COLUMBUS — In honor of this year’s 50th anniversary celebration of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the Ohio State University marching band performed the halftime show “One Giant Leap” on Saturday, Oct. 5, on the home field of Ohio Stadium in Columbus when playing against Michigan State University.
According to Evan Drexler, Communications Manager for the Ohio State University Marching Band, “We are blown away by the response to this halftime show locally, nationally and globally. The show received national attention from ESPN, Yahoo Sports, The Weather Channel, as well as television stations in Spain and Japan.” Both Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins (the two living former members of the Apollo 11 crew) also “saw and enjoyed” an airing of the halftime show, Drexler reported. Not limited to terrestrial airings, the show was seen in space as well. “Astronaut Doug Wheelock confirmed to us via Twitter direct message that the six current astronauts in the International Space Station have seen our show.”
In short, the show was enormously popular, having received, in its various incarnations, more than 20 million views on social media.
Neil Armstrong himself participated in marching band in high school and college. Many other members of the Armstrong family are musically inclined and likely appreciated this musical tribute. Armstrong’s youngest son, Mark created a song honoring his father, “Flight of Fancy,” with his daughter, Kali. Neil’s oldest son, Rick, who plays in the band Edison’s Children which opened for Alan Parsons Live Project this past summer, said this was a “wonderfully creative performance once again by the OSU band!”
This halftime show’s music selections and formations are attributed to Christopher Hoch, Director of Marching & Athletic Bands, with the assistance of Timothy Gorgas (musical arrangement) and Brian Stevens (formation design).
Drexler indicated a total of 240 students were involved in pulling off this amazing show. 195 band members participated on the field during the halftime show and an additional 33 band members and 12 student staff assisted the performance by managing the flags, banners, fireworks, and fire extinguishers.
Avery Voress, from Sidney, is a sousaphone player in the Ohio State University Marching Band.
“I am so proud to be here and representing Sidney. I think it’s been over a decade since a Sidney alum has been in the OSUMB, and I’m extremely proud to be one of those members who made it and can represent my hometown,” Voress said.
During the show’s development, Voress knew it would be a success, not only due to its Apollo 11 theme but the patriotic element that would push it over the top with fans. “When I saw the formations on paper, I was like, ‘Man this is going to be a really cool show.’ At first, I thought it was going to be just a space show in general, but it had a patriotic theme along with it that was icing on the cake and got a great reaction. It was awesome to be a part of.”
After the OSU marching band took their initial position on the field between the 0 and 30 yard lines, the announcer’s voice (Wesley Clark) boomed over the PA system: “Ladies and gentlemen, 50 years ago this past July, Ohio native and astronaut Neil Armstrong, along with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, hoped to unite a divided nation when they landed on the moon. Their actions helped to echo President Kennedy’s bold challenge to our nation.” A clip of Kennedy’s voice from his famous “We choose to go to the moon” Rice University speech followed. Next, transitioning into Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” the band glided across the field, neatly spacing themselves between the 5- and 50-yard lines, in the shape of a waving American flag.
“In 1957, the Russians launched Sputnik,” Clark narrated. “But NASA quickly joined the Space Race, blasting off on Saturn V for an exploration of the moon.” To the sound of Gustav Holst’s “Jupiter,” an elaborate “Space Race” formation involved two rockets headed across the field to the end zone, each rocket displaying a flag. The Russian rocket lead the American one but was overtaken around the 50-yard line.
The next formation involved a Saturn V rocket lifting off toward a crescent moon, complete with fire extinguishers to simulate the rocket’s exhaust during its launch from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
“With Neil Armstrong first uttering the words ‘The Eagle has landed,’ Americans became first to set foot on the moon,” Clark said.
The main theme music, ““Breaking the Sound Barrier” from The Right Stuff film began playing, perhaps representing the challenging work and the nearly superhuman qualities required of astronauts to accomplish these feats during NASA’s early space program from Mercury through Gemini. The change in music cued band members to quickly assemble into the image of a backpack-wearing astronaut tethered to a rocket, representing a spacewalk.
As the Space Race heated up, on March 18, 1965, cosmonaut Alexi Leonov performed the first spacewalk in history. Leonov died five days after this OSU halftime show on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, at the age of 85. Ed White became the first American to perform a spacewalk nearly two months after Leonov on June 3, 1965m during the Gemini 4 mission. Michael Collins (Gemini 10) and Buzz Aldrin (Gemini 12) also performed spacewalks in preparation for the moon landing.
Hoping to surpass the Soviet accomplishments which had, until now, been beating Americans to each milestone, Kennedy planned the first manned moon landing, which NASA would later select the three-person crew comprised of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. The next formation became stars and stripes, indicative of the American spirit needed to fuel this nation’s dramatic comeback from behind to ultimately win the Space Race. Student staff next unfurled a lunar surface banner along the sideline. From the star formation emerged the spider-like Eagle lunar lander that gradually floated down to it, performing a smooth landing.
A recording of Neil Armstrong’s voice uttering his famous words, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” played next. Between the center O on the field and the Buckeye end zone stood an astronaut planting a “waving” American flag on the moon, followed by “The Landing,” which won a Golden Globe for Best Original Score for a Motion Picture in the Academy Award-winning film First Man.
James R. Hansen, the biographer who Neil Armstrong selected to write his life story which became the basis of the First Man film, after seeing the video of the halftime show said, “I teared up through much of this, as this was the stadium in which I wore cap and gown on my Ph.D. graduation day with all my family there. To hear some of the beautiful musical score from First Man (“The Landing”) played by the OSU marching band was just fantastic!”
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.