I asked several band alumni to weigh in on your question, Bob, and they enjoyed crunching the numbers. For starters, there’s registration week or “Reg Week,” when students trying to earn a coveted spot on the field practice intensely and might play the university fight song 10 times per day.
Once they’re in the band’s ranks, they play “On, Wisconsin!” at least twice at every practice, four days per week, throughout football season. That’s eight times per week for 13 weeks or 104 rounds.
On game day, the UW Marching Band rehearses at the stadium before entertaining crowds at a pregame concert and tailgates, after every touchdown or field goal, in the stands and during the Fifth Quarter. The number varies but band alumni tell me that the average is 20 times during each home game, plus one away game per season. That’s around 160, and if the Badgers go to a bowl game, they’re bound to play it 30 more times.
The band also performs during the Homecoming parade and at special concerts and events. Factor that in and you could safely say 400 times each fall, or 1,600 total if a band member plays all four years.
And there’s more to this song than football. Most Marching Band members also play indoors in the Varsity Band. They perform during home basketball, hockey and volleyball games, at their three-day spring concert on campus, and at other special events, including weddings, birthday parties and grand openings around the state. Not every band member performs at every function, but most attend a dozen events throughout the year and play “On, Wisconsin!” several times or more at each. That’s another 50 times annually.
So, my best guesstimate is 1,800 times. Any more, and the song would begin to get old.