Michigan Marching Band

Michigan Marching Band
School University of Michigan
Location Ann Arbor, MI
Conference Big Ten
Founded 1896
Director John Pasquale
Assistant director Andrea Brown
Members 400
Fight song "The Victors"
Uniform Blue jackets with white on the back and a maize shield on the front, maize capes, blue pants, white hats with blue trim, maize and blue plumes
Website http://mmb.music.umich.edu

The Michigan Marching Band (MMB) is the University of Michigan's marching band.[1]


In 1896, Harry dePont invited musicians throughout campus to attend a meeting for the purpose of organizing a band. Two years later, the MMB became an indispensable part of the Michigan tradition by playing at the football games. After Michigan moved out of the Western Football Conference in 1911, J. Fred Lawton and Earl Vincent Moore composed the fight song 'Varsity', which became an immediate hit. George Olsen became the marching band's first drum major in 1914. The band fraternity, Kappa Kappa Psi, was established to promote and serve the University bands in 1925. During the Michigan-Ohio State football game in 1932, the MMB performed the first "script Ohio" now used today by the OSU marching band. William D. Revelli succeeded Nicholas Falcone as director in 1935 requiring all male wind instrument majors to join the MMB and aligning the band with the School of Music in 1940. 1951 brought forth the MMB classics 'M Fanfare', 'Temptation' and 'Hawaiian War Chant', all arranged by Jerry Bilik. In 1970, Carl Grapentine became the "Voice of the Michigan Bands" and continues to hold that post today. Women were finally allowed to join the marching band in 1972. The MMB was the first band to win the Sudler Trophy in 1982, receiving the trophy at halftime of the 1983 Rose Bowl Game. Today, the MMB remains an integral part of the Michigan Football tradition.


The Marching band salutes the 2009 Michigan Wolverines football team as they take the field at Michigan Stadium.

The Michigan Marching Band half-time performance block instrumentation:[2]

Performance Block

The Performance Block is the subset of the MMB that performs pre-game and halftime. An additional subset is called "half-time only" which adds to the performance block for half-time. The half-time block usually consists of an additional 6 piccolos, 6 alto saxophones, 12 horns, 3 bass drums, 4 snare drums, 4 tenor drums, 6 cymbals, and 6 to 12 sousaphones (depending on the drill requirements).

The rank leaders along with the MMB staff decide which members in block are to be challenged for their position in block. This method lessens tension in the band as a member does not need to challenge an individual member of the performance block for their position. There are no minimum or maximum requirements for challenges, and some members may not be challenged for an entire season.

Challenges are held after rehearsal on Fridays, for the game after the game which is on the next day. Challenges consist of a halftime marching audition while playing a musical excerpt from the weekly show, followed by performing a portion of the pre-game show. Results are posted the following Monday.

Students who do not make the performance block, called reserves, spend the week rehearsing fundamentals on an adjacent practice field while the performance block learns the show to prepare for the next week's challenge. The reserves are no less a part of the MMB, as they still wear the uniform and play in the stands during football games.

Band Week

Every summer during the two weeks before the first home game the MMB holds its "Band Week." New members, rank leaders, and flags arrive first to rehearse marching styles and traditional music. New members work on marching fundamentals. The returning members join a few days later and the music audition is held to determine the players' chairs. After the returning members have been through a couple days of marching rehearsal, "First Look" is held. During first look the entire band performs glide step and a pre-game portion which are observed and scored by the staff. These performances are given in groups of 8. After the initial performance block is set, the remainder of Band Week is devoted to rehearsing the first performance of the MMB for pre-game and halftime. The reserves spend the remainder of Band Week practicing for the next challenge.



Dr. John D. Pasquale is the current director [3] of the Michigan Marching Band.[4] He replaces Dr. Scott Boerma, who announced his resignation as director following the 2013 Outback Bowl to take the position of Director of Bands at his alma mater, Western Michigan University. Dr. Pasquale was most recently the assistant director of bands and associate director of marching and athletic bands at the University of Michigan. Dr. Pasquale received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Conducting from the University of Oklahoma in 2008.

