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Archive-name: music/marching/college-band-faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: July 6, 2001

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
College Marching Band Frequently Asked Questions


    1. What is a college marching band?
    2. What is a drum & bugle corps?
    3. What are Kappa Kappa Psi (KKP) and Tau Beta Sigma (TBS)?
    4. What is

    1. Who is the oldest marching band?
    2. Who has the biggest marching band?
    3. What is the Sudler trophy?
    4. Who reads

    1. What is netiquette?
    2. How much should I trim down quoted passages?
    3. Do people care about spelling?
    4. I am new to the group. What should I do?
    5. My director/staff/drum major is an incompetent slob/idiot/moron.
       5a. Everybody in my band hates <another band>.
    6. My drum corps has openings...

    1. Who is the best marching band?
    2. Does Stanford/UVA/Rice/The Ivy League suck?
    3. Does Southern Cal suck?
       3a. And who's the guy playing "Fight On!" at every Rose Parade?

    1. Which band was in the movie...
    2. Which band was banned from where?
    3. Did the Stanford Band really urinate on the field at halftime?
    4. Have you heard the story about the band on the plane?
       4a. The Plane Rolling Story
       4b. The Pillow Fight Story
       4c. The Airsickness Story.
    5. Why don't marching bands get more TV time?

    1. Who originated the "Let's Go <color>" cheer?
    2. What's up with the "Hey!" song?
    3. Do you know the words to any Anti-Fight Songs?

    1. What is Picnic Day?
    2. What is the ACC Battle of the Bands?

    1. Newsgroups and mailing lists
    2. WWW Band info


	* * * * *

Section 1: THE BASICS

1) What is a college marching band?

Go to any major American college football game, stay through halftime, and
you'll most likely find at least one group of uniformed musicians
cavorting about on the field.  They'll play some music, they'll move
around in strange formations and patterns, and, with any luck, they'll
entertain you.  These are the people of 
2) What are drum & bugle corps?

Drum and Bugle Corps (often called "Drum Corps" for short) are very
different from college bands.  Drum Corps is a competitive activity, made
up of independent organizations unaffiliated with colleges or other
groups.  It has been said that the only things marching bands and drum
corps have in common are music and a football field.  If you're interested
in drum corps, see the newsgroup rec.arts.marching.drumcorps, or check out
the Drum Corps International (DCI) Web Page at

3)  What are Kappa Kappa Psi (KKP) and Tau Beta Sigma (TBS)?

Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma are honorary service organizations
dedicated to supporting college band programs.  At many colleges, band
fraternities/sororities add a great deal to the overall band experience by
performing needed duties, as well as providing social focus for the

4) What is

Simply put, is for the discussion of,
suprisingly enough, college marching bands. To elaborate, the discussion
encompasses marching bands of colleges and universities of all levels,
including scatter bands and pep bands.

R.A.M.B.C was formed during the 1994-95 school year, at the same time as
the high school band newsgroup. Occasionally you'll find an old timer who
remembers rec.arts.marching.misc, which used to handle any non-drumcorps
discussion. (This newsgroup group still exists, though is rarely used.) 

Not long after that, the newsgroup rec.arts.marching.colorguard was created
for the discussion of competitive guardwork. And in June of 1998,
rec.arts.marching.percussion was added to the hierarchy, as a place for the
discussion of percussion at all levels, with a special emphasis on Winter
Guard type events. 

	* * * * *

Section 2:  THE BANDS

1)  Who is the oldest marching band?

This is a matter of some debate (ah, understatement...). The Princeton
Band at one point claimed to have been the oldest college football
marching band, formed in October 1919. This has pretty much been
discarded, however, as quite a few schools in the Midwest had been
moving in that direction years earlier. What we _do_ know:

o Notre Dame, besides being the oldest college band in continuous existence,
  (starting in 1846) was also on hand for Notre Dame's first football game
  in 1887, but they did not march until an unspecified time later. They
  have a history page at <>.

o Illinois has documentation of being the first marching band to spell words
  (1910) and a letter in a parade (an I). They list these and host of other
  stuff at <>.

o Purdue first formed a letter on a football field in 1907 (a P), as they
  say at <>.

So what does all this prove? Not much. The discussion has fallen out of
vogue on r.a.m.b.c.; maybe someday someone will actually produce some clear
evidence for a claim.

2)  Who has the biggest marching band?

