For the Record: Penn Band

Band story

University Archives and Records Center

Founded in 1897, the Penn Band began its long history performing at student rallies and parades and has entertained audiences in the communities surrounding Philadelphia and at venues across the nation.

Today, the Band is still a fixture at basketball and football games and other sporting events, and leads the way to get the crowd excited to cheer on the Quakers.

At annual campus rituals including Convocation, Hey Day, and Commencement, the Band is always part of the celebrations, playing pop tunes, and of course, the campus favorite, “The Red and Blue.”

The Band has entertained off campus, including at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the Miss America Pageant parade, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on several occasions.

In 1929 and 1930, the Band performed in national broadcasts on CBS radio. A story in the Norwalk, Conn., newspaper, The Norwalk Hour, described the Band as, “one of the foremost musical organizations of its kind in American university circles … and one of the most colorful and popular features of the weekly football games on Franklin Field.”

The Band delighted large audiences at popular Philadelphia venues such as the Keith and Stanley theaters. The Band had top billing at the Earle Theater in the winter of 1935 at a fundraiser for the trip to perform at the Quakers game in Ann Arbor, Mich.

On three occasions, the Band had the honor of performing on campus with “The March King,” John Philip Sousa. In his last appearance with the Penn Band in 1930, the legendary composer and conductor led the Band in a concert on the Quad playing his compositions, including “Stars and Stripes Forever,” as well as The University of Pennsylvania Band March.

For more information about this and other historical events at Penn, visit the University Archives online.

Originally published on January 16, 2014