Michigan Marching Band

The Michigan Marching Band (or MMB) is University of Michigan's Marching Band.


In 1896 the MMB was founded as a student organization and became a firm part of the Michigan tradition in 1898. Shortly after William D. Revelli became director he aligned the MMB with the School of Music which helped grow the band by requiring all male wind instrument majors to join the MMB. When women were allowed to join the band in 1972 the band saw another growth in membership. The MMB was the first band to win the Sudler Trophy in 1983, receiving the trophy at halftime of that year's Rose Bowl Game. Today the MMB remains as an important part of the Michigan Football tradition.


The Michigan Marching Band performance block pre-game instrumentation:

Performance Block

The Performance Block is the subset of the MMB that performs pre-game and halftime. An additional subset is called "half-time only" which adds to the performance block for half-time. The half-time block usually consists of an additional 6 piccolos, 6 alto saxophones, 12 horns, and 6 to 12 sousaphones (depending on the drill requirements).

The rank leaders along with the MMB staff decide which members in block are to be challenged for their position in block. This method lessens tension in the band as a member does not need to challenge an individual member of the performance block for their position. There are no minimum or maximum requirements for challenges, and some members may not be challenged for an entire season.

Challenges are held after rehearsal on Fridays, for the game after the game which is on the next day. Challenges consist of a halftime marching audition while playing a musical excerpt from the weekly show, followed by performing a portion of the pre-game show. Results are posted the following Monday.

Students who do not make the performance block, called reserves, spend the week rehearsing fundamentals to prepare for the next week's challenge on an adjacent practice field while the performance block learns the show. The reserves are no less a part of the MMB, as they still wear the uniform and play in the stands during football games.

Band Week

Every summer during the two weeks before the first home game the MMB holds their "Band Week." Prospective members, rank leaders, and flags arrive first to rehearse marching styles and traditional music. Prospective members work on marching fundamentals. The returning members join a few days later and the music audition is held to determine the players' chairs. After the returning members have been through a couple days of marching rehearsal "First Look" is held. During first look the entire band performs glide step and a pre-game portion which are observed and voted on by the staff. These performances are given in groups of approximately 8. Until recently, the votes of the entire band determined which members will make up the first performance block. However, concerns over the accuracy of this method gave rise to a new process in which the staff judge and determine the initial performance block. The remainder of Band Week is devoted to rehearsing the first performance of the MMB for pre-game and halftime. The reserves spend the remainder of Band Week practicing for the next challenge.



Prof. Scott Boerma is the current director of the Michigan Marching Band. He replaces Prof. Jamie L. Nix, who announced his resignation as director following the 2007 Rose Bowl Game. Prof. Boerma has arranged music for the MMB as well as for other schools at the high school and college level. His most recent position was as Director of Bands at Eastern Michigan University.

Assistant Director

John D. Pasquale is the Assistant Director of the Michigan Marching Band. He is also responsible for directing the Michigan Hockey Band and the Campus and University Bands. Dr. Pasquale received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Conducting from the University of Oklahoma in 2008. In addition to his responsibilities at the University of Michigan, Dr. Pasquale is a member of the Brass Staff of the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps from Rosemont, Illinois, where he teaches ensemble music and is a brass pedagogy specialist.

Instructors and Graduate Assistants

Working directly under Prof. Boerma are graduate assistants and instructors. Graduate students in the music school or former members that are grad students are hired to help direct the MMB and also to oversee student staff positions. The MMB also has a color guard instructor and a percussion instructor.

Drum Major

Recent Drum Majors
Years Name

2007- Cody Martin
2006 Iden Baghdadchi
2004-2005 Dennis Lee
2002-2003 Matthew Cavanaugh
2001 Karen England
1999-2000 Gregg Whitmore
1997-1998 Ramon Johnson

The Michigan Marching Band has one drum major, commonly referred to as the "Man Up Front," for the entire 350+ member ensemble. Like in most Big Ten bands the MMB drum major is not a conducting position. The drum major provides whistle commands to provide song tempos and parade instructions. While it is not required of the position, most drum majors perform twirling routines during the half time show. The drum major is also responsible for teaching proper marching techniques during Band Week. The drum major is best known for the back bend performed during pregame.

Auditions for this position are held yearly in a two phase process. The first phase is held in front of the MMB staff which narrows the field of candidates. The second phase is held on the last day of classes for the winter term and the final vote is decided by the current members of the MMB.

The first female Drum Major, Karen England, was elected in April 2001.