Well, this obviously varies from year to year, but you can usually look
for Texas A&M and Florida State to top the list with between 420 and 450
members. This list, synopsizing what was basically a large poll and
maintained by Marc Olson, can be found at:

3)  What is the Sudler trophy?

The Sudler Trophy is an award given annually by the John Philip Sousa 
Foundation to a collegiate marching band who is "of particular 
excellence and have made outstanding contributions to the American
way of life."  Ballots are submitted by directors of four year
schools participating in NCAA football, who list three choices. The Sudler
committee, and representatives of past award winners, select the recipient
from the top three vote getters, or any other band they choose.

As the Sudler trophy cannot be awarded to the same band twice, it should
not be construed as an award to the "Best Band in the Nation"; however, it
is certainly a great honor. The list of recipients are as follows: 
1982 University of Michigan 
1983 University of Illinois 
1984 The Ohio State University 
1985 Florida A&M University 
1986 University of Texas at Austin 
1987 University of Oklahoma 
1988 Michigan State University 
1989 Kansas University
1990 University of Iowa
1991 Arizona State University
1992 Northwestern University
1993 University of California at Los Angeles
1994 James Madison University
1995 Purdue University
1996 University of Nebraska
1997 West Virginia University
1998 University of Massachusetts
1999 Texas Tech University
2000 University of Georgia
2001 Texas A&M University

4)  Who reads

Although Gordon Henderson, director of the UCLA Band, was once quoted as
saying that only 40 people read r.a.m.b.c., it's likely that the number is
much, much higher.  People from bands all over the country (and a few from
outside the U.S., although their organizations rarely fit our definition
of a college marching band) read and participate in r.a.m.b.c. every day. 

Many student and alumni staff members of marching bands, including drum
majors, managers, and others participate or at least lurk in the group.  To
date, only a few faculty directors, have actually posted to the group;
notably Gary Smith (ret.) of the University of Illinois Marching Illini,
Dave Woodley (The Colonel) from Indiana University, and John Madden,
director of the Michigan State Spartan Marching Band. 

	* * * * *

Section 3:  R.A.M.B.C. NETIQUETTE

1)  What is netiquette?

Before you post to r.a.m.b.c. or any other newsgroup, there are a few 
things you should probably know.  Usenet newsgroups comprise a community, 
with its own rules and codes of conduct.  It is important that you try to 
understand this community before becoming part of it; otherwise, you risk 
being ignored as a "clueless newbie."

We recommend that you begin by looking in the newsgroup
"news.announce.newusers".  You should find posts such as "Emily Postnews
Answers Your Questions on Netiquette", "Rules for posting to Usenet", and
other salient notes for a beginning newsreader.

Once you've done that, note the following issues more specific to 

2)  How much should I trim down quoted passages?

As much as possible, leaving just enough of the quote to remind readers
what was being discussed or to identify the specific item to which you are

3)  Do people care about spelling?

Your ability to spell is a reflection of the time you spent on your
message and how much you paid attention in grade school.  Incorrect
spelling also invites public mocking, which tends to decrease the quality
of discussion on the newsgroup.  So spell as well as you can spell, and
all will be swell. 

4) I am new to the group.  What should I do?

Don't post right away. We aren't going anywhere.  You should read any
newsgroup for at least a few weeks before posting, so that you can get a
feel for the average quality of discussion, the lingo that people use, and
the subject material covered in the group. Read the FAQ, too... ahh, you
already are.

5)  My director/staff/drum major is an incompetent slob/idiot/moron.

Think before you post.  As we mentioned above, many people from all over 
the country participate in this group, and an even larger number read the 
posts without actually participating ("lurk").  Usenet is a public forum, 
and anything bad you say about someone will likely get to that person, no 
matter how computer-clueless you believe they are.

5a) Everybody in my band thinks this way.

This is a somewhat special case of "think before you post."  While 
disclaimers are generally implicit on Usenet, and few will actively 
believe that one member of a band speaks for the entire group unless that 
person claims specifically to do so, the fact remains that most people 
will form opinions of your group based on what you say.

This is not to say that you shouldn't feel absolutely free to post any 
opinions you want; Usenet has always been committed to free speech.  
However, for your own good and for the good of your band, be sure that you 
know and make clear to others when your own opinion may differ from others 
in your band.  If you're concerned, you may want to speak to your own band 
management/staff for guidelines.

6) My drum corps has openings...

