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Mike Leckrone: A legendary career

August 25, 2018 By Jay Rath

1936 Michael Leckrone [pron. LECK-rone] is born in North Manchester, Indiana. His father is a high school band conductor. Michael begins trumpet and piano instruction at age 9.

1955 Marries Phyllis Bechtold.

1958 Receives bachelor of music, cum laude, from Butler University in Indianapolis.

1961 Receives master of music in music history at Butler; is offered full-time job there as assistant band director and music theory instructor.

1962 Begins doctoral work at Indiana University.

1966 Named director of Marching Band at Butler University, builds it to 150 members. One of “the finest marching bands in the Midwest,” it is subsequently the subject of two television documentaries.

1968 Named director of UW Marching Band.

1969 Joins the UW School of Music in the newly opened Mosse Humanities Building. Establishes the Varsity Band.

1970 Marching Band enrollment jumps by nearly 50 percent, to 147.

1971 Marching Band’s males-only policy dropped. It will take another three years for the first women to join.

1972-73 Designs new band uniforms; they become iconic. A commercial jingle for Budweiser beer, already adapted as the pop song “You’ve Said It All,” is introduced during UW hockey’s first NCAA championship.

1973 Awarded the Outstanding Bandmaster Award by the Wisconsin chapter of Phi Beta Mu.

Spring 1975 The first Varsity Band concert is performed in Mills Concert Hall for an audience of 450.

Fall 1975 Following departure of H. Robert Reynolds, Leckrone is named director of bands. Marching Band enrollment reaches 204. The band appears for the first time at an NFL game, establishing an annual performance tradition with the Green Bay Packers.

1977 The Fifth Quarter begins; Varsity Band Concert moves to the Field House.

1979 First sell-out of the Varsity Band Concert.

1985 The band celebrates its centennial.

1986 Presented with Citation of Excellence by the National Band Association.

1992 Leckrone and the band perform on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

1993 In its annual survey of college life, “Playboy” magazine names the Badger Band “#1 in the nation.” Band travels to Japan’s Tokyo Bowl, where the UW clinches a spot in the Rose Bowl. The band will make six Rose Bowl trips with Leckrone.

2007 Presented with Lifetime Achievement Award by the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music (only the second time this award had been conferred).

2010 Presented with the Spencer Tracy Award for Distinction in the Performing Arts by the Wisconsin Historical Society.

2013 Receives the Michael St. John Lifetime Achievement Award from the Madison Area Music Association.

2015 Cited by the Wisconsin State Assembly as a Hometown Hero.

2016 Undergoes open heart surgery.

2017 Wife Phyllis, 81, dies after 62 years of marriage. She is survived by children Erik, Kris, Mika, Mindy and Missy, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Summer 2018 Receives Edwin Franko Goldman Lifetime Achievement Award from the American School Band Directors Association and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Lifetime Achievement Award.

Aug. 25, 2018 Announces that the current school year will be his last as conductor of the Marching Band.

Professor Michael Leckrone holds memberships in numerous professional organizations, as well as honorary fraternities Kappa Kappa Psi, Phi Mu Alpha, Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Beta Mu. He is a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and the American Bandmasters Association. He has received the UW’s Pat O’Dea Award, the Blue Line Club Distinguished Service Award, the Badger Basketball Boosters Distinguished Service Award, the UW Alumni Club Distinguished Faculty Award and the Wisconsin Newspaper Writers Special Edition Award. He has been inducted into the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame and Wisconsin Football Hall of Fame and has been commissioned a Kentucky Colonel by the governor of Kentucky.