Rutgers Band History

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History of the Rutgers Band

The Rutgers University Bands program is one of the oldest institutions of its kind. Founded in 1915, its traditions still live strong and proud.

Since 1915 the Band has had a history of innovation, excellence and most importantly, showing unending support for our Athletic Teams. Originally begun as an 11-member band to play music for weekly drills of the Rutgers College Cadet Corps, the band has never stopped serving the University. From playing the school's fight songs, "The Bells Must Ring," and Colonel Rutgers", to singing the School's Alma Mater, "On the Banks of the Old Raritan," the Marching Band provides the University with a tremendous amount of school spirit, full of color, history and tradition.

The Marching Band has expanded and changed immensely from its roots as a military drill band in 1915. Although the band played in its first football game in 1921, what we know today as the marching band, with formations on the field, did not begin until 1928. Still retaining its military style, the band adopted an Ivy-League style, wearing straw hats and blazers for their uniforms, giving them a unique look. The band really began to take off in 1968 when the Military Department stopped funding the band and the Athletic Department took over. With 100 members on the field that year, the band became known as the Rutgers Marching 100 with a Big-Ten high step marching style and fast-paced pre-game and half-time shows.

In 1972, Rutgers went coed and as a result, the band did also. Although the women were not accepted with open arms at first, they quickly proved that they could handle the work of performing a half-time show at the same pace as the men. Nearly a decade later, Dr. William Berz took over the marching band program. By more than doubling it in size, increasing its participation to over 200 members again, purchasing new uniforms, and introducing a new marching style much like that of the flexible Drum Corps glide-step, Dr. Berz made the band into what it is known as today.

After a tumultuous time in the late eighties and nineties, including a half-dozen different directors, the band is now under the direction of Timothy Smith. Professor Smith continues using several of Berz's techniques but has also introduced his own ideas and concepts to the band as he tries to bring the size of the band back to what it was in the 1980's.

In addition to playing at all home football games, the marching band also performs at numerous competitions such as the USSBA High School Band Championships and, every so often, they host their own marching band competition. Throughout the year many members of the Marching Band form the Rutgers University Pep Band and perform at university Soccer games, Wrestling matches, as well as Men's and Women's Basketball games. When Marching and Pep Band season are over, these students also play in the Concert Band if not one of the other instrumental ensembles available at Rutgers.