“One of the secrets is: you’ve got to have fun,” said Mike Leckrone, describing the spirit of the UW Marching Band. “But you have to understand that you have the most fun when you work hard at something.” Leckrone followed that principle throughout his half century as the UW’s director of bands, and his successor, Corey Pompey, has carried it forward since taking the baton at the start of the 2019–20 academic year.
The past and present band directors spoke with alumni during The UW Now Livestream event on April 16, a night that would have seen the first of Pompey’s Varsity Band Concerts had the events not been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With Wisconsin Alumni Association® executive director Sarah Schutt as host, Leckrone shared his memories and perspectives from decades leading the band, while Pompey talked about his experiences in his first year, which included a trip to the Rose Bowl. Wisconsin Public Television also offered hardcore UW Band fans a bonus: it made its documentary Mike Leckrone: Wisconsin’s Showman available to view on YouTube until May 3.
During their conversation with Schutt, both directors answered questions from the more than 1,400 fans who tuned in. Pompey admitted, for instance, that his first Varsity Band Concert would not have included an aerial entrance, a hallmark of Leckrone’s years with the events. Leckrone talked about his history with the band: the origins of the stop-at-the-top step, the Fifth Quarter, and the slogan “Eat a Rock.”
“People love the band. People love the football team,” said Pompey. “And if it’s related to the University of Wisconsin, people already have buy-in. So our job, or at least my job, is to not mess that up.”
The UW Now Livestream is a response to the pandemic. The UW Now had originally been planned as a series of events in cities across the United States. Instead, the programming is now offered via YouTube and will continue through the spring. The next event will be April 21 and will feature conversations with men’s basketball coach Greg Gard and Chancellor Rebecca Blank.