Past Directors of the Michigan Marching Band:[5]

Assistant director

Dr. Andrea E. Brown is the assistant director of the Michigan Marching Band.[6] She succeeds Dr. Pasquale in the position, and is the first woman to hold the position in the history of the program. Dr. Brown was most recently the Director of Orchestra and Assistant Director of Bands at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia.[7] She received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Instrumental Conducting from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) in 2010.

Instructors and graduate assistants

Working directly under the directors are graduate student instructors. Graduate students in the music school or former MMB members that are grad students are hired to help direct the MMB and also to oversee student staff positions. The MMB also has a color guard instructor (Joan Noble-Pruett) and a percussion instructor (Chuck Ricotta) that each oversee their respective sections to ensure the visual and rhythmic elements of the band are perfect.

Drum major

Drum Majors
Years Name
2016-present McKenna Thayer
2015 Matthew Cloutier
2013–14 Jeff Okala[8]
2011–12 Jeffrey McMahon
2009–10 David Hines, Jr.
2007–08 Cody Martin
2006 Iden Baghdadchi
2004–05 Dennis Lee
2002–03 Matt Cavanaugh
2001 Karen England
1999–2000 Gregg Whitmore
1996–98 Ramon Johnson
1995 Jason Wuellner
1993–94 Matthew Pickus
1992 Greg Macklem
1990–91 Rodney Weir
1988–89 Jeff Stokes
1984–85, 1987 Andy Purvis
1986 Kevin Ross
1981–83 Steve Roberts
1978–80 Guy Bordo
1975–77 Jeff Wilkins

The Michigan Marching Band has one drum major, commonly referred to as the "Man Up Front," for the entire 350+ member ensemble. Like in most Big Ten bands, the MMB drum major is not a conducting position. The drum major provides whistle commands to provide song tempos and parade instructions. While it is not required of the position, most drum majors perform twirling routines during the halftime show. The drum major is also responsible for teaching proper marching techniques during Band Week. The drum major is best known for the back bend performed during pregame.

Auditions for this position are held yearly in a two-phase process. The first phase is held in front of the MMB staff which narrows the field of candidates. The second phase is held on the last day of classes for the winter term and the final vote is decided by the current members of the MMB.

The first female Drum Major, Karen England, was elected in April 2001.[9]

In 2006 the MMB saw the first Drum Major firing.[10] Ben Iwrey was elected to be the Drum Major by members of the MMB in April 2006. Over the course of the summer there were a few alleged incidents that compelled the director, Jamie L. Nix, to remove Ben from his elected position and promote Iden Baghdadchi. Mr. Iwrey objected to the allegations and Professor Nix's handling of the situation, and chose to file a grievance with the School of Music.

Section leaders

Section leaders are the head of their section and are responsible for the music performance. They hold weekly music rehearsals for their section. Section leaders are determined by the staff and generally announced at the "Spring Meeting", traditionally held on the last day of Winter semester.

Rank Leaders

During Band Week, the potential Rank Leaders are responsible for teaching the new members in their section the correct marching techniques.

During the season, Rank Leaders are in charge of the marching position and style of 12 members on the field. They are given full drill charts to ensure that their rank members are in formation. To save paper regular members are given coordinate sheets to give their position on the field by numbers rather than graphically.

Rank Leaders are determined in phases. Generally each year during the final stages of the winter semester, band members are invited to nominate people in their own section to be considered for a Rank Leader Candidate spot. Rank Leader Candidates are then selected by the staff and announced during the Spring Meeting or sometimes later. Rank Leader Candidates then participate in a retreat for incoming members, color guard and percussion directly before Band Week begins. Rank Leaders teach the incoming members marching techniques, then have two days of review with all other returning members and the incoming members. Band members are then given the chance to fill out Rank Leader evaluations. The staff then narrows down the potential candidates to the actual Rank Leaders for the year, taking the evaluations into account.


