The University of Wisconsin-Madison Marching Band has had a vast and varied past. The exact date to which the band was formed has been narrowed down and put into official record as starting in 1885, at which time the band went by the name of the University Regimental Band. The band started out as a military institution, but on February 1, 1886, the UW Band made its first nonmilitary performance, with 16 total members, at the UW's 10th Annual Joint Debate.
The UW Band made its first Badger football game appearance, then as the University Band, in 1894 with 26 members (quite a contrast compared to the approximately 280 to 300 band members who performed at this year's football games!). Judge John "Ikey" Karel has been quoted as sharing this memory from the inaugural event: "After parading around the capitol square on my 'dish pan' (snare drum), we returned to the lower campus (Library Mall), when I removed my band uniform, which I had over my football suit, and played in a game of football." During these early years, the band performed at all of the sporting events - especially during football season, when they played throughout the city on an open streetcar.
However, the University Band's performances weren't always on the streets of Madison. Music Hall was built in 1879 to be used as an assembly hall and library, but in 1900 it became the residence of the School of Music. Because the University Band came under partial control of the Music Department in 1909, it was only fitting that Music Hall become the "home" of the UW Band. Music Hall was the headquarters for the band until 1969, when the School of Music and the University of Wisconsin Band department were moved to the Humanities building.
The University of Wisconsin Band, with its vast number of unforgettable performances on campus and across the nation, has been a treasured institution of the UW for over one hundred years.