In 2006 the MMB saw the first Drum Major firing. Ben Iwrey was elected to be the Drum Major by members of the MMB in April 2006. Over the course of the summer there were a few alleged incidents that compelled the director, Jamie L. Nix, to remove Ben from his elected position and promote Iden Baghdadchi. Mr. Iwrey objected to the allegations and Professor Nix's handling of the situation, and chose to file a grievance with the School of Music.

Section Leaders

Section leaders are the head of their section and are responsible for the music performance. They hold weekly music rehearsals for their section. Section leaders are determined by the staff and generally announced at the 'Spring Meeting,' traditionally held on the last day of Winter semester.

Rank Leaders

During Band Week, the potential Rank Leaders are responsible for teaching the new members in their section the correct marching techniques.

During the season, Rank Leaders are in charge of the marching position and style of 12 members on the field. They are given full drill charts to ensure that their rank members are in formation. To save paper regular members are given coordinate sheets to give their position on the field by numbers rather than graphically.

Rank Leaders are determined in phases. Generally each year during the final stages of the winter semester, band members are invited to nominate people in their own section to be considered for a Rank Leader Candidate spot. Rank Leader Candidates are then selected by the staff and announced during the Spring Meeting or sometimes later. Rank Leader Candidates then participate in a retreat directly before Band Week begins for incoming members, color guard and percussion. Rank Leaders teach the incoming members marching techniques, then have two days of review with all other returning members and the incoming members. Band members are then given the chance to fill out Rank Leader evaluations. The staff then narrow down the potential candidates to the actual Rank Leaders for the year, taking the evaluations into account.


Saturday Morning Rehearsal

The MMB practices on Elbel field before every home game. Generally this practice begins at 8:00am for a noon kick-off. The MMB begins the rehearsal with music warm-ups and a review of the halftime music. The band then rehearses the transition elements of the pre-game performance. Following the pre-game rehearsal the band reviews the drill for their halftime performance. Music is either sung or played at "half volume" during this portion of the rehearsal to save the band member's chops for the game later that day.

Step Show

The Michigan Drumline performs on the steps of Revelli Hall about an hour and a half before kick off. They run through warm ups, some pieces arranged for the MMB Drumline, the parade cadence series and close with Temptation and Hawaiian War Chant.

March to the Stadium

Following the step show the MMB lines up on the steps of Revelli Hall for inspection by the drum major before stepping off to the stadium. Once this is complete the band then begins parading to the stadium by moving out onto Hoover Street. The band parades down Hoover Street, turning left onto Greene Street and then into the Michigan Stadium parking lot. The band stops amidst tailgaters and performs a specialized version of The Victors. The band used a tree planted in the parking lot as the stopping point until it was removed in recent years. This specialized version is shortened for timing reasons. The band then progresses to the mouth of the tunnel of Michigan Stadium. They then make a right face and play Let's Go Blue and the trio of The Victors.


The band arranges themselves in the tunnel to Michigan Stadium for the start of the pregame performance. These are called Entry Lines. The drum major then proceeds to the lower mouth of the tunnel signaling to the stadium announcer that the band is ready. The Michigan Stadium and MMB announcer, Carl Grapentine, announces the entrance of the band in his signature baritone: "Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting the Michigan Marching band! Band, take the field!"


The band then enters the field to the Entry Cadence at 220+bpm. The band "pours out" of the tunnel in entry lines and then these lines fold out into the Fanfare M.

M Fanfare

From the Fanfare M formation the MMB plays the M Fanfare. The M Fanfare was composed by longtime Michigan Marching Band arranger and composer Jerry Bilik, and consists of portions of The Victors, Varsity, and the Yellow and Blue.
Back bend
At the climax of the M Fanfare the drum major performs a signature move. The drum major moves from the middle of the band to the North end 20 yard line. He or she then takes off the hat, turns to face the South end zone, and bends backwards to touch his or her head to the ground. Originally, drum majors kept their hat on and touched its plume to the ground. The first Drum Major to do this was Mark Brown in the late 1960's. In 1993, Matthew Pickus become the first Drum Major to remove the hat, and touch his head to the ground.

The Victors

During the pre-game performance, the MMB plays a specialized version of The Victors. This version is shortened and has an added drum transition for the band to change formations from sweep lines to the hollow block M. The band marches in "sweep lines" from the middle of the field to the North end zone, transitions into the hollow block M and marches to the south end zone.
The Goal Post Toss
During "The Victors" the drum major struts down to the north end zone goal posts and tosses their mace over the cross bar. Superstition says that if the mace is dropped, the football team will lose the game.
The High step
During "The Victors" break-up strain the MMB performs their high step. This is done for 16 counts at half tempo. The "post leg" is to remain perpendicular to the ground while the free leg is to make a right angle with the shin being perpendicular to the ground and an extreme downward toe point.