Saturday morning rehearsal

The MMB practices on Elbel Field before each home game. Generally, this practice begins at 7:30 a.m. for a noon kickoff. The band begins rehearsal with music warm-ups and a review of the halftime music. Next, transition elements of the pregame performance are rehearsed. Lastly, the band reviews the drill for the halftime performance. Music is either sung or played at "half volume" during this portion of the rehearsal to save the band members' chops for the game.

Step Show

Revelli Hall

The Michigan Drumline performs on the steps of Revelli Hall about an hour and a half before kickoff. They run through warm-ups, some pieces arranged specifically for the MMB Drumline, the parade cadence series and closes with "Temptation" and "Hawaiian War Chant."

March to the Stadium

Following the step show, the MMB lines up on the steps of Revelli Hall for inspection by the drum major before stepping off to the stadium. Once this is complete, the band begins parading to the stadium by moving out onto Hoover Street. The parade route goes down Hoover Street, turning left onto Greene Street and then into the Michigan Stadium parking lot. The band then stops in the parking lot among tailgaters and performs a shortened version of "The Victors" the band commonly refers to as "Parking Lot Victors." Once finished, they progress to the mouth of the tunnel of Michigan Stadium where "Let's Go Blue" and the trio of "The Victors" is played in the direction of the tunnel.


The reserve members leave the parade formation, run down the tunnel onto the field and move into the stands to watch pregame. The remaining band members then enter the tunnel and arrange themselves into 'entry lines' for the start of the pregame performance. The drum major then proceeds to the lower mouth of the tunnel signaling to the stadium announcer that the band is ready. The Michigan Stadium and MMB announcer, Carl Grapentine, announces the entrance of the band in his signature baritone: "Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting the 235-member Michigan Marching Band! Baaaand, take the field!"


The band then 'pours' out of the tunnel onto the field to the Entry Cadence at 220+ BPM in entry lines which then fold out into the Fanfare M.

M Fanfare

From the Fanfare M formation, the MMB plays the M Fanfare. The M Fanfare was composed by longtime Michigan Marching Band arranger and composer Jerry Bilik, consisting of portions of "The Victors," "Varsity," and "The Yellow and Blue."

Back bend

At the climax of the M Fanfare, the drum major performs a signature move. The drum major moves from the middle of the band to the north end 20-yard line. He/she then takes off their hat, turns to face the south end zone, and bends backwards to touch his/her head to the ground. This is done every game. Originally, drum majors kept their hat on and touched its plume to the ground. The first drum major to do this was Mark Brown in the late 1960s. Brown was extremely flexible and could touch the plume to the ground between his heels.

In 1993, Matthew Pickus became the first drum major to remove the hat and touch his head to the ground. This feat was first performed during the pregame of the 1993 Notre Dame-Michigan game. Matthew used the hat-less back bend for the rest of his career as drum major. Since approximately 2003, the hat-less back bend has become the standard for Michigan drum majors.

"The Victors"

During the pregame performance, the MMB appropriately plays the pregame version of "The Victors" while marching all the way to the north end zone. Before the trio starts, an added drum transition occurs for the band to change formations from sweep lines to the hollow block M. During the transition, Carl Grapentine announces, "All the Maize and Blue faithful join in a rousing chorus of the Victors!" These words have been spoken for the past 30 years. Prior to that, the announcer would say, "Let's all sing for today's big Michigan victory!". For the Ohio State game, he would add another "big" to the announcement. The trio of "The Victors" is then played while marching to the south end zone.

The goal post toss

During "The Victors", the drum major marches down to the north end zone goal post and tosses his/her mace over the cross bar. Superstition says that if the drum major catches the mace without dropping it, the football team will win the game.

The high step

For the past 15 seasons during "The Victors" break strain, the MMB performs its high step. This is done for 16 counts at half tempo. The "post leg" is to remain perpendicular to the ground while the free leg is to make a right angle with the shin being perpendicular to the ground and an extreme downward toe point.

Visitor's fight song

Immediately following "The Victors", the MMB plays the visitor's fight song to the south end zone. The upper section of the south end zone is where a large portion of the visiting fans sit. This is a strong tradition among all Big Ten marching bands (and thus copied by many Midwestern high school marching bands).