Stop and think a minute. Most drum corps participants are going to choose an
organization that either they've seen before or is nearby. So sending out a
message resembling a Make Money Fast post is not a decent recruiting tool.
It's idiotic. However, should you feel some lemmingesque urge to splatter
your corps of choice across Usenet, we heartily reccomend you do it in
rec.arts.marching.drumcorps, where ironically enough, drum corps fans
discuss such things. 

	* * * * *


1)  Who is the best marching band?

Please, please, please don't ask.  EVERYBODY thinks their band is the
best.  (Or at least they should; if you don't think your band is the best,
feel free to post and ask for advice on how to make it better.) The fact
of the matter is, the variety of marching styles and musical repertoires,
and the impossibility of a widespread head-to-head competition makes such
a judgement impossible in a public forum. Ergo, all discussions of this
sort inevitably end in flames.  In fact, r.a.m.b.c.  has its own version
of Godwin's Rule (the rule that a discussion on Usenet is over when one
side compares the other to the Nazis): McClurg's Rule, which states that a
"Which band is best?"  discussion is over when it denigrates into USC
(University of Southern California)-bashing.

2) Does Stanford/UVA/Rice/The Ivy League suck?

Sometimes, but not because they don't march.  Understanding the
performance style (scrambling), song selection (keep the students happy),
and attitude (fight-the-world) of scramble bands are critical to
appreciating them. 

3) Does USC suck?

Sometimes, but not because they play one song.  Understanding the
performance style ("Drive It" step), song selection (annoy the opposing
team), and attitude (fight-the-world) of Southern Cal is critical to
appreciating them.

3a) And who's they guy playing "Fight On!" at every Rose Parade?

It's never been determined whether he exists or not, but rumor has it that
every year a trombone player plays the Southern Cal Fight Song in the
crowd of the Rose Parade. Whether he does or not, it is certain that he is
neither a current band member nor a graduate of recent memory. (The last
ten years or so.) 

	* * * * *


1) Which band was in the movie...?

Aces: Iron Eagle III: University of Arizona
Austin Powers: Riverside Community College (RCC)
The Big Chill: University of Michigan
Dear God: RCC
Everybody's All-American: LSU
Forrest Gump: Southern Cal
Game Day: Columbia
Good Burger: RCC
Hero: RCC
Hiding Out: UCLA
In the Line of Fire: UCLA
Jingle All the Way: UCLA, Pasedena City College
The Last Boy Scout: Southern Cal
Little Nikita: UCLA
The Little Rascals: Southern Cal
My Blue Heaven: RCC
My Fellow Americans: Ohio State
Naked Gun: Southern Cal is shown marching, Rice is who is heard.
The Other Sister: RCC
Revenge of the Nerds: University of Arizona
Seargant Bilko: Southern Cal
The Sixth Man: University of Washington
The Truman Show: RCC
Turk 182: Columbia
Wag the Dog: RCC
The Waterboy: University of Michigan (heard)

UCLA has a more comprehensive list of their appearances at:

This list, however, is hardly canonical by any stretch of the imagination. 
If the movie, isn't listed here, read the credits. It's probably Southern
Cal. (They do an incredible number of them.) 

2) Which band was banned from where?

A short timeline:

