The University of Colorado marching band marks its 100th birthday this year.
Created by dailycamera on Oct 3, 2008
Last updated: 03/05/10 at 08:58 PM
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Today the marching band is 220 strong, and the students have stuck with a schedule similar to the one players kept since at least the 1950s: They practice, a lot. Students practice every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and that doesn’t include time spent practicing individual instrument sectionals, playing at games and memorizing the music at home. In the above picture, from August, the University of Colorado Marching Band spins during the march to Farrand Field. The band led the students to the Global Jam, an event to help initiate freshmen into the diverse CU ommunity.
After plenty of on-field experimentation, the band nails the buffalo formation typically seen as the CU symbol today. In the past, the buffalo usually faced left, sometimes with two stick legs, sometimes with four thick legs, and a long tail, or no tail or a fat tail. The wildly changing beast settled down when the university adopted the right-facing buffalo silhouette seen today with CU written inside. The CU band also missed its first bowl game, when CU headed to Hawaii in 1993 for the Aloha Bowl. The band had been to all 17 prior bowl games. In 1998, when CU went back to the Aloha Bowl, the band managed to send a 50-member pep band.
In 1981, the Board of Regents officially adopted blue as the primary uniform color — for both the football team and the band. The color was supposed to represent "the deep blue color of Colorado’s sky at 9,000 feet," according to then-Regent Jack Anderson. The band got its "skyblues" in 1983, two years before the football team ditched the unpopular colors and went back to black. Unable to afford another set of new uniforms, the band was stuck wearing the now-infamous gold-tasseled, cowboy-style blue uniforms through 1988. The band is wearing the skyblues in this photo, taken in 1988 when the group was at its largest. With 270 marchers, the band was able to spell out Colorado in script at CSU’s Hughes Stadium.
Women are finally allowed to join the official ranks of the marching band. Toward the end of the decade, Ralphie II became so cantankerous and mean — with the result of the animal or the handlers "knocking over a woodwind player or two," according to the band historian — that the band abandoned the tunnel concept. And, after 32 years as band director, McMillan retired.
The first live buffalo, Ralphie I, was donated to CU in 1966. The band formed a tunnel for the buffalo to run through.
The band heads to Miami with the football team for CU’s second bowl game, the 1957 Orange Bowl. The band flew to Miami, but the small prop plane had to land in Dallas and again in Montgomery, Ala., to refuel. The band’s theme for the Orange Bowl game had to do with visiting a zoo, and the art department made giant giraffe heads to fit over the tops of the tubas.
As World War II began to siphon off many of the young men who would have played in the CU Band, a women’s band formed on campus in 1942 to pick up the slack. The men and the women weren’t allowed to rehearse together until the morning of the game. The women’s band, which was one of the largest in the country, marched until 1953, then continued to play from the stands until dissolving in 1967. In this photo, which was probably taken in 1943 or 1944, the men, at left, and women, at right, are performing a half-time show together.
In 1936, CU hired Hugh McMillan to direct the band. In 1938, the band accompanied the football team to its first bowl game, the Cotton Bowl in Texas, where Colorado was beaten by Rice 28-14 in front of a crowd of 37,000. In this picture taken during the 1938-39 school year, the CU band is marching down Pearl Street for the first or second Band Day, when high school bands come to the Boulder campus to participate in a marching contest. Band Day continues today.
Sometime during the middle of the roaring ’20s, the U of C changed its nickname to CU. In 1924, the band updated its uniforms, changing from a military-style cadet gray jacket to a more casual outfit with capes and caps. In this picture, the CU band marches past the west side of Carlson Gymnasium in 1928 on the way to Colorado Stadium, now called Folsom Field.
The band shrunk to about a dozen members, but stays together. In this picture, the band stands in front of a fancy electric sign set up in front of Old Main for graduation.
After several earlier attempts at forming a band for the U of C, as the school was first called, students came together in 1908 to start the University of Colorado Brass Band. For the band’s first away game, members traveled by train to Colorado A&M, now known as CSU, in Fort Collins. In 1909, the band was officially chartered by CU’s Board of Regents.