Following the visitor's fight song, the band transitions into the school's 1911-1931 fight song "Varsity". The band once again forms "sweep lines" and marches back to the middle of the field to form another Block M similar to the Fanfare M.

Blues Brothers

Originating in 1985, once a year, generally at a game without a visiting band, the MMB performs the Otis Redding hit "I Can't Turn You Loose," made famous in the movie The Blues Brothers, at midfield. The band forms concentric circles on the field and during a vamp in the music, collapses the circles into what is commonly referred to as "the cake." The entire band fits into a 10-yard diameter circle, centered on the 50-yard line. Once this is complete, the band members scramble back to their Fanfare M positions. "I Can't Turn You Loose" was first performed during the 1980 season, during the "Saturday Afternoon Live" field show, a spoof of "Saturday Night Live." It quickly became popular. "The Cake" formation was added in 1985. The song is now also regularly played during the pause in between the third and fourth quarters of football games.

"Let's Go Blue" and team entrance

Time permitting, the band will play "Let's Go Blue" to the west, south, east and north sides of Michigan Stadium. "Let's Go Blue" was written in the mid 1970s by Joseph Carl, a tuba player who was also in the Hockey Pep Band, and Albert Ahronheim, a drum major.[11] The band then splits the M to allow room for the "Go Blue, M Club Supports You" banner to be raised for the team's entrance. The team runs onto the field as the band plays the trio of "The Victors" twice.

"The Star Spangled Banner"

Since September 22, 2001, the team has been on the field for the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner." The band then collapses the split M back to the Solid Block M. Following the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," the marching band marches to the north end zone while playing the trio of The Victors and, once finished, marches the Entry Cadence off the field.


After every home game, the band returns to the field and performs "The Victors" as written, or in its entirety. They also play selections of the halftime performance. The performance closes with "Temptation," "Hawaiian War Chant," "The Yellow and Blue," "The Victors" (trio), and the Entry Cadence. When the football team wins, the band members wear their shakos backward during the post-game performance. After the performance, the band forms into parade lines and marches back through the tunnel, all the way back to Revelli Hall. When the drum cadence begins, the band chants, "Go Michigan, beat [whichever team is next on the schedule (e.g. "The Fighting Irish")], followed by "It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine!"

"Temptation" & "The Hawaiian War Chant"

"Temptation" and "The Hawaiian War Chant" are percussion features that have been played by the MMB for over 45 years. The cymbal line is highly featured with their acrobatic routine. "Temptation" is also played after the defense stops the opposition on third down and forces them to punt. Usually every Homecoming game, during the halftime show, both songs are played. Temptation is played first. Followed by "The Hawaiian War Chant," which is introduced by PA announcer Carl Grapentine saying, "Because you can't have one without the other, 'The Hawaiian War Chant.'" Until 1980, Temptation and the Hawaiian War Chant were generally not played together in a season until the Homecoming game, when the Alumni Band ("the Blast from the Past") would join in. Before Homecoming, in those years prior to 1980, the band would play Temptation, then the PA announcer would usually say that fans would have to wait for the other. Both percussion features have long been fan favorites. During the post-game band show, when it comes time for Temptation, the Drum Major will walk into the band, as the front lines of the formation part, to bring the percussion section forward. This always causes band fans to cheer in anticipation.


  1. Michigan Marching Band Homepage
  2. MMB Instrumentation
  3. Danielle Stoppelmann, "Marching band gets new leader", Michigan Daily, January 23, 2013.
  4. MMB Staff
  5. MMB Past Directors
  6. Aaron Guggenheim, "Marching Band names new assistant director", The Michigan Daily, April 23, 2013.
  7. http://www.music.gatech.edu/people/andrea-e-brown
  8. Michigan Marching Band - Sections
  9. Lisa Koivu (9/5/2001) Woman Up Front The Michigan Daily
  10. Gabe Nelson (9/27/2006). . The Michigan Daily.
  11. Stieg, Bill (May 21, 1984). "A Catchy Intro To A Cheer Became Music To The Ears Of Myriad Fans". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved September 7, 2010.

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