The greatest single booster of morale, pep and spirit
It has been said that "The greatest single booster of morale, pep, and spirit (short of a victory by the team) is the quality marching band at football games and, in some states, the quality pep band at basketball games."1
This weekend, as we celebrate Indiana University’s 111th Homecoming, welcoming alumni—from around the state and beyond—who have returned to campus to remember years past, reconnect with old friends, and renew their ties to this great university and its spirit and traditions—the ability of a quality marching band to boost morale, pep, and spirit will be on full display.
This Homecoming weekend is, then, a fitting time to celebrate the new home of the legendary Indiana University Marching Hundred, a band that has, for more than 120 years, contributed enormously to IU's storied traditions.
Benefits of marching band to students and the university
The marching band of today, of course, has its roots in the ancient military tradition of using percussion and wind instruments to help troops move in an orderly fashion over great distances, to control troops in the battlefield, and to provide entertainment.
Even in the late 1800s, before football gained widespread popularity on American campuses, many universities had marching bands that were associated with their military ROTC programs. Those connections often persisted. IU's Marching Hundred, for example, played an important role in helping to drill ROTC students here on the Bloomington campus more than 100 years ago, during World War I.
Today, university marching bands help create a positive spirit at campus and community events. They serve as powerful recruitment tools and as highly-visible ambassadors for their universities.
Participation in marching band, of course, also brings benefits to the students.
In many instances, the physical and mental demands of marching can rival the demands placed on well-conditioned athletes. One recent study found that tenor drum musicians can "expend energy at a rate comparable with a marathon runner in mid-race."2
Band members also gain educational benefits from their participation in major university band programs. They learn lessons in cooperation, personal responsibility, and mental discipline—and many students assume leadership roles that give them experience in teaching and in making decisions and implementing changes.
One such student who availed himself of these educational benefits was Herman B. Wells, who, of course, went on to serve as IU's 11th president. Wells joined the Marching Hundred as a baritone player during his junior year. During his senior year, he served as the band’s business manager, making travel arrangements, raising funds for transportation, and negotiating the contracts for the Marching Hundred’s first performances at the Indianapolis 500 and the Kentucky Derby. His musical career ended rather abruptly in the spring of his senior year, when his horn was lost and never recovered.3
The IU Marching Hundred: A tradition of Excellence
The Marching Hundred, which has its roots in the establishment of IU’s first recreational, 22-member band in 1896, has had a long tradition of excellence.
By the mid-1920s, the band was receiving national attention, including the praise of the composer and conductor John Philip Sousa, director of the Marine Corps Band, who, in 1925, called the Marching Hundred "one of the snappiest marching and playing bands in the country," and in 1934: "the best marching band of the United States."4
In addition to the Kentucky Derby and the Indy 500, the band has, over the years, performed at the 1953 inaugural parade of President Dwight Eisenhower, 11 college football bowl games, and at a number of NFL games, including their 2012 performance during the pre-game show at Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The Marching Hundred's rehearsal procedure and marching style have been used as a model by a number of college and high school marching bands.
And in 2007, the band received the John Philip Sousa Foundation’s Sudler Trophy, often called the Heisman Trophy for college marching bands. The award honors collegiate bands of particular excellence that have made outstanding contributions to the American way of life.
But, as you will hear this afternoon, and as those who have been affiliated with the group have experienced firsthand, the lack of a permanent indoor practice space for the Marching Hundred has long been viewed as one of the greatest unmet needs of the Jacobs School of Music and the IU Athletics Department.
And as you see today, that need has been wonderfully met in the splendid Ray E. Cramer Marching Hundred Hall.
Honoring Ray Cramer
The building is named, of course, in honor of its former director and the longtime director of bands at the IU Jacobs School of Music, Professor Emeritus Ray Cramer, who is with us today, and from whom we will hear in a moment.
Professor Cramer served Indiana University and the Department of Bands with great distinction for 36 years, directing the Marching Hundred for a decade, and leading the department as director of bands from 1982 until his retirement in 2005.
He is a member of the National Band Association's Hall of Fame of Distinguished Band Conductors, and he is held in high regard by thousands of IU alumni as well as by music educators across the nation and around the world.
The building has been financed entirely through private donations.
I want to extend, on behalf of Indiana University, our most sincere thanks to all those who made generous financial donations to help fund the construction of Ray E. Cramer Marching Hundred Hall, in particular, the anonymous donors who, early on, made major gifts that helped give momentum to the project.
I also want to commend and congratulate Dean Gwyn Richards; Professor Eric Smedley, chair of the Department of Bands; and Professor Dave C. Woodley, Director of Athletic Bands—and all of their colleagues in the world-renowned Jacobs School of Music who had roles in the planning and implementation of the project we celebrate today.
In addition, I want to commend the many design and construction professionals, both internal and external, who played major roles in the planning and fabrication of this splendid new building.
More than half a century ago, one band director wrote that "there will always be a (college) marching band, at least so long as there is football."5
To this, I would add that as long as there is an Indiana University, there will always be a Marching Hundred—to serve as a musical ambassador, to bring educational benefits to students, and to boost morale, pep, and spirit on campus and in the community.
This wonderful new facility gives the talented members of IU's legendary Marching Hundred the learning and practice space they need to reach even greater heights and to continue to accomplish these aims well into the university’s third century.
2. Jeff Edwards, as quoted in Jason P. Cumberledge, "The Benefits of College Marching Bands for Students and Universities: A Review of the Literature," Applications of Research in Music Education, Vol. 36, No. 1, (October 2017), 46.