The University of Michigan Marching Band got its start in the fall of 1896 when seventeen-year-old Ann Arbor resident Harry dePont held a meeting for all musicians on campus to create a University band, according the band’s website. At the band’s first meeting on Nov. 13, 1896, 30 musicians expressed interest.
As an entirely student run organization, the band had no place to rehearse, so its members soon sought University support. DePont turned to University President and close family friend James Burrill Angell, who was thoroughly convinced of the band’s commitment and talent after they played on stage at University Hall for the Law School’s annual observance of Washington’s birthday — one of the most important events of the school year — on Feb. 22, 1897.
Angell allowed the band to use a room in University Hall for rehearsals. But others in the hall were not so accommodating. The band was quickly forced to move into the fencing room at the Waterman Gymnasium due to the thin walls in University Hall.
By spring of 1897, the band was well known on campus and it began playing at indoor track meets and baseball games. The band’s prestige awarded it a performance at the social event of the year — the Evening Promenade.
Although the band was gaining prestige on campus, it still had a rag-tag appearance. A formal band uniform — an indispensable part of the Michigan Marching Band’s image — didn’t debut until Nov. 13, 1897, when the band accompanied the football team to Detroit to play a game against Minnesota. Perhaps, it was the blue serge coats, white duck pants, and “M” caps that encouraged the team to come home with a victory of 14-0.
By the fall of 1898, the band was a regular fixture at football games.
And such a tradition isn’t complete without the Michigan Fight song, which, not surprisingly, was created in part by the Michigan Marching Band.
After the football team’s valiant win against the University of Chicago in the fall of 1898, a post game celebration began in the streets of Chicago, led by none other than the University of Michigan Marching Band.
According to the band’s website, among the crowd was student Louis Elbel, who believed that the band “didn’t have the right celebration song”. Later, Elbel claimed “to have heard a band ‘singing’ a tune in his head which he described as ‘victory song’.” The refrain of what was to become The Victors March came to him, and has stuck ever since.