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students perform on a stage during a band competition

Battle of the Bands gives students opportunity to perform in front of live audience

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Media Contact: Jordan Bishop | Editor | 405-744-7193 |

While a microbiology student might go to a lab for real-world experience, music students at Oklahoma State University can participate in Battle of the Bands.

battle of the bands trophys
Students compete for the best original song and best band.

Battle of the Bands at OSU stems from an ensemble class for students who want an alternative, or as an additional outlet, to performing classical or jazz music. Music industry majors are required to take six ensemble classes, and they can also participate in Battle of the Bands multiple semesters in a row. Students get placed into their bands and then compete in front of an audience and a panel of judges, which this semester consisted of First Cowboy Darren Shrum, Jim Beckstrom, Ruth Walker, Jonathan Drummond and Kami Koontz. 

Dr. Mark Perry, director of the music industry program, said OSU has one of the best recording studios in the state and that he tries to push students both in the studio and on the stage to create original music.

“This is basically the laboratory to practice live music,” Perry said. “We put them in situations where they have to work with other people and play music that’s not what they would normally play. What I want to push both in the recording and the performance is original music. Every band had to do an original song.”

This semester’s show lasted around four hours with seven bands performing at the Stillwater Community Center. 

Students — randomly split into bands based on their instruments — consisted of a drummer, guitarist, bassist and singer in almost every group. Among them, some participants were more experienced as they participated in the competition in previous semesters. 

Jessie Fish, a music industry junior and lead singer of Jamarcus Perry’s Legion of Rats — the winning band this year — said they have been competing in Battle of the Bands since the beginning. 

“I’ve been doing this since the first semester it was offered,” Fish said. “That was back when we didn’t have a real venue. We performed on a trailer stage in one of our professor’s backyards. It’s fun every year, and it doesn’t matter if you win or don’t because you get to spend a semester meeting new people and jamming with them.”

As the program grows, it opens up more and more opportunities for students. Poke U Records, OSU’s record label, allows music industry students to practice working in the recording industry. MJ Baker, a music industry freshman, wrote “Brimstone,” which was voted the best song this semester, and she’s now going to record the song with Poke U. 

Baker said she’s excited for the opportunity to take on new experiences and continue to grow as a songwriter.

“I normally tend to write melody and lyrics at the same time,” Baker said. “I try to put an emphasis on lyrics because they’re important to me.”

Battle of the Bands takes place every semester at OSU, and everyone is welcome to stop by to watch the free show. Having an audience gives performing students a better opportunity to see what they might be experiencing in the future, so Perry encourages students, faculty and other Stillwater residents to attend.

“A lot of times, it’s just word of mouth,” Fish said. “We do our best to advertise it, but I feel like it often slips under the radar. It happens every semester, and it’s a free live music fix. It’s your colleagues and peers, so it’s always worth it.”

Story By: Mak Vandruff |

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