Visitor's Fight Song

Immediately following The Victors the MMB plays the visitor's fight song to the south end zone. The south end zone is where a major portion of the visiting fans sit. This is a strong tradition among all Big Ten marching bands.


Following the visitor's fight song the band transitions into the school's 1911-1931 fight song entitled "Varsity". The band forms "sweep lines" and marches it back to the middle of the field to form another "solid block M."

Blues Brothers

Originated in 1985, one game a year, generally a game without a visiting band, the MMB performs the Otis Redding hit "I Can't Turn You Loose", made famous in the movie "The Blues Brothers." The band forms concentric circles on the field and during a vamp in the music collapses the circles into what is commonly referred to as "the cake." The entire 235 member band fits in between the 45 yard lines and the hash marks. Once this is complete the band scrambles back to their "solid block M" positions.

Let's Go Blue & Team Entrance

Time permitting the band will play "Let's Go Blue" to the West, South, East, and North sides of Michigan Stadium. "Let's Go Blue" was written in the mid '70s by Joseph Carl, a tuba player who was also in the Hockey Pep Band; and Albert Ahronheim, a drum major. The band then splits the M to allow room for the "Go Blue" banner to be raised for the team's entrance. The team runs onto the field as the band plays the trio of The Victors.

The Star Spangled Banner

Since September 22nd, 2001 the team has been on the field for the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. The band then collapses the split M back to the "solid block M." Following the playing of the Star Spangled Banner the marching band marches to the North end zone while playing the trio to The Victors and once finished marches the Entry Cadence off the field.

Post Game

After every home game the band returns to the field and performs The Victors as written, or in its entirety. They also play selections of the half time performance. The performance closes with Temptation, The Hawaiian War Chant, The Yellow and Blue, The Victors (trio), and the Entry Cadence. When the football team wins, the band wears their hats backward during the post game performance.

Temptation & The Hawaiian War Chant

Temptation and The Hawaiian War Chant are percussion features that have been played by the MMB for almost 40 years. The cymbal line is highly featured with their acrobatic routine. Temptation is also played after the defense stops the opposition on 3rd down and forces them to punt. Usually every Homecoming Game, during the half-time show, both songs are played. Temptation is played first. Followed by The Hawaiian War Chant, which is introduced by the PA announcer Carl Grapentine saying , "Because you can't have one without the other, the Hawaiian War Chant."

Bowl Trips

A favorite tradition in the band is traveling somewhere warm during the bowl season. The band holds another audition ("Final Look") to decide which of the current members will make the bowl trip.

Fun Facts

  • The MMB formed the first script Ohio in 1932. This was later incorporated into the "Script Ohio" formation which the Ohio State University Marching Band currently performs.
  • During the 1938 Ohio State game, legendary MMB director William Revelli (1935-71) moved the "i" from a "Buck-i" formation in between the "u" and the "c" to spell Buick, to thank a major sponsor of Michigan football and the MMB. He received a very angry phone call at 2:00 the next morning from athletic director Fielding Yost, warning him, "Young man, you will never do that again!" referring to the prohibition on advertising in Michigan Stadium.
  • The MMB was the first Big Ten band to perform for an NFL Super Bowl game (Super Bowl VII, Los Angeles, 1973). The band also performed for Super Bowl XVI at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1982 and the 1984 World Series in Detroit at Tiger Stadium.
  • Carl Grapentine is the voice of the Michigan Marching Band, and has been the announcer since 1970. An alumnus of the MMB, Grapentine drives four hours from Chicago for every Michigan home football game. In 2005 Carl substituted as stadium announcer for Howard King for the first few games while Howard recovered from surgery. In 2006 he replaced Howard King as the voice of Michigan Stadium.
  • On January 2, 2007 the MMB played Ruffles and Flourishes, Hail to the Chief, Michigan's Alma Mater "The Yellow and Blue," and The Victors in memory of President Gerald R. Ford at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan when President Ford's body was brought for burial at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids.
  • The MMB was awarded the initial Sudler Trophy in 1982. No band may be honored with it twice.
  • During the 2nd half at every home game, the band will split into small groups going to various sections of the stadium and play short versions of various U of M choruses, such as The Victors, Let's Go Blue, & even The Rocky & Bullwinkle theme.


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