Momentous Marching Moments

Mike Lawson • Performance • August 1, 2003

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Fans of college marching bands know just by watching the halftime show that the musicians on the field are talented, entertaining and athletic. But many of these college marching bands have more than school spirit, professionalism and showmanship on their side. Each year’s batch of marching band members must follow in the footsteps and uphold the traditions of their predecessors.

So what, exactly, do these bands have to look up to? SBO dug into the colorful histories of some the country’s favorite college marching bands to find out.

Marching Band ‘Firsts’

The Million Dollar Marching Band at Alabama University boasts the first female college marching band director in the country – Kathryn Scott. She made this historic breakthrough in 1985.

The University of Arizona “Pride of Arizona” Marching Band performed at the first Super Bowl in 1967.

The University of Arkansas Razorback Marching Band is one of the oldest collegiate bands in the country. It was originally formed in 1874 as the Cadet Corps Band, during the university’s fourth year of operation.

The University of Florida’s Fighting Gator Marching Band, the “Pride of the Sunshine,” is known as Florida’s first marching band.

The University of Michigan Marching Band received the first Sudler Trophy in 1982 – the first year it was awarded. The Sudler Marching Band Trophy, which is awarded annually, symbolizes the highest honor a college marching band can receive.

Texas Tech University’s “Goin’ Band from Raiderland” is credited as the first band to have its halftime show broadcast over the radio and the first band to perform a halftime show in the Big 12 Athletic Conference.

A Claim to Fame

The UCLA Bruin Marching Band has been featured in several movies and television shows, including the 1969 film “Hello, Dolly,” the 1994 movie, “Legends of the Fall,” and the 1998 comedy, “The Water Boy.” The band also starred as the German Army in 1983′s “To Be or Not To Be,” and, in 1969, was the first college band to appear on stage during the Academy Awards.

The University of Southern California “The Spirit of Troy” Trojan Marching Band has performed with Fleetwood Mac twice – in 1979 on the album “Tusk” and again in 1997 for the reunion concert and the album “The Dance.” They’ve performed at the Academy Awards twice, including the 2001 performance of “Blame Canada” with Robin Williams.


The University of California “Pride of California” Marching Band is one of the few bands in the nation that still marches the traditional and high-step forms.

Before every home game, the University of Georgia Redcoat Marching Band marches to “The Chant.” An excerpt: “Hey, what’s that comin’ down the track? A huge machine that’s red and black. Ain’t nothin’ finer in the land than the Georgia Redcoat Marching Band!”

For the University of Kansas Marching Jayhawks, the pre-game festivities begin with the band’s traditional “Run-In.” Band members run into the center of the stadium from nine different tunnels and then begin the show.

The University of Minnesota Marching Band presented its original “Block M” formation – which is now the symbol of the university – during a halftime show in 1910.

The Pennsylvania Marching Blue Band debuted one of its most famous traditions in 1972 – the Drum Major Flip. Performed during the pre-game fanfare, the flip begins with the drum major strutting down the field and going directly into a front flip. Then the drum major lands in a split and salutes the crowd.

The University of Washington Husky Marching Band is credited with the creation of “The Wave” fan phenomenon at a 1981 homecoming game against Stanford University.

Odds and Ends

The Baylor University Golden Wave Marching Band got its name 70 years ago from a reporter’s account of the band’s movement across the field while wearing new golden-colored uniforms.

When the Indiana University campus was converted into a training camp during World War I, The Marching Hundred played a significant role in drilling American soldiers.

Oklahoma State University’s Cowboy Marching Band was established in 1905 by a student, Harry Dean, who gathered 22 fellow students to form a band to represent the university at athletic events and other occasions.

According to its Web site, the University of South Carolina’s Carolina Band members march an estimated 250 miles during the year (post-season is extra) and perform before more than 700,000 people in one season.

At Texas A&M University, members of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band belong to the university’s Corps of Cadets. Band members live and eat together; they are housed together as a unit of the corps.

Members of Vanderbilt University’s “Spirit of Gold” Marching Band take home some gold of their own. Those who successfully complete the season are awarded a scholarship for their participation.

The University of Wisconsin “Badger” Band pre-dated the school’s football team by nine years. Starting with 11 members, the band was created as a fife and drum corps to play for battalion drills.

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