The Ohio University Marching 110 is a group with tradition rooted at its core. While change isn’t normally found in the band’s vocabulary, this year’s season makes a welcomed exception.
Sophia Medvid, a senior studying engineering physics, is the first female field commander in Marching 110 history, the highest student-held position in the band. She served as the mellophone section leader for the band’s 2018 season, and has been a member of the Spirit of Atlanta Drum and Bugle Corps, a World Class competitive drum and bugle corps the past four summers.
Unlike many schools that use the same term for the student who conducts the band, the Marching 110 field commander does not conduct the ensemble during performances. Medvid’s primary responsibility takes place off the field, where she teaches the fundamental marching technique of the band to new members.
When Medvid found out she was chosen as the next field commander for the band’s 2019 season, she was hit with a whirlwind of emotions, some of which were of disbelief.
“It’s just a big honor to be bestowed on anyone,” Medvid, who plays the mellophone in the Marching 110, said. “Like, I didn’t think it’d be me just out of humility's sake. But I was also super excited because I had worked for three years hoping I would at least have a chance.”
From the get-go, Medvid knew she wanted to be a motivational voice for the band, encouraging them when morale is low, while also inspiring them to do better along the way.
“I really wanted the band to feel like a family this year, and everyone in the band, whether they’re a freshman or a fifth year, we treat everybody with respect, that way it’s a positive mindset on the field,” Medvid said.
Being the first in anything comes with some added pressure. For Medvid, most of her worries came from the Marching 110’s history of women in the band. In 1967, all women were removed from the band and it became the “Marching Men of Ohio,” but controversy quickly arose over the removal. It wasn’t until 1975 that women were readmitted into the marching band, retaining the name "Marching 110."
With that in mind, Medvid was nervous about what alumni would think, but after the first week of training, all her worries faded away.
“Once I got in front of the band I could feel that respect,” Medvid said. “It made no difference whether I was female or not. A lot of the previous field commanders dating back to the ‘70s have even reached out and told me they are supporting me, and it’s just been really great.”
On top of classes, playing her mellophone and commanding the band, Medvid has yet to find it difficult to balance a position she cares so much about.
“I thought it would be a real challenge to balance school and be a field commander, but I’m so passionate about it that it actually hasn’t been an issue yet,” Medvid said. “I think I’m just so excited to get on the field each day that nothing really stands in my way.”
That type of passion for the position is what eventually led Dr. Richard Suk, the director of the Marching 110, to choose Medvid as this season’s field commander.
The process of choosing a field commander is a three-year process. Suk, along with other assistant directors, observe all the members of the band as the season's progress. It’s not until a member’s fourth or fifth year that they’re considered for the position. While Suk’s decision to choose Medvid as this year’s field commander is making 110 history, he did not choose her because she was female.
“I get a little irritated when people say, ‘Well it’s about time,’ because it’s always been about time,” Suk said. “It’s just finding the right person, and nobody was selected because they were male or female.”
Despite the backlash Suk might receive, the band itself, generally, is always pleased with his choice of the field commander.
“I’ve never had anyone in 23 years come to me and say, ‘You’ve picked the wrong person,’” Suk said.
Medvid is no exception to that. Suk is impressed with her role in the band, and her ability to conjure respect, while also being someone the entire band looks up to.
“She’s somebody who walks the walk and talks the talk. She’s good, and she won’t tell you she’s good, she’ll just show you,” Suk said. “Her level of expectation is really high for the band and she inspires them to do better because they want to achieve and they don’t want to disappoint her.”
Slade Denman, a graduate student studying music education, assists the 110, seeing firsthand the effect Medvid has on the band, and is just as impressed with her as everyone else.
“She’s awesome,” Denman said. “As far as motivational speaking goes, she’s probably the best one that I’ve ever seen, even in my time when I was in the 110.”