The University of Michigan, oldest of the “Big Ten” universities, has produced its full quota of scholars, scientists, writers, teachers, artists, and leaders in the nation’s political life. And in the realm of band music, its supremacy is unquestioned. The University of Michigan Band has won a summa cum laude within the country’s borders and the highest honors on the international music scene. The first major university band to give extensive nation-wide concert tours, its magnificent of sound, ensemble and musicianship have aroused the kind of critics’ superlatives usually reserved for the world’s top symphony orchestras. In the spring of 1961 the band embarked on a fifteen week tour of Eastern Europe and the Middle East, sponsored by the United States Department of State as part of the President’s International Cultural Exchange Program. Eight weeks were spent in the Soviet Union, and the other seven in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Rumania and Poland. Each of the band’s eighty-eight concerts aroused wild and joyous enthusiasm, and left fond memories with invitations to return.
The band itself has more than a century’s history behind it, starting at abound 1854. The University was founded before there was a Michigan. It was chartered in 1817, as the University of Michigiana. In 1837 Michigan became the 26th state of the Union, in 1841 the University moved from Detroit to its present home, Ann Arbor, and in 1844 occurred the first known mention of the band, as a group of nine players who “assisted to a great extent in the singing at the chapel services.” In 1859, a group of fifteen music-minded students organized themselves as The Michigan Marching Band. For about forty years after this the band grew slowly as an extra-curricular student activity. Then in 1895 it received official status from the Board of Regents, in 1898 the musicians acquires uniforms, and in 1915 the band acquired its first permanent conductor. It grew to a contingent of seventy players. Then after 1935, under the leadership of Dr. William D. Revelli, it took many leaps forward arriving at its present pre-eminence among world bands.
Today, what are known as the “University of Michigan Bands” comprise more than 350 players, all of them students at the University. There are three musical divisions. One is the University of Michigan Marching Band, which plays at all of the home football games and travels with the team to off-campus games. Another is the Varsity Band, which plays at basketball games and other campus functions. Third is the University of Michigan Symphony Band, which is the concert band that has won international fame in its tours at home and overseas. It is this band which is heard on the present program.
Dr. William D. Revelli is one of the truly notable figures in the concert band world and has appeared as guest conductor in nearly every state in the Union. He studied at the Beethoven Music Conservatory at St. Louis, the Columbia Music School, the Chicago Musical College and the Vandercook School of Music. In 1925 he was appointed Music Supervisor in the Public Schools of Hobart, Indiana, and the High School Band under his supervision wan five consecutive national championships. In 1935 he was appointed head of the Wind Instrument Department at the University of Michigan, and the Conductor of Bands. Under his inspiring leadership, the Wind Instrument Faculty grew from one to sixteen members, including outstanding instrumentalists and composers, and the University of Michigan Bands attained their present numerical proportions and international celebrity. In 1947 the Chicago Musical College conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Music, and he has been awarded several other honors. He is the Founder and served as first president of the College Band Director’s National Association, and is a central figure wherever there is discussion of band music and musical education.
Side One of the present program contains classic versions of football marches representing each of the “Big Ten” universities. Side Two offers seven other famous football marches, and closes with two American march classics, Alexander’s Colossus of Columbia and Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever. Most of the college marches on this program date from the end of the 19th century and first two decades of the 20th, the period in which football rose to become a major nation-wide scholastic sport, with all the natural accompaniments of music, pageantry and college spirit. Among the composers were students, alumni and faculty members, some of whom became esteemed musicians while others became their most lasting musical achievement in their inspired expression of love for their school.
The composers are as follows: Across the Field (Ohio State), W. A. Dougherty, ’17; Illinois Loyalty, T. H. Guild; Minnesota Rouser, Floyd M. Hutsell; Indiana, Our Indiana, Russell P. Harker and K. L. King; Iowa Fight Song, W. R. Law, ’04; On, Wisconsin, W. T. Purdy; Go, U Northwestern, Theo C. Van Etten, ’16; M.S.U. Fight Song (Michigan State), F. I. Lankey, ’16; Hail Purdue, E. J. Wotawa, ’12; The Victors (University of Michigan), Louis Elebel, ’00; On, Brave Old Army Team, Philip Egner; Down the Field (Yale), Stanleigh B. Friedman; Princeton Cannon Song, J. F. Hewitt, ’07, and A. H. Osborn, ’07; Notre Dame Victory March, Rev. Michael J. Shea, ’04; Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech, Frank Roman; Anchors Aweigh (Navy), Charles A. Zimmerman, who was Musical Director of the U.S. Naval Academy; Mr. Touchdown, U.S.A., Bill Katz, Gene Piller and Ruth Roberts.
The highly creative arrangements of the marches are largely the word of Jerry H. Bilik, who holds the degrees of B. Mus. and M. Mus. from the University of Michigan. He has been arranger for the University of Michigan Bands from 1953 to the present day. He was also arranger for the U. S. Military Academy Band at West point from 1955 to 1958, has arranged for musical shows, and has published a number of serious musical works for concert band. The arrangements of all the “Big Ten” marches on Side One, except the last, are his, and also the arrangements on Side Two of On, Brave Old Army Team, Down the Field, Princeton Cannon Song, Notre Dame Victory March, and Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech.
Acknowledgements are gratefully made to the University of Michigan, to Dean James B. Wallace of the University School of Music, and to Frank J. Ortman, President of the Alumni Association, for their cooperation in the creation of this record, and to the American Federation of Musicians for making this recording possible.
Critics and Composers on the University of Michigan Band
“The University of Michigan Symphony Band, under the leadership of William D. Revelli, last night gave a concert in Carnegie Hall. . . . The University of Michigan Band is without doubt one of the finest in the country, if not the entire world.”
New York Herald Tribune
“The University of Michigan Band, according to my judgment, has no superior among University Bands, and is truly outstanding in its achievements.”
Dr. Edwin Franko Goldman
“It’s the finest band I ever heard.”
Robert Russell Bennett
“One of the finest bands in the nation.”
“The University of Michigan Band is one of the best I have ever heard.” Henry Cowell
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