Skip to main content

Badger Band Concert celebrates 125 years

April 1, 2011

It’s hard to believe, but for many years after it was founded, the University of Wisconsin–Madison Marching Band never played at football games.

“That’s because football wasn’t played here yet,” says conductor Michael Leckrone.

The Badger band celebrates its 125th anniversary this school year and its annual Varsity Band concert, April 14-16, will be a multimedia birthday blowout with balloons, pyrotechnics and plenty of surprises.

“It’s like an indoor Fifth Quarter,” says Leckrone. “We have plenty of room this year, and we want all Badger fans to help us celebrate our birthday.”

The special guest will be drummer Ed Shaughnessy, of Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” orchestra. Modern Drummer magazine has named him “Best Big Band Drummer” seven different times.

The band will also feature salutes to “Glee” and Motown, and recall highlights from the Badger sports season, especially men’s basketball and the Rose Bowl.

“Never mind what else happened in Pasadena,” says Leckrone. “The band won!”

On the football field, it’s the Marching Band. When not marching, at the Kohl Center, it’s called the Varsity Band. Whatever the name, the band has come a long way.

The organization was formed during the 1885-86 school year. During its first seasons, around a dozen musicians were led by F. O. May and C.M. Williams.

The 2011 Varsity Band Concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. April 14-16 at the Kohl Center. Tickets are $22. April 14 only: $15 for students, $10 for dormitory groups. For reservations or ticket information, visit or call 608-265-4120.

The 2011 Varsity Band Concert is made possible by sponsors including Robert W. Baird & Company, The University Book Store, WISC-TV and Channel 3000.