“SSSSSS…BOOM…AHHHH…WHISTLE!” The band has just gotten your attention. But why? Are they greeting someone, announcing a song or a cheer, or are they about to tell a joke? It could be any of these, but you know the band has something to say and are using a skyrocket to do so.
The skyrocket has not always been exclusively a band tradition, but today it only seems to exist as a device by our UW musicians. Band members use it as a means of extending a greeting, an honor, or simply to announce a cheer or a song.
As a student custom, the skyrocket approximately dates back to the beginning of the University of Wisconsin. It was originally used as a means of greeting a favorite professor at the beginning of a lecture. It was well know by students from one end of campus to the other as to which professor rated a single, double, or triple skyrocket. Students were brutally honest in their assessment of a faculty member’s ability, and many egos were permanently damaged by their frankness. At some point in history, the skyrocket was discontinued by the student body. However, the Wisconsin Band has kept the tradition alive.
The procedure has always been the same: a long, low hiss, “SSSSS”, followed by a short, loud “BOOM,” then a sigh, “AAHHH,” and finally a whistle. Traditionally, this was then followed by the name of the professor being greeted. More recently, the band has used the skyrocket to gain attention before delivering a cheer, song, or humorous statement. There have been a number of memorable deliveries in the history of the band. Here is one of the classics: “SSSS…BOOM…AHHHH…WHISTLE! Hey Seattle, is that the Space Needle or are you just happy to see us?”