As the end of the school year approaches, students have come to expect exams, final projects, the Mifflin Street Block Party and the University of Wisconsin’s Varsity Band Concert. This year is no different. Coming up this week is the 44th annual Varsity Band Concert, back and better than ever.
This year, the performances are focused on Camp Randall’s centennial. This milestone is not only an important moment in the University’s history — but the band’s.
The stadium that we all know and love was originally built in 1917. Camp Randall is arguably the oldest stadium in the Big 10 Conference, a source of pride for Wisconsin sports fans.
Throughout the years, many additions and changes have been made to the stadium but one factor remains constant — the presence of the University Band. Dating back to the 1885-86 school year, the band is older than the stadium itself. There has never been a time when the band was not a part of the Camp Randall experience. This history continues to be important to current band members and lends a sense of pride to their work.
“To be a part of this tradition has been a life changing experience to say the least. It’s the most fun I’ve had in my entire life and I’m deeply honored to be a part of it,” William Roberts, a trumpet player and sophomore majoring in computer science and mathematics said.
Through the years, there have been numerous directors and musicians that have contributed to the tradition of the band we know now. Currently, the University Band is under the direction of Mike Leckrone.
Leckrone started conducting the UW Marching Band in 1969, and since then, the band has exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations. His passion for both music and his students has made the UW Band a symbol of Badger spirit. In 1975, six years after his arrival at UW, Leckrone launched the first ever Varsity Band Concert, starting a spring tradition that continues today. Leckrone’s spirit continues to inspire band members, even after open-heart surgery last year which prevented him from taking his usual flight in this concert.
“The intensity that Mike has is beyond what’s humanly possible for an 80 year old man. He’s been a role model for me these past couple years with his unparalleled work ethic,” Roberts said.
To clear up any confusion, the UW Marching Band and the UW Varsity Band are the same group. During the fall on the football field — it’s the Marching Band. When not marching in the spring semester, it’s called the Varsity Band. No matter the name, this group of incredible musicians never fails to impress and inspire.
Even without the preceding four quarters of a football game, band members still love to have fun and interact during the “Fifth Quarter” segment of the concert.
“Most of the time in fall we are separated from the fans who are way up in the stands, but in spring we get to run off of the band staff and intermingle with the crowd while we play. I always get a huge kick out of seeing everyone laughing and dancing while we’re out there messing around,” Jack Mathie, a trombone player and senior majoring in political science and philosophy said.
The Varsity Band Concert is well known for its incredible music, surprise guests and visual displays. Audiences never know what to expect when in attendance. In years past, there have been an abundance of pyrotechnics and aerial stunts along with sophisticated video productions. Attendees can also look forward to an impressive bedazzled suit donned by none other than the legendary Leckrone. Although the specifics of this year’s concert aren’t revealed, everyone can expect an amazing performance full of surprises.
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Despite uncertainty in the theatrical aspects, audiences can expect to hear their favorites from the marching season, as well as arrangements of pop and musical theatre tunes.
“Besides On Wisconsin, my favorite number this year is probably West Side Story. It’s one of my favorite musicals and has a very distinctive style and tone that I think comes through very well in the arrangement. We’ve also got an ABBA medley that’s super fun to play, so I’m looking forward to that too,” Mathie said.
The three night spectacular will be held at the Kohl Center, starting Thursday April 19th, ending the night of the 21st. Each performance will begin at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are still available for purchase online and at the McGinnis Family Athletic Ticket Office. Tickets cost $23 per night for adults, and $15 for students.
If you want a break from studying, are too tired to party, love music, or are just bored, go check out this amazing concert.