Anyone who’s been there knows the sight: 107,000 fans cheering to the roar of the snare drums as an odd character in a scarlet vest and a tall, furry hat sprints out of the bowels of Ohio Stadium.
It’s the Ohio State University’s Marching Band, led by a single person: a drum major. And that’s the dream of one Fairmont student.
Junior Ty Nichols crossed enemy lines, transitioning from Archbishop Alter High School to Fairmont this fall. It was the one of the first steps he took toward his goal of leading the “Pride of the Buckeyes” out of the tunnel.
“The possibility of becoming a drum major at a large school was enticing,” Nichols said. “My favorite thing about Fairmont is how large it actually is.”
Nichols started baton twirling in the 8th grade. “I basically started by going to Ohio State’s summer sessions,” Nichols said. “That’s when I first learned how to twirl. I’ve put in more hours than I can even count.”
Aside from senior drum majors Holly Mercs, Sammie Dalton, Maria Campanella and Abbie Currier at their podiums, Nichols is defined as the field drum major, who also takes on baton twirling while leading. Drum majors who also twirl have a number of responsibilities, from leading the band’s marches, to making sure they hit their spots and also, in Nichols’ opinion, leading the performance.
“The drum major, to me, is someone who gets to put on a show,” he said. “Being in front of the home stands feels pretty surreal.”
Though the junior drum major has experienced a handful of hazing comments for being a male baton twirler, he has broken down the barrier by showcasing his raw talent.
“At the beginning, it was hard. People didn’t really understand,” Nichols said. “But now I hear the student section chant my name [during the halftime show], and it’s just crazy.”
Nichols’ relationship with the Fairmont band program extends past just his first year as a Firebird.
“Tyler is actually one of my neighbors,” said Michael Berning, Fairmont High’s Marching Band director. “I’ve known Tyler since he was 8 years old, and he’s always been a talented musician.”
Berning acknowledges Nichols’ character as being the leader of the Marching Band. “Tyler’s been very humble about everything. He’s just another part of the band besides twirling a baton,” Berning said.
The city of Kettering has not had a claim to college football fame since Fairmont West graduate Brady Hoke took over the head coaching job at the University of Michigan in 2011. Nichols seems to be well on his way to being the next furry-hatted legacy who leaves his name in Fairmont history.
“I’ve been looking for someone to do this after I’m done here,” Nichols said. “It’s almost hard to believe that I’ve gotten to where I am, and that I’m on my way to where I want to be.”