1967  Columbia is banned by the Ivy League from performing at any athletic
      event after performing a show with a birth control theme.
1972  Columbia is banned from West Point for "forming" the napalming of a
      Cambodian Villiage, complete with flaming villagers. 
1985  Yale is banned from performing at halftime of the Yale-Army game
      minutes beforehand, after Army's athletic director deems the show 
      "not worthy of the privilege of being presented to 40,000 people in
      Michie Stadium." A week later six members of the band were suspended
      for three games after dropping their pants (they wore boxers) at the
      Yale-Holy Cross game. 
1985  The West Virginia legislature votes to ban Virginia from the state 
      for a show that used several West Virginia stereotypes and made
      fun of a recent industrial accident.
1986  The Maryland state legislature votes to ban Virginia from playing at
      any public stadium in the state for portraying Marvin Mandel,
      governor at the time in stripes and a ball and chain. He was later
      convicted on charges of racketerring, corruption, and mail fraud. 
1990  Stanford is banned from the state of Oregon for a show making fun of
      the Spotted Owl controversy.
1991  Legislation is introduced in Virginia to ban UVA after a Sugar Bowl
      show where they killed Elvis, inciting opposing Tennessee fans. It
      never comes to vote. 
1991  Stanford is banned indefinitely from performing at Notre Dame for
      having a drum major dress up as a nun.
1993  Virginia is banned from it's own stadium in an attempt to replace
      them with an Athletic Department run band. The new band was booed
      and heckled by the students; its membership dropped to about 10
      members by the end of football season, so they brought the Pep Band
1994  Pennsylvania's planned show at Lafyette College is pulled at the
      last moment for unspecified reasons.
1995  Wisconsin is banned indefinitely from Penn State for surrounding
      and deafening a groundskeeper during their "5th Quarter" performance.
1996  Humboldt State (CA) is permanently banned from staying at Hickey
      Gym, on the UC Davis campus, for various abuses, among them "harassing
      llamas." They are also banned from the Picnic Day Parade for not
      staying in order. This begins a tradition of being banned from the
      parade only to talk their way into it in every year since. 
1997  North Carolina is told by the organizers of the Macy's Thanksgiving
      Day parade that future applications to perform will be denied for
      breaking formation during the 1993 parade.
1997  Stanford is banned from their own stadium for the 1999 Notre Dame
      game for a show mocking the Fighting Irish mascot.
1997  Cornell is banned by its own Athletics Department from performing at
      games at Harvard and Yale in 1998, at a home game against UPenn, and
      at the 1999 game at UPenn after Penn students complain about early
      rehearsals and things written on dry erase boards. The punishment
      was later lessened to a reduction in roadtrips, and a mandatory
      student leadership class. 
1997  UC Davis is banned from a California State University basketball
      game because "Davis would gain a home court advantage at an away
      game if the band appeared." (CSU routinely bans UC Davis from
      basketball and volleyball games for similar reasons.)
1998  Prairie View A&M and Southern University are both banned for two
      football games by the SWAC after a brawl broke out between the two
      bands during halftime.
1999  Miami University (Ohio) is banned from a home halftime performance
      and a performance at a Cincinnati Bengals game after drinking, 
      watching pornographic movies, and mooning people on a trip to West 

People worried about the apparant increase in University crackdowns in
recent years should be reminded that these are all from memory, and the
more recent items are more likely to be remembered.

3) Did the Stanford Band really urinate on the field at halftime?

No.  Two really drunk bandmembers relieved themselves on a grassy corner
of the stadium by the track, during the postgame show.  AP picked it up
and said something different, and now the incident is legendary. 

4) Have you heard the story about the band on the plane?

Yep. We've heard it about many bands on many planes. How much of it is
true, however, is another matter entirely:

4a) The Plane Rolling Story: 

This is the most often repeated story, and consequently the most
misattributed one. It goes like this: The marching band in question
decides to see what happens when everybody runs to one side of the lane at
once. The plane pitches over, the airframe is damaged, and the pilot is
more than slightly annoyed. Among the bands who have been blamed are
Stanford, Iowa and Southern Cal, but no one has ever met any of the plane
rollers, nor seen any account written at the time. It's an urban legend,

4b) The Pillow Fight Story:

In 1977, Southern Cal chartered a flight to the Bluebonnet Bowl (now
defunct) for the band on World Airways (also now defunct). Somehow a
pillow fight ensued amongst the band and grew to involve a nearby flight
attendant.  The airline would not let them fly home until a high ranking
executive, who just so happened to be on the Board of Trustees,
intervened. The flight attendant sued the university, and won about 20K.

4c) The Airsickness Story:

LSJUMB is scheduled to fly down to LA for the U-whatever football game. 
Before leaving his house, our bandsman puts carrots, a peanut butter
sandwich, and other misc. lunch items into a blender, runs the blender
until it's well mixed but chunky, pours the result into a zip-lock bag,
puts the bag into the pocket of his band jacket, and heads for the Shak to
catch the bus to the airport.

He boards the plane.  During takeoff, he empties the zip-lock bag into
the sick bag at his seat.  After takeoff, when the stewardess comes
down the aisle, he puts his mouth over the bag and feigns airsickness.
As he pulls his head out of the bag, the stewardess says "Here, let me
take that for you."  He gives it to her, but, shouting "Wait!  That's
my lunch!", grabs it back, reaches in, pulls out a handfull, and eats

The stewardess pukes in the aisle, and LSJUMB is persona non-grata on
United Airlines for 5 years.

5) Why don't marching bands get more TV time?

