University of Wisconsin Marching Band

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The University of Wisconsin Marching Band
School University of Wisconsin–Madison
Location Madison, Wisconsin
Conference Big Ten
Founded 1885
Director Michael Leckrone
Assistant director Darin Olson
Members 315
Fight song "On, Wisconsin!"
Uniform White hat with red/white plume, red jacket with red/white overlay with W logos, black pants, black shoes with white spats.

The University of Wisconsin Marching Band is the marching band for the University of Wisconsin–Madison. It was formed in the fall of 1885 to support the military battalion. Today, it has grown to about 300 members and performs at all Badger home football games.


Band on Langdon Street in front of the Armory, circa 1910
Performing in Los Angeles, CA in 1962 during a trip to Pasadena, CA for the 1963 Rose Bowl
First Female Drum Major, Dee Willems, in 1989.
Performing at Camp Randall Stadium for a football game

The University of Wisconsin Marching Band was created in 1885 as the Wisconsin Regimental Band. Previously, the University Military Battalion had marched to only a drum and the Battalion commandant, Major Chase, stressed in 1883 that there was a "need for a fife and drum corps to play for the Battalion drills." The first band consisted of 11 members, with two or three more joining before the year ended. It was not until 1894 that the 26 members of the University Band began playing at football games.

In September 1928, it was announced that all football engagements would be handled by 100 men, to relieve the strain from concert performers. This was the beginning of the current band. Under Edson W. Morphy, the "Second Band" became more active with athletic department events. In 1934, the band gained a new director, Raymond F. Dvorak, a veteran of the Goldman and Sousa bands. Dvorak changed the band in many ways, including expanding it to 120 marchers, introducing new steps, creating the run-on entrance to the pre-game, and developing animated formations.[1] He also introduced the arm-waving tradition during the singing of Wisconsin's alma mater, Varsity. When the Badger football team qualified for the 1963 Rose Bowl, the band was still wearing uniforms based on Marine Corps Dress Blues, with a broad red stripe down the leg. Lacking time to order and manufacture new uniforms, the band wore white duck pants for the Rose Parade, causing at least one wag to call them "Salvation Army milkmen". The fall of 1963 saw the introduction of cardinal and white uniforms that have characterized the band's look ever since. In the 1960s, Dvorak hired James Christenson as a conductor. He eventually moved on to a career with Disney.

In 1969, the band hired a successor to Dvorak, Mike Leckrone. Leckrone expanded the marching band's membership and popularity during the Vietnam War era, a time when the band's connotative association with the military had become unpopular among some students.[citation needed] Women were first eligible to join the marching band in 1974, enabling a major expansion of membership. Leckrone introduced a physically demanding style of marching and playing, which required much more athleticism and physical conditioning. He required every member to attend Registration Week fundamental drills to develop a more physically demanding marching step, updated the pre-game "run-on," Dvorak had introduced, filmed every performance, and scheduled viewing sessions in which he provided feedback. Leckrone's band played a repertoire of Badger songs and tunes, creatively arranging and weaving them into field-show programming. Their 1812 Overture morphs into On Wisconsin before the very ears of the crowd.

During Leckrone's first decades, the Badger marching band was on the ascendancy[citation needed] as the football team was in decline, mired near the bottom of the Big Ten. Half-time shows maintained interest in the Saturday afternoon festivities, and the band's "fifth quarter" performances kept fans in the stands after the games ended.

Auditions and membership[edit]

At the end of August returning and prospective band members attend "Welcome" or "Registration Week" (Reg-Week), commonly known to band members as "Hell-Week". Reg-Week teaches prospective members the fundamentals of the band's marching style and serves as a period of physical conditioning. A highlight of Reg-Week is the countdowns, where members march out and back five yards at a time. Every potential member also must perform a short music-only audition for the director. Membership is not guaranteed for returning members in order to ensure that everyone works to the best of his or her ability.


The University of Wisconsin Marching Band is composed of about 300 members and divided into 28 ranks. On average, there are about 224 marchers on the field. Alternates remain on the side lines to replace injured members. The drum major is considered the primary student leader within the band. Each year, the director and field assistants select one drum major and one assistant drum major. All band members are issued silver instruments (with the exception of the school-issued clarinets that are made of white plastic). The Wisconsin marching band consists of mainly brass instruments with percussion, saxophones, and some clarinets. It does not include a color guard or a piccolo/flute section common among many traditional marching bands. Following is a list of instruments, the ranks they occupy, and the number of members for the 2011-2012 school year.


The 5th Quarter[edit]

In the University of Wisconsin Marching Band's "Fifth Quarter", the band marches onto the field, and facing the winning team's stands, plays that team's school song. They then turn, face the other side, and play that team's school song.

Thousands of spectators remain in the stands for 15 minutes after the game for the Fifth Quarter performance. Usually played are songs such as "On Wisconsin", "You've Said It All", "Space Badgers", "Dance Little Bird" (The Chicken Dance), "the Beer Barrel Polka", "Tequila", "Hey Baby", and others. The band first played "You've Said It All", also known as the "Bud" song, at hockey games during the 1972 season. The song, by New York composer Steve Karmen, had become a Budweiser advertising jingle in 1970. It became popular among Wisconsin fans when the band traveled to Boston for the 1973 NCAA men's hockey championship, where the song was played at games, on the street, and in hotel lobbies. When performed by the Wisconsin band, the advertising line at the end of the original beer ad is replaced by the line "When You Say WIS-CON-SIN, You've Said It All!"[2]

At the end of the Fifth Quarter, the band lines up once more to play "Varsity", while the spectators sing. The band then exits the field to the north entrance to perform more and to sing "It's Hard to Be Humble".

Band banquet[edit]

Begun during the 1927-28 school year by then-band director, Edson W. Morphy, and traditionally held in late November or early December, the band banquet is a formal affair, with speakers and an awards ceremony. The percussion section performs drum cadences with plates and silverware. The night ends with a slide show and the singing of Varsity.

On Wisconsin Finale[edit]

Beginning in 1974 the halftime show of the last home football game of the year is ended with On Wisconsin Finale. While playing a maestoso version of On Wisconsin, the band forms vertical lines. At once, lines expand into the letters On Wis and the band marches towards the audience, ending the performance in a knee bow.

Reversing the Caps[edit]

Entering the field for the 5th quarter with reversed hats

When the football team wins the game, the members of the band take their hats off and put them on backwards. This is an old tradition that signifies "looking back" at the victory that day.


Skyrockets are a method the Wisconsin Band has used to call attention to something, such as in announcing a song or cheer, telling a joke, or greeting someone. The sound of a skyrocket is meant to mimic a real rocket by beginning in a low hiss, followed by a short, loud "boom", then an "ahhh", and finally ending in a whistle.

Tuba March[edit]

Tuba March

At the beginning of the fourth quarter the tubas line up single file and march around the stadium, weaving in and out of the stands and concourse, playing songs such as Semper Fidelis, Beer Barrel Polka, and On Wisconsin. This tradition began in the 1950s. When athletic director Elroy Hirsch banned the tuba march in 1971, the uproar was so great that the tuba march was reinstated the following year.

Union South[edit]

One hour before every home game, the Badger Band performs a pregame concert at Union South. After playing Chorale #1, the tubas tell a joke using a skyrocket, and then the band plays On Wisconsin twice. Then the band plays an abbreviated version of the opposing school's song, the pregame concert selection, the halftime show, and finally "The Bud Song" and On Wisconsin one last time to fire up the fans. Then they march to Camp Randall Stadium.


In 2006 the band was placed on probation by then Chancellor John Wiley after its road trip to Michigan. On October 3, 2008 Leckrone announced the band would be suspended from performing because of serious hazing allegations that involved alcohol and "inappropriate sexual behavior".[3] As a result, the band missed the nationally televised game against Ohio State. It marked the first time in at least 40 years, and the first (and as of the end of the 2015 season, only) time in Leckrone's tenure as director, that the band had missed a home football game.[4] Leckrone said that although only a small number of band members were involved, because members had a "shared responsibility" to the band and the university, "the only thing I could do to send the message was to suspend." [5] A letter from UW–Madison Dean of Students, Lori Berquam, to parents of band members, stated that "Some allegations include but are not limited to: being forced or pressured to have their hair cut in a way that is not flattering; being forced or pressured to eat something disgusting; being sexually fondled against their will; being forced or pressured to drink alcohol or other concoctions that may contain alcohol." Berquam later stated, "I regret the allegation of sexual fondling was misrepresented as confirmed fact in some news reports. We have nothing to substantiate that allegation."[6] The Wisconsin marching band is also on probation from traveling to University of Minnesota home games because the last time the Wisconsin band traveled there members caused substantial damage to campus property, including stealing a door.

Other performances[edit]

Marching in the 2009 New Holstein parade

The band performs at other venues, such as local concerts and parades around the state of Wisconsin.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ Ask Abe Archives - Athletics, Wisconsin Alumni Association, accessed February 25, 2011
  3. ^ Scott Bauer, "Wisconsin band suspended for hazing".
  4. ^ Deborah Ziff, "Update: No replacement for suspended marching band at tonight's game", Wisconsin State Journal, 2008-10-04.
  5. ^ Patrick Marley and Jake Garza, "UW suspends band over hazing charge", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2008-10-04.
  6. ^ Todd Finkelmeyer "UW band suspension lifted, but 'culture needs to change'", The Capital Times, 2008-10-10.
  7. ^ "Appearances". UW Marching Band. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 

External links[edit]