The year was 1885…
Grover Cleveland was the President of the United States…
The Washington Monument was dedicated…
Mark Twain had just completed The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Panama Canal was in its third year of construction…
Geronimo, the fierce leader of the Apache Indians, was still at large…
Peter Tchaikovsky was busy writing symphonies in Russia…
General Ulysses S. Grant died…
John Philip Sousa was the director of the United States Marine Band and would not write Stars and Stripes Forever for another twelve years…
Football would not be known on the University of Wisconsin campus for at least nine years…
and THE WISCONSIN BAND WAS BORN!

FirstBandFirst know photo of the UW Band, 1885-86

The story of the Wisconsin Band began very inconspicuously in the autumn of 1885, when the University Press, a weekly publication that covered campus events until 1887, announced the “official authorization for the organization of the Wisconsin Regimental Band.” According to the University Press, Major Chase, the Battalion commandant, strongly stressed in 1883 that there was a “need for a fife and drum corps to play for the Battalion drills.” That first band, with F.O. May as leader, consisted of 11 musicians with two or three more being involved with the band’s activities before the year concluded.

The history of the Wisconsin Band, from its humble beginnings to the powerhouse that it is today, has been well documented. The Wisconsin Band’s book, Songs to Thee Wisconsin – 110 Years is available through the band store. It is difficult to summarize all of the events leading up to the band’s current success. Listed on the following pages are some of the highlights of the band’s history, as well as the talented conductors that have led the charge.

The Early Years
The Dvorak Era
The Leckrone Years
Traditions