade. She said the Marching 110 was chosen because of its musicality and showmanship and the quality of its students.
During her weekend stay in Athens, Bixby had lunch in Baker University Center's Latitude 39 with several university dignitaries, including President Roderick J. McDavis and his wife, Deborah, and twice watched the band practice before its Saturday night performance at the football game.
While at practice on Friday, the band presented Bixby with several gifts, including a drum head signed by the entire band and an Ohio University blanket.
"I was impressed with how focused the band members were on what they were doing and how well they listened," Bixby said. "I also enjoyed their dancing. It's unbelievable."
During halftime of Saturday's football game, Bixby presented band director Richard Suk with a Rose Parade flag that served as the Marching 110's official invitation to perform in the parade.
As one of 20 bands selected this year from hundreds of applicants, including three from Ohio, the Marching 110 will be performing in front of more than one million people in attendance and 40 million more viewing it on television in more than 215 countries and territories around the world.
Suk told the audience that the Rose Bowl appearance is sure to bring more national attention to Ohio University.
"When we performed at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2005 we got 16,000 hits on our Web site that day compared to the usual 300 hits," Suk said. "So it does pack a punch and is a great advertisement for the university."
Jennifer Bowie, University Advancement's director of annual giving and Marching 110 alumna, said the trip will cost approximately $1,400 for each band member. She said that most of the funds will have to be covered by the students and their families if not enough of the band's alumni and friends come forward with contributions.
Bowie said that with the total cost of the trip estimated to be around $300,000, the university has adopted the fundraising goal of "$100,000 in 110 days." She asked everyone in attendance to solicit their friends to raise funds for the cause.
“We are starting this grassroots fundraising effort because we all love the band and are excited that it has been invited to play in the Rose Parade for the first time," Bowie said.
Bowie said the band's Society of Alumni and Friends has already begun raising money for the trip. She told the crowd that local resident Jeff Chaddock gave $1,400 to send one student to California and issued a challenge to other band supporters to do what they can to contribute.
Other financial contributors receiving special mention were Dean of the College of Fine Arts Chuck McWeeney and Deborah Arnold of Farmers Insurance.
Longtime band supporters Cliff and Evelyn Houk attended Friday's reception and said they decided to attend the Rose Bowl Parade at the reception after finding out about the available travel packages for non-band members.
Ohio University Trustee Larry Schey and his wife, Dorothy, also said they plan to support the band's trip to California.
"We love the band and will continue to support them," Dorothy Schey said. "We love all things OU."
For more information about the Marching 110 and its trip to the Rose Parade, visit www.marching110.org/. Contributors also can make a pledge on this site.
To support the 110s' trip to the Rose Parade, contact The Ohio University Foundation at 800-592-FUND or firstname.lastname@example.org. Checks may be made payable to The Ohio University Foundation (be sure to write "Marching 110 Rose Parade" in the notes section) and send to the foundation at P.O. Box 869, Athens, Ohio 45701. Gifts also can be made online at www.ohio.edu/give.