Along Our Way
For the 20th year, a group of us continued a Holy Week tradition of meeting at the YMCA Camp northwest of Boone, sharing lunch, then climbing up a towering bluff there to Chapel Point, which overlooks the Des Moines River valley. Up at the top, there are a few reflections, a few stories, we sing ''This Is My Father's World'' and then Stan Moffitt of Boone plays taps on his bugle.
[FOR THE STORY & MORE PHOTOS
IN LARGER FORMAT, CLICK HERE.]
with the Offenburgers
Chuck Offenburger was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins follicular lymphoma cancer on July 10, 2009, had six months of chemotherapy & started a maintenance program. Carla Offenburger underwent surgery on April 26, 2010, for removal of a jaw tumor which was found to contain adenoid cystic carcinoma cancer. She underwent six weeks of follow-up radiation in June and July, 2010. Since then she has returned to good health, but she continues to have close medical observation. Two days after Carla finished radiation, Chuck noticed a pain in his left hip, and within days, a small mass near his tailbone was diagnosed as more aggressive large-cell lymphoma. In the fall of 2010, he underwent intensive chemotherapy, and had a stem cells transplant in November, with follow-up radiation in January, 2011. Since then he's been doing well, too, but continues to have regular check-ups. We post updates frequently here, including brief insights from Chuck, Carla and at least one of you readers.
''Hi, Chuck & Carla. I'm so incredibly happy for you guys, and hope for many more years of good reports.''
FOR THE LATEST UPDATE,
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THE
BLACK & WHITE SADDLE SHOES?
CLICK HERE FOR THE STORY OF OUR FARM IN GREENE COUNTY, IOWA.
Here's looking at life
at Simple Serenity Farm
Recently on Facebook, we posted this photo and asked, ''What do this 1960s bicycle, 2002 Chrysler and 1900 barn all have in common, besides being at our farm in west central Iowa?'' People had some interesting and fun guesses and comments.
FOR THE STORY & MORE PHOTOS
IN LARGER FORMAT, CLICK HERE.]
latest book on sports
legend Gary Thompson
''GARY THOMPSON: All-American'' is the new, 352-page biography of one of the state's genuine sports icons. From 1950-'53 Gary Thompson led the Roland Rockets to high school sports glory in basketball and baseball, giant-killers from one of Iowa's small schools. Then he led the Cyclones at Iowa State from 1953-'57, becoming the college's first two-sport All-American. He's had major success in broadcasting and business, from his home base in Ames. And he and his wife Janet have a family as solid as they come. "I'm the luckiest guy around," Thompson says.
CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS
Our Partners & Patrons
Iowa Hall of Pride
Sam's Barber Shop
Douglas T. Bates III, Attorney
KMA Radio's ''Dean & Don Show''
The Monks of New Melleray Abbey
Want to Reprint?
Chuck Offenburger's columns
Christie Vilsack's columns
Carla Offenburger's columns
Carla's book reviews
Life at Offenburgers'
Simple Serenity Farm
Our Iowa News Digest
Along Our Way
Out in Greene County, Iowa
Marching with the “finest small college band in the land” at the College of Wooster in Ohio
By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
October 22, 2008
They call it “The Finest Small College Band in the Land,” and I’ve sure never seen or heard one better.
The 152-member Marching Scots band of the College of Wooster here in northeast Ohio turns out in unusual uniforms that reflect the school’s Scottish and Presbyterian heritage – tartan kilts with hand-sewn pleats, matching Argyle-style knee socks, smart military-style jackets, horsehair purses (once used by the Scottish to carry food) dangling in front between their thighs, “Glengarry” caps with back streamers, and tartan capes over one shoulder.
They’ve got the full range of brass, woodwinds and drums, and they’ve also got a dozen Scots Pipers on the bagpipes and a dozen Highland Dancers.
And when they come down the street or across the field playing “Scotland the Brave” and then “Are you from Wooster?” even a stranger gets goose bumps.
Check them out in the photo gallery accompanying this column, and listen to their traditional songs by clicking here.
The Marching Scots also have a pretty good football team they’re supporting this fall, the Fighting Scots. Wooster is 5-1 after an impressive 38-13 Homecoming victory last Saturday, October 17, over Washington University, of St. Louis.
Let me tell you, if you love the whole experience of college football and marching bands and game-day Saturdays, you’ve got to do Wooster.
Here's a look at the
College of Wooster's
''Marching Scots'' band
in 23 colorful photos
|October 21, 2008|
|The 1,800-student College of Wooster in this northeast Ohio city has one of the finest and most unusual marching bands in the U.S., the 152-member ''Marching Scots'' who turn out in tartan kilts, knee socks, military jackets, tartan capes and Scottish military caps. The high-spirited troupe also plays exceptionally well. It makes Wooster's Fighting Scots' home football games one of the most fun college sports experiences in America. Here the story is told in 22 colorful photos of last Saturday's performance around the 38-13 Homecoming victory over the Washington University Bears of St. Louis.|
CLICK HERE FOR THE STORY IN PHOTOS.
