It’s hard to imagine football Saturdays without the presence of the Michigan Marching Band, but the band wasn’t always part of the football experience.

The band began as a student-run organization with no outside support, according to the Michigan Marching Band’s website.

Harry dePont, the marching band’s first official leader, had to petition then-University President James Angell for a rehearsal room for about 30 bandmates, according to the website. After proposing a performance at the Law School’s observance of George Washington’s birthday in February 1897, Angell granted the band a room in University Hall to rehearse, but it was forced to relocate after realizing the room wasn’t sound proof.

During the band’s first year, it performed in smaller venues at indoor track meets and baseball games, but by the fall of 1897, the band members got their big break, securing a performance spot during a campus mass meeting for the new football season, according to the website. A year later, the band would be performing at all football games.

After the 1898 victory against the University of Chicago, the band played “The Victors” for the first time during a celebration through the streets of Chicago.

Though “The Victors” was a success, some of the band’s other ideas weren’t so popular. In 1914, the band was met with laughter when it premiered its new precision marching drill, although ultimately the fans came around to the new style, according to the website.

Despite its early achievements, the band was forced to raise money through “passing the bucket” for the next two decades, due to a lack of financial support from the University, according to the website. In spite of their economic troubles, the band continued to stand out. It even played during World War II, when most University bands stopped performing, and in the 1970s it became one of the first to admit women.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.