University of Michigan


Michigan Marching Band Traditions

The University of Michigan Marching Band held its first rehearsal as a concert band in November, 1896By the spring of 1897, the band had already become popular on campus and was playing at all the indoor track meets and baseball games. The band began playing in the stands at football games that fall, and their first appearance on a football field was in the fall of 1898. Being a student-run organization with no support from the University, the band struggled off and on for over two decades to survive financially. 

In the fall of 1914, a sixteen year old graduate of a high school military school took on the role of Drum Major for the band, and began incorporating precision military drill into the band’s performances.  In 1915, a new director with a former career conducting military bands instilled further disciplinary and musical standards, and the band finally saw some financial support from the University. In the 1930’s, the band began working with the ROTC to execute new drills, and although they broke from the ROTC after WWII, they grew strong over the years, growing from 40 members to the 300+ ensemble we see today.

In the 1980’s, the band started performing the Otis Redding hit “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” made famous in the movie “The Blues Brothers”.  Done once a season during pregame, the band collapses, during a vamp in the music, into a 10-yard-diameter circle, centered on the 50-yard line, to finish the song.

The Pregame show and the famed “Let’s Go Blue” Cheer are some of the most recognizable traditions in college football.

The Michigan Marching Band rehearses Friday night before a home game from 4:45pm-6:15pm on Elbel Field, located at the corner of Hill & Division, north east of Michigan Stadium. (336 Hill Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104)