I’ve seen the Big 10. I’ve seen the Big 12. I’ve seen the SEC. I’ve seen the Pac 10. Wooster is more fun.
And it’s a $5 admission ticket.
Specifically, you’ve never seen a marching band and a football team playing so well off each other as here.
“You know, in a lot of colleges and high schools across the country, the kids in the band are kind of ignored or looked-down-on, called the ‘band geeks’ and all that,” said Wooster band director Nancy Ditmer, 58, in her 25th year at the school. “Not here. Our kids, when they come in new, are blown away at the acceptance the band has on campus, and by how band members are looked-up-to here.
“And we have just a great relationship with our football coaches and players. I got a note Monday morning from our head coach, Mike Schmitz, thanking us for our Homecoming performance. The football players – in fact all the athletes on campus – all know me by name and know most of our band members, too. There’s a lot of respect, back and forth. And in a couple of weeks when we have our annual marching band concert, Coach Schmitz will come over and conduct the band doing the fight song, ‘Black & Gold’ during the concert.”
On football Saturdays, the band gathers three hours before kickoff to warm-up in and outside of Scheide Music Center. Thirty minutes before game time, they form up in an alley, then march a loop through campus, with Wooster fans lining the streets and sidewalks along the way to watch, listen and cheer them along their way.
The band marches down a hillside of a natural bowl into the football stadium, plays a pre-game show and then forms a “tunnel” out on the field. Then the bagpipers go back to the hilltop to lead the Fighting Scots football team down to do battle. When the game ends, the pipers and drums circle the team huddle on the field, for another round of “Scotland the Brave” and then the team boisterously sings “Black & Gold.”
If you love bands, and especially marching bands, it’s a thrill seeing a program like this thriving at a small liberal arts college like Wooster, which has an enrollment of 1,800 and competes in the NCAA’s Division III sports.
Most small colleges across the country have dropped their marching band programs, bowing to rising costs for equipment, uniforms and transportation. I think the only marching band left at a private college or university in Iowa is at Drake University in Des Moines, but that’s a NCAA Division I school in all sports except football.
Wooster is the only college in its North Coast Athletic Conference that still has a marching band, and Ditmer says among Ohio’s “38 or 39 private colleges, only five of us have marching bands – Ohio Northern, Otterbein, Mount Union, Malone and Wooster.”
She continued that “the main reason for schools not having marching bands is because it’s so darned expensive to start and maintain one. It’s a very expensive endeavor. One college in Ohio was getting a big donation if they’d start a marching band, and they were asking me what the costs would be. I did some figuring, and I think the bare minimum start-up cost now would be $350,000 – for your instruments, uniforms and other equipment – and it’d be significantly more if you add travel.”
She said the Marching Scots used to do one away football game each season, but they’ve given that up because of the costs of transportation. “As our band has grown, we’ve now reached the point where it takes three buses to move us,” Ditmer said. “It’s roughly $1,000 per bus, so it gets expensive in a hurry. Now, the one trip we do every fall is to go to a high school band festival in the area here where we are the guest performers. We love doing that, and one reason is that we’re playing for 1,000 or more prospective students.”
She said there is no separate Wooster marching band budget, “but it’d probably be $40,000 a year, and that’s not counting staff salaries, since we’re paid for our work in the Music Department.” She said they spend $10,000 each year from an endowed fund to upgrade uniforms.
So how has Wooster’s marching band program stayed so strong?
First, there have been only two directors in nearly 60 years. The late Stuart Ling, who died earlier this year in his 90s, directed the band from 1949 until 1984. Then Ditmer took over after her graduate work at the University of Iowa, and has been in charge ever since.
|So what was it that led|
to the Wooster band?
|October 22, 2008|
|How the heck did Chuck Offenburger ever hear about the College of Wooster “Marching Scots” band, and what an attraction it is?|
“My favorite Scotsman told me,” Offenburger said.
“I had a great friend, Dr. John Kelley MacGregor, in Mason City, Ia., who was about as Scottish as a guy could get. He loved his Scot heritage. He did not go to the College of Wooster himself, but years ago, he was married to a Wooster graduate. As life went on, it turned out that two of Doc’s grandkids in Mason City, Katie and Jay MacGregor, decided they wanted to go to Wooster, and both of them were in the band. Doc and his wife Ann visited Katie and Jay in Wooster several times.”
Dr. Katie MacGregor Lervick, 33, is now a dentist in the Twin Cities. Dr. Jay MacGregor, 30, is in his third year of surgical residency in Fargo, North Dakota.
Offenburger said that John MacGregor, “knowing how much of a nut I am for marching bands, told me that sometime I just had to get to a football game at the College of Wooster so I could see their band. That was 10 or 12 years ago, and I finally made it. It was even better than I could have imagined.”
Dr. MacGregor died in 2003.
“The only thing that could have made this trip more fun was if Doc and Ann could have been here with Carla and me,” Offenburger said. “But if that had happened, the good folks of Wooster probably would have had to wind up running us out of town, just to get us to leave.”
When she was at Iowa, she was a graduate assistant with the Hawkeye Marching Band.
“I’m an Ohio native, and did my undergraduate work at Capital University in Columbus here,” Ditmer said. “Then I started teaching in public schools in Ohio, and I got to know Myron Welch, who was director of bands at Wright State University in Dayton. He moved on to become director of bands at Iowa, and that’s why I wound up going there, too. I did two years with the marching band, and then a year with the music education program. I got my master’s at Iowa, and I did everything toward my doctorate except my dissertation.”
There is a lot of the Hawkeye band’s style and sound in the Wooster band, even now, 25 years later.
In addition to the traditional Wooster songs, the Marching Scots also do a lot of new arrangements of old rock ’n’ roll songs – pieces by such rockers as Santana, Ozzy Osbourne, Van Halen, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Nirvana and Bon Jovi.
In fact, a number of the arrangements in the Wooster band’s “rock” repertoire have been done by David Woodley, who now is an Indiana University professor of music and director of the “Marching Hundred” in football season and the Big Red Basketball Band. When Ditmer was a graduate assistant at Iowa, Woodley, who grew up in Winterset in central Iowa, was the drum major in the Hawkeye Marching Band.
“I had heard of the Wooster band and their tradition many years ago,” Woodley told me this week, “and I’m very happy to see that tradition continue. In an athletic world where bands are squeezed out quite often by marketing guys who don’t understand tradition, it’s great that a band like theirs can continue at a high level of performance and interest, and remain strong.
“I have always wanted to hear the Wooster band, since I have from time to time provided some music for them,” Woodley continued. “Playing Ozzy Osbourne in a kilt must be a hoot!”
In 1984, when Ling was retiring at Wooster, Ditmer decided to apply.
“It seemed to be a good fit for me, because I’m an Ohio person and I come from a family that has a long history in private higher education,” she said. “I was somewhat concerned about following a legend, of course. But the position was ‘director of bands and coordinator of music education’ – and it was a rare opportunity to work in both areas that I’d done my graduate work in. So here I came, a 34-year-old replacing a 66-year-old. I did it the way I’ve always taken on challenges in my life – I jumped in head-first and did what I needed to do with as much zeal and enthusiasm as I could.
“I think the stars were lined up just right for all that, because the transition was much easier than I expected it to be,” Ditmer continued. “I was blessed with a large group of freshmen students that year, and the band almost doubled in size between Stuart’s last year and my first one. I put 82 people on the field that first year, and people were really excited – both at the college and in the community. We created a lot of ‘buzz’ about the band that year.”
All students can be in the marching band – you only have to audition to be in the college’s symphonic band – and Ditmer has seen it grow as large as 180 members.
“I was on sabbatical last year, so I didn’t get to talk to as many prospective students as I normally do,” she said. “That’s why we’re down to 152 this fall, but the truth is, 180 people really gets to be too many. About 160 to 170 seem just right for us here.”
Of course, everyone wonders about how difficult it must be to persuade young collegians – especially the men – that wearing a kilt can be an O.K. thing.
“I did worry at first that it would be hard to sell young men on the idea of wearing a kilt,” Ditmer said, “but it’s turned out to be quite the opposite. First, the kids learn about the tradition – that the Wooster band has been wearing the Scottish uniforms since about 1940, and it’s our heritage. Second, everybody seems to like the idea that this is not just like the band uniform you wore back in high school – it’s something different and unique.”
Brett Dawson, a sophomore who played tenor sax in his first year but is now one of three drum majors with the Marching Scots, said all the band’s traditions “are an easy sell to prospective students. I know when I looked here, I loved that the entire school is just surrounded by tradition.
“But the uniforms are a different question, at least at first. They take a little breaking-in, just because most guys aren’t used to having something on that’s so like a skirt. After the first game, though, putting on the kilt becomes second nature to most. I’ve actually grown to love the kilt.”
Ditto, says Andy Gress, a senior who is the band president in addition to being the tuba section leader.
“When I first saw the uniform, I was unsure of what to think,” Gress said. “Having been a Boy Scout for the majority of my life, the high socks weren’t a real issue. The hardest part to adjust to in the uniform was in fact the ‘sporran,’ which hangs in front of you and helps keep the kilt closed. In all honestly, after wearing a kilt for five minutes, I realized it was quite comfortable and have since then considered purchasing one for myself.”
Wearing your own kilt around, say, Cleveland or Chicago or New York in years to come, would sure be an easy way to provide an answer to the question, “Are you from Wooster?”
Carla and Chuck Offenburger joined in the Homecoming fun at the College of Wooster in Ohio.
You can write the columnist at chuck@Offenburger.com.