Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
COLUMBUS — Tears of joy flowed down Olivia Spradlin’s face.
It was a feeling she had never felt before and one that lasted for several days afterwards.
She had just heard her name called in a room full of her peers. The announcement meant her hard work had paid its dividends and that a dream had become a reality.
Olivia, a Paint Valley graduate, had just been named the newest member of The Ohio State University Marching Band. She remembers the moment like it was yesterday.
“We all stood in the band room and the list of names of who made the band were read off,” she recalled. “I remember everyone holding hands while we were standing there and it was so quiet. You could hear people breathing. Many started sobbing after their name was called, including me.”
It’s one thing to make the band in general but Olivia had done so as a freshman, warranting her tears.
“After making the band, I didn’t stop crying for several days because all of the hard work had paid off,” she said. “It didn’t feel quite real until my first ramp, but my upperclassman friends said that’s normal.”
Her journey into joining “The Best Damn Band in the Land” was anything but easy. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that most people don’t know what the process actually entails.
Prospective band members attend two weekly summer sessions starting in early June, practicing fundamentals and getting ready for tryouts.
Then, they enter “candidate days,” where instrumentalists who have never made the band practice for two straight days under the supervision of selected squad members. This creates a fair chance for newcomers battling against veterans for spots in the group.
The next two days after that are tryouts, where the first day consists of a music audition and two marching sessions while the next features two additional marching sessions with first cuts sandwiched between them.
Later that night, the names who are left gather in the band room for a final reveal. That’s where Olivia heard her name called.
“The most challenging part of the whole process was the physical endurance while getting through the week of tryouts,” she said. “I remember my Apple Watch recorded 20,000 steps for just six hours of practice. Especially for candidates, it was very challenging to endure because of candidate days. But they make it like that on purpose so they can see who truly has grit and who wants it the most.”
Olivia, obviously, wanted it as bad or more than any of her competitors. But she’s always had a competitive spirit.
She graduated as her class Salutatorian at Paint Valley while playing horn in the school’s band and participating on the track team. She also played an imperative role in PV’s first-ever trip to a state concert band competition in April 2017.
Now, she’s pursuing a Psychology degree at Ohio State with a minor in Neuroscience … and she marches in front of thousands of rabid football fans each Saturday.
But her small town roots will always be there, no matter the challenge and no matter the audience.
“Coming from a small community and being able to be a part of something like this makes me so proud,” she said. “Anyone else can do it, too. It just goes to show that anyone can do anything they want to as long as they’re willing to put the work in.”
While she’s obtaining success, make no mistake about it, she’s also having fun along the way.
She credits her favorite moments so far as Ohio State’s night game against Michigan State in Columbus and, of course, playing in Ann Arbor, Mich. at the Big House.
“Coming down the ramp and hearing 100,000+ people cheering just for you is a feeling I can’t describe,” she said. “The energy is incredible. Playing Carmen Ohio at the end of a game and hearing the whole crowd and team sing along makes me feel so at home as a Buckeye. I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for the entire world. [Playing in Ann Arbor] was probably the most fun I’ve ever had. It was very intense and getting booed during Script Ohio was surprisingly fun.”
Next up on her agenda is a trip to Glendale, Ariz. where Ohio State will meet with Clemson in a College Football Playoff Semifinal, playing in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 28.
While the Buckeyes and Tigers will get after each other on the field, Olivia will get after it with her bandmates.
She’ll do so representing a hometown that’s gleaming with pride. It’s earned recognition after working her tail off to get to where she is, and there’s no sign of her stopping anytime soon.
The sky is Olivia Spradlin’s limit.
“Having to work a little harder for the things you want makes it that much more special, and I take pride in working for everything I have. I’ve earned this and I’m so proud of myself,” she said. “My parents and teachers have always pushed me to be the best I can be, and without them I never would’ve learned how to feel uncomfortable in order to grow. I always try to keep in mind that if I’m always living in my comfort zone, I’ll never get better as a person, and I’ll never reach my goals. I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for the world.”