There are numerous reasons, among them the legal hassle in obtaining song
copyrights, lost advertising revenue, the difficulty of filming a band
_and_ getting a good pickup of the sound, and the sports-oriented priorities
of the director. In other words, people would rather see football

	* * * * *


1) Who originated the "Let's Go <color> cheer?

The earliest appearance of the cheer was at Michigan, where it's known as
"Let's Go Blue." It was arranged by Joe Carl, a tuba player from 1973 to
1976, and Albert Ahronheim, a drum major from 1972 to 1974.  It originated
as a cheer at Michigan hockey games before moving to the gridiron. 

2)  What's up with the "Hey!" song?
The "Hey" song, a.k.a. "Dr. Who," a.k.a. "Vamp" a.k.a. a host of other
names, can be found in the record racks under "Rock and Roll Part II" by
Gary Glitter. A longtime favorite of the Chicago Bulls and Pittsburgh
Penguins pro sports teams, it's beloved at some schools and banned at
others. You either love it or you hate it. 

3) Do you know any Anti-Fight Songs?

Why yes we do. People are reluctant to post them, however, as they have a
tendency to start arguments and reflect poorly on the bands involved.
There are two websites that have them;

	* * * * *

Section 7: BANDS AT PLAY

1) What is Picnic Day?

Picnic Day is a festival at UC Davis held on some Saturday every April. 
Picnic Day (also known as "Davis Day" to the LSJUMB) includes a parade in
the morning, and a "Battle of the Bands" in the afternoon.  The rules of
the Battle are simple: each band has a turn to play a song.  If you repeat
a song that you or any other band has played, you're out.  If you miss
your turn (including leaving), you're out.  If you play another school's
traditional closer/fight song, you're out.  The usual participants are the
UC Davis Aggie Band-uh, the Cal Band, the LSJUMB, and the Humboldt State
Marching Lumberjacks.  In recent years, they've been joined by the UCSD
pep band, as well as a couple of other bands at various times. 

2) What is the ACC Battle of the Bands?
A basketball tournament between the nine bands of the ACC that began in
1989 and is held every year during the ACC tournament. Most of the pre-
and post-weekend trash talk occurs here. The list of champions is as

1989 Duke
1990 Virginia
1991 Virginia
1992 Virginia
1993 Virginia
1994 North Carolina State
1995 Virginia
1996 North Carolina State
1997 Virginia
1998 North Carolina State
1999 North Carolina State
2000 North Carolina State

	* * * * *


1)  Newsgroups and mailing lists

Other newsgroups which may be of interest to r.a.m.b.c. readers:
        rec.arts.marching.drumcorps (Drum Corps discussion) (High school marching bands)
        rec.arts.marching.misc (Miscellaneous marching topics, dying group)
Mailing lists of interest:
        Ivy League Bands list
                The ivy-bands list is made up of members of the various
		scatter/scramble bands of the Ivy League (plus the more
		traditional Cornell), as well as the three non-Ivy
		scatter/scramble bands.  If you're interested in
                scatter/scramble bands, join the list by sending mail to 
2)  WWW Band info

Lots of bands are out on the Web these days.  The "canonical" list of 
marching band Web pages is at:

Another good one is:

	* * * * *


Original Authors:  Adam Elman, LSJUMB <>
        	   Meredith McClurg, YPMB <>
Rewritten By:      Patrick Neschleba, LSJUMB <>
And Maintained By: Craig Moe, MTH <>

SEE YOUR NAME HERE!  Send us a submission for the FAQ and we'll be more 
than happy to add you to the Acknowledgements list.  

Currently, special thanks to:

o The maintainers of the James Madison U. Web Page, for info on the Sudler 
o Marc Barman, for the Airsickness Story.
o Anthony Campillo, for Vriginia Pep Band stories.
o Kevin Chu and Brad Wetmore, for the awesome "Other Bands" page.
o Diana Gonzales, for the Pillow Fight Story.
o Jonell Lindholm, for information on "Let's Go Blue."
o John Madden, for information on directors on r.a.m.b.c.
o John Matras, for the quote of Illinois inaugurating spelling formations.
o Marc Olson, for the Sizes of College Marching Bands Web Page.
o Mike Puterbaugh, for the account of Cornell's Penn State difficulties.
o Jeff Randall, for Illinois and Purdue's forays into letter forming.
o Jane Rucker, for Humboldt State University's misadventures at UC Davis.
o Mike Schiraldi and Constantino Tobio, for information on Columbia and
  the Ivy league.
o Dave Woodley, for explaining how the Sulder selection process works.

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM