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Michigan Marching Band, Michigan Stadium, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan | by Ken Lund
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Michigan Marching Band, Michigan Stadium, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

The Michigan Marching Band (MMB) is the University of Michigan's marching band.


In 1896, Harry dePont invited musicians throughout campus to attend a meeting for the purpose of organizing a band. Two years later, the MMB became an indispensable part of the Michigan tradition by playing at the football games. After Michigan moved out of the Western Football Conference in 1911, J. Fred Lawton and Earl Vincent Moore composed the fight song 'Varsity', which became an immediate hit. George Olsen became the marching band's first drum major in 1914. The band fraternity, Kappa Kappa Psi, was established to promote and serve the University bands in 1925. William D. Revelli succeeded Nicholas Falcone as director in 1935 requiring all male wind instrument majors to join the MMB and aligning the band with the School of Music in 1940. 1951 brought forth the MMB classics 'M Fanfare', 'Temptation' and 'Hawaiian War Chant', all arranged by Jerry Bilik. In 1970, Carl Grapentine became the "Voice of the Michigan Bands" and continues to hold that post today. Women were finally allowed to join the marching band in 1972. The MMB was the first band to win the Sudler Trophy in 1982, receiving the trophy at halftime of the 1983 Rose Bowl Game. Today, the MMB remains an integral part of the Michigan Football tradition.


The Michigan Marching Band has one drum major, commonly referred to as the "Man Up Front," for the entire 350+ member ensemble. Like in most Big Ten bands, the MMB drum major is not a conducting position. The drum major provides whistle commands to provide song tempos and parade instructions. While it is not required of the position, most drum majors perform twirling routines during the halftime show. The drum major is also responsible for teaching proper marching techniques during Band Week. The drum major is best known for the back bend performed during pregame.


The reserve members leave the parade formation, run down the tunnel onto the field and move into the stands to watch pregame. The remaining band members then enter the tunnel and arrange themselves into 'entry lines' for the start of the pregame performance. The drum major then proceeds to the lower mouth of the tunnel signaling to the stadium announcer that the band is ready. The Michigan Stadium and MMB announcer, Carl Grapentine, announces the entrance of the band in his signature baritone: "Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting the 235-member Michigan Marching Band! Baaaand, take the field!"


The band then 'pours' out of the tunnel onto the field to the Entry Cadence at 220+ BPM in entry lines which then fold out into the Fanfare M.


From the Fanfare M formation, the MMB plays the M Fanfare. The M Fanfare was composed by longtime Michigan Marching Band arranger and composer Jerry Bilik, consisting of portions of "The Victors," "Varsity," and "The Yellow and Blue."


At the climax of the M Fanfare, the drum major performs a signature move. The drum major moves from the middle of the band to the north end 20-yard line. He/she then takes off their hat, turns to face the south end zone, and bends backwards to touch his/her head to the ground. This is done every game. Originally, drum majors kept their hat on and touched its plume to the ground. The first drum major to do this was Mark Brown in the late 1960s. Brown was extremely flexible and could touch the plume to the ground between his heels.


During the pregame performance, the MMB appropriately plays the pregame version of "The Victors" while marching all the way to the north end zone. Before the trio starts, an added drum transition occurs for the band to change formations from sweep lines to the hollow block M. During the transition, Carl Grapentine announces, "All the Maize and Blue faithful join in a rousing chorus of the Victors!" These words have been spoken for the past 30 years. Prior to that, the announcer would say, "Let's all sing for today's big Michigan victory!". For the Ohio State game, he would add another "big" to the announcement. The trio of "The Victors" is then played while marching to the south end zone.


During "The Victors", the drum major marches down to the north end zone goal post and tosses his/her mace over the cross bar. Superstition says that if the drum major catches the mace without dropping it, the football team will win the game.


Immediately following "The Victors", the MMB plays the visitor's fight song to the south end zone. The upper section of the south end zone is where a large portion of the visiting fans sit. This is a strong tradition among all Big Ten marching bands (and thus copied by many Midwestern high school marching bands).


At the end, the band splits the M to allow room for the "Go Blue, M Club Supports You" banner to be raised for the team's entrance. The team runs onto the field as the band plays the trio of "The Victors" twice.

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Taken on September 26, 2015