University of Illinois


Marching Illini Traditions

The history of the Marching Illini begins as far back as 1868 as a student-run Military Band program. In 1905, the Military Band was appointed its first official director, who also happened to be a former Illini football player. From the beginning, the band had a close relationship with composer “American March King” John Philip Sousa, who composed the “University of Illinois March” in 1929, and later bequeathed his entire music library upon his death in 1932. In 1941, WWII caused the number of men on campus to dwindle; therefore, in order to keep the Military Band program intact, women were allowed to join. Among the Military band program was the “Football Band”, which was coined the “Marching Illini” in the 1940’s.

The band is complimented by an auxiliary flag corps and female dance squad, named the “Illinettes”.

American composer John Philip Sousa was a large benefactor of the University of Illinois music programs. After John Philip Sousa commissioned the design of the Sousaphone for the United States Marine Corp Band in the 1890’s, he introduced the instrument to the The Marching Illini, who was then the first marching band to use Sousaphones on the football field.

The Orange and Blues Band is an honor band of the Marching Illini, participating in the Illini Walk, playing for tailgates on game days, and performing many community events on campus and throughout Champaign-Urbana.

On Friday evenings before a home football game, head to South Quad from 4:30pm-6:30pm to watch the band prepare for Saturday’s game.