The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.


AUTHENTIC information as to the exact date when the Michigan Band was formed is not available, because it developed as a student organization with few written records and was not accorded official recognition until it had been in existence for almost fifty years. The first reference to a band at the University is found in a quotation by a graduate of the class of 1845. He mentioned that "the University Band of nine pieces assisted to a great extent in the singing at the chapel services."

In 1858 Les Sans Souci, a musical organization composed of some fifteen students who made ensemble music their hobby, was organized. It was this group that first took the name of the Michigan Band. It is recorded that in the office of Robert A. Campbell, Treasurer of the University from 1911 until 1931, there was an old sepia photograph of six be-whiskered individuals with instruments no longer used except in concert bands. The picture, dated 1859, is obviously of this group. (For the text identifying the picture's battered obverse, see Mich. Alum., August 11, 1934, p. 509.) This organization, whose music was derived from flutes, wind instruments, and some string instruments, was in truth more of an orchestra than a band, but it is the first such University group of which there is any knowledge.

The Palladium of 1873 contained an advertisement for the "University Brass Band." A sketch shows some sixteen members playing "over-the-shoulder" model Civil War instruments. Uniforms were of the Union Army Civil War type. The following names were listed: J. W. Whitmore, leader; W. Hayman, H. W. Gelston, W. Buzzle, D. Buzzle, Beaman, W. Williams, F. A. Maynard, Charles Warren, Tuthill, and Harry Perley. Orchestrion Hall was given as headquarters.

Football fans will be interested in the fact that as early as the 1880's a volunteer student group began making appearances at Michigan football games. Much of the early data on the Band has Page  1872been lost, however. Irving K. Pond ('79), who played first drum (a fine Prussian instrument now in the Stearns Collection in Hill Auditorium) during the season of 1878-79, has contributed much valuable information on the early history. Unfortunately, all too little is known about the Band between the time of the Civil War and the turn of the century.

According to a short history written by Henri P. dePont ('02), who played the cornet, the first genuine University Band was organized in the fall of 1896. DePont, who was in charge of the project, was assisted by Dan F. Zimmerman, George Levin, and Roy P. Warren. A collection was taken to buy music, and the first rehearsal was held in Harris Hall. Warren was elected director and DePont manager. (The roster of the Band for the year 1899 is printed in the Mich. Alum., September, 1926.) During the first few months the Band had a difficult time finding places to rehearse. It met in Ann Arbor High School, Harris Hall, over Calkins Drug Store on State Street, and downtown over stores on Main Street.

Although still entirely a student organization and only partly recognized by the Athletic Association, the Band began playing regularly at football games in 1897, making its first public appearance at the Washington's Birthday exercises in University Hall on February 22, 1897. The Athletic Association at this time carried out a successful campaign for funds for the Band, which played for all of the spring games and in the fall of 1897 accompanied the team to Detroit. On that occasion the Band numbered thirty men. The Band became a regular feature of the games and was subject to the call of the Athletic Association, playing for all athletic events, both outdoors and indoors. It still had no regular rehearsal hall, and because of mobilization for the Spanish-American War, it was necessary to hire musicians from outside the University for 1898-99.

In 1898 the Athletic Association raised money for new uniforms. The blouse was of dark blue with "UM" on the collar and a braided front, trousers of regulation cavalry with one-half-inch yellow stripe, cap Army style with gold braid and side buttons and a lyre embroidered on the front. About this time the fencing and boxing room in Waterman Gymnasium was turned over to the Band for rehearsals.

The Band's first appearance in full uniform was on November 24, 1898, when Michigan won against Chicago on Marshall Field in Chicago. The Band which played for the Athletic Association dances in Waterman Gymnasium from 1899 through 1902 was made up entirely of students, the need for "hired" musicians having passed. "The class of music was of the best; marches ran into the fourth and fifth grades; short concert numbers were well selected; and heavy overtures were of high class" (Mich. Alum., 32 [1925-26], p. 749).

The first bandstand was erected on the campus in 1909. At this time the Regents voted to appropriate $50 for the purchase of music and uniforms upon condition that the sum of $100 each should be contributed to the Band by the Students' Council and by the Athletic Association (R.P., 1906-10, p. 471). In 1910 the Regents appropriated $100 for "music, uniforms, etc." on condition that the Band should give frequent evening concerts on campus during the months following spring recess and should furnish the music required by the University for the ceremonies of Commencement Week. It was duly noted that "the payment of the $100 is not to be made until after the service during Commencement Week shall have been satisfactorily rendered" (R.P., 1906-10, pp. 667-68). This is the first indication of the policy of having the Page  1873University Band play at Commencement, a tradition which has continued to the present time.

According to Earl V. Moore, Dean of the School of Music, during the years 1908-12 the University Band, as such, was directed by "Ike" Fischer. "Ike," although never a student, conducted a student dance band at Granger's on the site of the present University TV studios on Maynard Street. He gathered a group of musicians and other interested students at MacMillan Hall (site of the present Methodist Church on the corner of State and Huron streets), passed out uniforms and music, and then proceeded to march this Saturday afternoon football band down to old Ferry Field.

In 1913 a request from the Student Council and the Board in Control of Athletics asking for an appropriation of $1,500 "for support of a proper University of Michigan Band" was denied by the Board of Regents, but in January, 1914, the Band received its first official financial assistance from the University in the form of an allotment of twenty-five dollars per member for thirty student members. This was intended primarily as compensation for time spent playing at Commencement activities. It was further provided "that the Band should be under the regulation of the University Senate Committee on Non-Athletic Organizations, so far as the scholarship of band members is concerned" (R.P., 1910-14, p. 909). Thus, in 1914, the Band gained official recognition and became a unit of the University.

An indication of the growing importance of the Band in University life and relations can be gained from the Regents' Proceedings of January, 1914: "On motion of Regent Hanchett the sum of $250.00 was added to the appropriation in the budget for the support of the University Band with the understanding that this sum was to be used, in connection with the University School of Music, for securing a first-class leader for the band" (R.P., 1914-17, p. 229). Thus, in 1915, Captain Wilfred Wilson became the first permanent conductor of the University of Michigan Band. As was customary with instructors in music during this period, Wilson was expected to supplement his salary from the University by giving private lessons to music students.

In 1915 the Band included about thirty pieces, but its activities were still on a rather indeterminate level. After two more years the Band had increased to forty, and cape-style uniforms, combining maize and blue, appeared for the first time.

During the 1920's the Band was in the embarrassing position of a large organization with no actual provision for its care. Robert Campbell succeeded in raising $1,500, part from the Regents and part from the Athletic Association, and this, together with sums derived from a few concerts, was used to refurnish and reorganize the Band, which became a unit of seventy pieces.

Another problem arose, however, when the student body ceased to patronize the periodic concerts, and the musicians were forced to "pass the hat" on the campus, provide a pail for donations outside the Ferry Field gate, and hold tag days whenever it was desirable to take the Band to an "away" football game. Such financing arrangements became impossible in time, and Mr. Campbell requested the Board of Regents to establish the Band as an integral unit of the University, supported by appropriation each year. He was refused, but after gaining the support of the Athletic Association, permission was finally granted and a plan evolved whereby fifty cents from each student's tuition was set aside for the maintenance of the Band (R.P., 1923-26, p. 706).

Page  1874During the years of World War I, the Band, under Wilson's direction, participated in Liberty Bond drives and other patriotic campaigns. Typical of these was the fifth Liberty Loan drive in 1918. The Band, composed of sixty-five members, traveled to Saginaw and Detroit by rail and provided the major attraction in the state bond campaign, making numerous concert and parade appearances. In 1922 the Band inaugurated the first of a series of annual spring concert tours, which have continued intermittently to the present time. In April, during spring vacation, the group also appeared in Saginaw, Muskegon, Lansing, and Kalamazoo.

Captain Wilson continued as conductor of the Michigan Band until 1926, when Norman Larson was appointed conductor. He came to Michigan from Minnesota, where he had been active in music education. He, in turn, was followed by Nicholas D. Falcone, who assumed the conductorship in 1927.

An astute and learned musician, Falcone received his early musical training at the Roseto School of Music in Italy under the guidance of the famous Donatelli brothers. At the urging of Michel Conversa, a friend who gave instruction in wind instruments at Michigan, he came to Ann Arbor and, in 1913, was hired to play in the University Commencement Band under the direction of Carl Fischer. It is interesting to note that included in the obligations of the Commencement period of that time were a concert on the Library steps on Friday night, playing for raising the flag at 7:00 A.M. on Saturday morning, playing for the graduates as they marched from the Library to old Ferry Field, and playing for the Commencement processional and recessional. Falcone recollects that he had to transpose the entire concert and other music because the instruments of the University were in "high pitch."

In the mid 1920's the Marching Band, which played for all home games, had still another responsibility. Falcone recounts that in 1927, during all "away" games, the Band was required to form in the Michigan Union ballroom, where there was a huge blackboard with the various gridiron markers painted on its surface, together with a telegrapher and a key. As the game progressed, the telegrapher received word of the various passes, plays, and kicks, and these were duly posted on the "chalk gridiron." The Band played before the game, during time-outs, at half-time, and, of course, whenever a Michigan touchdown was scored. The Band at this time numbered about ninety-six and formed in eight files twelve ranks deep. In the early years of Falcone's tenure, freshmen were not permitted to play in the University Concert Band, but they were used in what was called the Reserve, or second Band.

In 1929, when freshmen were admitted to membership in the regular University Band, the Marching Band participated in an unusual experience. The Michigan team played both Mount Union College and Ypsilanti Normal on the same day, and the Marching Band was required to appear at both games. The Band at this time rehearsed in Morris Hall for two hours on Wednesday evenings. At the conclusion of the football season an additional rehearsal was held on Saturday afternoons from 2:30 to 5:00 P.M.

The Marching Band, after 1929, made at least two out-of-town trips each year. Formations were of the letter type such as "Yost," "Mich," and "M." The letters were always formed on the march and were seldom presented in a static position. It is believed that the Michigan Band formed the first script "Ohio" on the field, and a picture, dated 1931, is available as proof of this feat. In the typical half-time show of this era the Band entered at midfield, executing a column right at midfield, marched to the goal line, counter-marched, formed a Page  1875letter, marched the letter the length of the gridiron to the opposite goal, counter-marched, formed a Michigan letter which was marched back to midfield, where the alma mater song of the opposing school and the "Yellow and Blue" were performed, whereupon the Band left the field.

In 1930 the old uniform consisting of a cape with gold braid across the chest was discarded in favor of the coat-type uniform with yellow Sam Browne belts. The year 1932-33 was an important one in the history of the Bands for it marked the first time that women were permitted to play in the Concert Band.

The following are two typical Concert or Symphonic Band (the titles are interchangeable) programs of the 1930's:

    March, 1931
  • Overture to Phédre
  • Wotan's Farewell
  • Danse Macabre
  • Fantasia de Concerto
  • L'Arlésienne Suite No. 2
  • Bolero — Ravel
    March, 1932
  • Rosamunde Overture
  • Caucasian Sketches
  • Concerto No. 2 in E Flat Major — Weber
  • The Pines of Rome
  • Les Préludes

In 1934-35, owing to Mr. Falcone's failing health, Bernard Hirsch, a graduate student, was in charge of the University Bands.

Professor William D. Revelli, who was appointed Conductor of Bands in 1935, came to Michigan from Hobart, Indiana, where for ten years he had been director of music in the public schools of that city. While at Hobart his school bands won five consecutive national championships and received national recognition. University Band headquarters at that time were in Morris Hall, just north of the Michigan Union, on a site now occupied by the present Administration Building. The building was shared with the University Broadcasting Service.

From 1937-38 the University Bands improved constantly in every particular. Because of the reputation of Professor Revelli and his national prominence as a band conductor, the number of talented players who applied for admission to the Bands increased each year, the quality of music improved, and the finished performance far surpassed that of previous Michigan Bands. The physical resources of the Bands increased each year. Bass clarinets, alto clarinets, bassoons, oboes, French horns, and euphoniums were purchased to increase the instrumentation, and the library was enlarged by the acquisition of the finest in symphonic band repertory. Four concerts were given in Hill Auditorium in 1937-38, and the Band also appeared at Kalamazoo, Sturgis, and at the Chrysler Institute of Engineering commencement exercises in Detroit.

One trip was made in 1937 to Evanston, Illinois, to attend the Northwestern-Michigan game. A comparatively short trip to Chicago for approximately 120 men at that time cost about $2,200, and a trip to New York or Philadelphia, about $4,200. In that year the Marching Band had approximately 125 men, and the first Concert Band, under Revelli's direction, numbered ninety.

In the 1930's a member of the Army R.O.T.C. staff assisted Revelli in drilling the Marching Band during the football season, a custom which was prevalent in universities during that period. In 1936 and 1937 the drum major of the Marching Band was Robert Fox, and Major Richard Coursey was the drillmaster. In the following year Fred Weist was drum major of the Marching Band. From 1937 to 1939 Major Walter B. Fariss was drillmaster and assisted Revelli with the Marching Band as the membership increased to 120 in 1937. From 1938 to 1939 the drum majors of the Marching Page  1876Band were John Sherrill and Gilbert Stephenson.

In the years 1940-43 the position of drillmaster was held by Major Robert N. Kunz, Major John Lohla, and Captain Leonard W. Peterson, with Robert Commanday and James Roberts, student drillmasters. The post of drum major was occupied by John Sherrill, James Kennedy, and Lynn Stedman.

A special instructor was appointed in 1946 to assist Professor Revelli and also to serve as a member of the Wind Instrument faculty of the School of Music and the Department of Bands. In this capacity, Harold Ferguson became Instructor in Brass Instruments and Assistant Director of University Bands. Mr. Ferguson assisted Revelli in drilling the Marching Band and was also a teacher of trombone in the School of Music; Lynn Stedman continued as drum major. In this year, also, Harris Hall, at the corner of State and Huron streets, formerly the guild hall of St. Andrews Episcopal Church, was leased by the University and remodeled as headquarters for the University Bands and the Wind Instrument Department. In March, 1946, the Symphony Band presented the grand concert at the annual convention of the North Central Division of the Music Educators' National Conference at Indianapolis, Indiana.

The year 1947 was memorable because it marked the first appearance of the Michigan Marching Band in the famous Rose Bowl at Pasadena, California. Under the leadership of Revelli and Ferguson, the Band, with Drum Major Noah Knepper, made numerous appearances on its way to and from this nationally famous New Year's Day football game.

Jack Lee served as Assistant Conductor of Bands under Revelli from 1948 until 1952. In 1948-49 Fred Breidenbach was drum major of the Marching Band. In this year also, Lambda chapter of Tau Beta Sigma (Women's National Honorary Band Sorority) was established at Michigan.

The Marching Band, in 1949, adopted a new uniform — dark blue in color, with the word michigan in gold braid on each sleeve. This uniform was augmented with a gold plume on the cap, gold shoulder epaulets, a blue and gold short cape, white cotton gloves, a yellow tie and breast pocket handkerchief, white cross belt in West Point style with a brass breast and waist plate, and white spats.

On November 14, 1949, Revelli inaugurated the first Band Day, which was held in the Michigan Football Stadium. Here twenty-nine picked bands from high schools throughout the state, with approximately 1,800 members, performed in mass half-time ceremonies at the game. In addition to playing several selections, the bands formed such words and initials as "Sousa" and "U.S.A." on the gridiron.

The University of Michigan and the Michigan Bands were hosts in March, 1950, to the sixteenth Annual Convention of the American Bandmasters' Association. Several concerts were presented, and many famous bandsmen such as Edwin Franko Goldman, Henry Fillmore, and Karl L. King appeared in the rôle of guest conductor with the Michigan Symphony Band. In addition, the Symphony Band visited cities in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.

The Marching Band was increased to 135 members in 1950. Dick Smith was drum major, and Sam Szor and Floyd Zarbock were the twirlers. During this year a film short entitled "Here Comes the Band," featuring the Marching Band, was produced by R.K.O.-Pathé Pictures and received both national and international release. In 1951 the Marching Band, with the same drum major Page  1877and twirlers, made its second appearance in the Rose Bowl at Pasadena, California, and in addition, performed at various points throughout the country. This trip, as was the previous Rose Bowl trip in 1947, was financed by the Buick Motor Corporation. The Buick tradition of sponsoring one trip each year began in 1937 and has continued to the present time.

Dr. Edwin Franko Goldman appeared once more as guest conductor with the Symphony Band in April, 1951. The Symphony Band was invited in March, 1952, to present the grand concert for the Music Educators' National Conference at the Philadelphia Academy of Music. The Symphony Band also appeared at other cities in Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Ohio.

In 1952 George Cavender was appointed Assistant Conductor of Bands. "Band Day" had grown to include 103 bands, which appeared on the gridiron during the half-time intermission, with Paul Yoder as guest conductor. In January at the Midwestern Conference in 1953 LeRoy Anderson appeared as guest conductor with the Symphony Band in Hill Auditorium. In this year the Band visited cities in Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois.

The Marching Band had increased to 146 members by 1953, with Floyd Zarbock as drum major and William Modlin and "Champ" Patton as twirlers. This was the year that Edwin Franko Goldman added another to the list of "Michigan Musical Heritages," when he composed the march entitled "Michigan." The University dedicated the Edwin Franko Goldman room in Harris Hall on May 18, 1954. Here are preserved manuscripts, autographed pictures of many of the world's greatest musical artists, and other musical memorabilia, given to the University by Dr. Goldman.

The "postgame" show was introduced by the University of Michigan: In addition to the regular pregame and half-time shows, the Band presented special postgame programs which often attracted as many as sixty to seventy thousand people. In 1954, for the first time, the Marching Band used co-drum majors, Victor Walton and "Champ" Gurdon Patton, with twirlers Joseph Brown and William Modlin. The musical program of Band Day consisted entirely of works written by Dr. Goldman, who again appeared as guest conductor. In February the Symphony Band toured Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana. In Elkhart, Indiana, the Symphony Band presented the grand concert at the national convention of the American Bandmasters' Association. In the spring of this year, musical history was made when the Michigan Symphony Band became the first "Big Ten" band to appear in formal concert in Boston Symphony Hall, and in Carnegie Hall, New York City. Other cities visited by the Symphony Band on the spring tour in this year included Painesville, Ohio, Springfield, Massachusetts, East Weymouth, Massachusetts, East Providence, Rhode Island, Hartford, Connecticut, and, in New York state, Buffalo, Elmira, Endicott, and Schenectady.

On October 15, 1955, the Michigan Bands presented the largest massed band ever assembled at one time anywhere in the world: 171 bands, with a combined membership of 11,500 members, assembled on the gridiron for colorful half-time ceremonies. Membership in the Marching Band had grown to 165 members; "Champ" Patton was drum major, with Joseph Brown and William Modlin twirlers. In the same month, for the first time in television history, the Marching Band was featured in a special program on N.B.C. television on the "Dave Garroway" and "Home" shows. Page  1878In 1956, while Revelli was on sabbatical leave, Assistant Conductor George Cavender was in charge of University Bands.

Varsity Night, the all-campus talent show sponsored by the University Bands, has become one of the traditions of the Michigan campus and is the major fundraising event staged annually to assist the Bands financially. First conceived in 1939 by Ernest Jones, who was student business manager of the Band and an editor of the Michigan Daily, Varsity Night has grown to include such names as Ferde Grofe, Morton Gould, and Robert Q. Lewis on its distinguished roster of participants.

In the history of bands at Michigan, the position of student business manager has always been an important one. In the early days, he was the "right hand" of the conductor in many of the administrative details concerned with the Band. Among these men the following should be mentioned: George Hall, Ernest Jones, Don Chown, Glen Yarberry, James B. Hause, George Irwin, Stewart Park, Warren Bellis, Donald S. Lewis, Charles M. Hollis, Maynard Hall, Carl Snyder, Paul Liddicoat, Charles Hills, Bernard Leutholtz, and Carmen Spadaro.

By 1956 the Marching Band had grown to 175 members with Drum Major "Champ" Patton and twirlers John Kinkendall, Joseph Brown, Gary Kocher, and Gary Klickard. Marching shows were performed around such themes as the Civil War, melodies of Rogers and Hammerstein, "Roman Holiday" (based on the homecoming theme), and the theme songs of various famous bandleaders. In December, 1956, the Symphony Band was chosen to present the grand concert for the biennial meeting of the College Band Directors' National Conference in Chicago, Illinois. The Symphony Band also visited cities in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

Many members of the University administrative staff have provided administrative and sometimes financial guidance and counsel for the Bands. Robert Campbell, University Treasurer, is the first-mentioned faculty adviser, and he served until 1919. He was succeeded by Herbert G. Watkins, Secretary of the University, adviser until 1945, and by Walter B. Rea, Dean of Men, adviser until 1952. James B. Shortt, Assistant to the Director of Public Relations, became faculty business manager in 1953 and has continued in this position.

Believing that a university band should serve not only as a musical inspiration but also as an educational force, Revelli organized the Midwestern Conference in 1936. At these the University Symphony Band appeared in formal concerts and clinics, forums, demonstrations, and panels on which leading musical authorities in the country were presented to the conductors of the state. Because a great need existed for a clinic to feature marching band information, Revelli, in 1948, organized the National Band Conductors' Conference, which meets each July and is open without charge to conductors across the nation. Believing also in the value of contests and festivals in the life of the students and in the training of bands, Revelli reorganized the State Band and Orchestra Festival in 1936 and urged the development and establishment of the State Solo and Ensemble Festival.


Michigan Alumnus, 1926-36.
Palladium, Univ. Mich., 1873.
Proceedings of the Board of Regents …, Univ. Mich., 1906-46.