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It's the Marching Band's 100th Anniversary!

It started with eleven musicians on a parade field in 1915. Today it's over 250 and we're in the Big Ten.

A Brief History of the Band

It wasn't called ROTC in 1915.  But there was a cadet corps at Rutgers College back then and there were also 11 musicians who provided music for the Corps' weekly drills.  That was the beginning of the Marching Band at Rutgers.

Fast forward to today and we realize that the Rutgers University Marching Band is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year.  And with some financial support from friends, they might be doing it with new uniforms.  But more about that later.

It was in 1921 that the band played at its first football game.  But it was seven years later that it became a "marching" band, performing on the field.  In 1968, major changes came to the band as the Military Department stopped funding the program (can we ever get away from funding issues?).  And, according to former band member Bob Eichert, it was University President Mason Gross who made a very conscious decision to change the band's appearance.

The football centennial was coming up in 1969.  Rutgers' marching band dressed the way Stanford and Princeton do today: blazers and straw hats, a very casual look.  Gross was horrified about the look that people would see on national television with that band come 1969's Princeton game.  So he hired Scott Whitener away from Michigan in order to create a "Big Ten" style band (don't you love it?).  The band changed its uniforms to a "Big Ten" style (and one I wish they'd go back to) including spats.  Yes, spats!  And with the change came what was then to be called The Marching 100.

And here we are 100 years into the band's existence.  We aren't marching "Big Ten" style and we don't have "Big Ten" style uniforms.  Yet, ironically, we are in the Big Ten.  With celebrations - and dreams - on the horizon.

Ya Gotta Dream

They've played the Super Bowl.  They've backed up U2 on The Tonight Show - at the top of Rockefeller Center. And there's more to come.

The celebrating all starts next Thursday at New Brunswick's State Theater.  The Rutgers Bands Extravaganza celebrates 100 years of the band program at Rutgers.  It will feature the Wind Ensemble, the Symphony Band, the Concert Band and, of course, the Marching Scarlet Knights.  Okay, truth: how many of you knew Rutgers had all those music groups?  Hands?  Yeah, I didn't think so.

But the big goal this year is a major fund raising effort for the program.  And, yes, I'm asking you to help.  We're not building an arena or a hoops practice facility.  But Rutgers - and specifically the Mason Gross School of the Arts - needs your help.  Besides scholarships, the band wants - needs - new uniforms.  The band has been growing (now up to 255 members) and the current unis are some 10 years old.  How old do you think the oldest football or baseball uniform is?  I'm guessing seven months for football and one month for baseball.  We gotta do better for the band.

The band needs $200,000 and they're about half way there.  So, let's go.  I'm giving you the links and telling you this is worth it.  Hey, it even picks up priority points for tickets to football and basketball. The Marching Scarlet Knights need you.  We did it for Field Hockey's locker room.  Let's do it again for the band.

Tomorrow: A look at the other guys in the Big Ten