A Penn Tradition for 120 Years

The Penn Band, one of the first collegiate marching bands in the country, began modestly in 1897 with just 27 volunteer musicians. Today, it is one of the largest student-run organizations on campus, boasting 123 members from 30 states and 12 countries. Only one of the students is a music major.

On Dec. 18, the band celebrates its 120th anniversary.

Sponsored by the Vice Provost’s Office for Undergraduate Life, the Penn Band is a part of the Department of Athletics. Woven into the cultural “red and blue” fabric of Penn, the band marks the highlights of the academic year from Convocation to Commencement and everything in between: Homecoming, Family Weekend, Alumni Weekend, football games, basketball games, and other events.

They practice Monday nights at the Platt Student Performing Arts House and on Wednesday nights at Franklin Field.

Throughout its 120-year history, the Penn Band has played at the opening of the New York World’s Fair, for children at local schools, at the Christmas Village and the annual lighting of the Hanukkah Menorah in Center City Philadelphia, during a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and at festivals and parades.

Penn Band at Quad Dorms

Cathy Zhang (from left), Fernando Bonilla, and Alice Yu, along with rest of the band members, serenade the quadrangle dorms as part of the 2017 Homecoming festivities on Nov. 4.

Penn Band at 1956 Trolley

Travis Gosse, ENG18 and his fellow band members play for a group of alumni near the Class of 1956 Trolley, as part of the 2017 Homecoming festivities on Nov. 4.

Penn Band on Locust Walk

Cutler Reynolds (middle) and his fellow bandmates make their way down Locust Walk as part of the 2017 Homecoming festivities on Nov. 4.

Penn Band practice

Director R. Greer Cheeseman leads his band members during an evening practice in the Cheeseman Band Room at the Platt Student Performing Arts House on Dec. 4.

Penn Band crossing 33rd Street

The Penn Band crosses 33rd Street on their way to Franklin Field as part of the 2017 Homecoming festivities on Nov. 4.

Penn Band at Franklin Field

Steven Meisler (left) and Jackson Betz (right), along with their fellow bandmates, make their way to Franklin Field as part of the 2017 Homecoming festivities on Nov. 4.

Penn Band practice

Renee Hastings (from left), Cathy Zhang, and Olivia Blom share some laughs during an evening practice in the Cheeseman Band Room at the Platt Student Performing Arts House on Dec. 4.

Penn Band Franklin Field

Director R. Greer Cheeseman leads his band on the field prior to the football game against Princeton, during the 2017 Homecoming festivities on Nov. 4.

Penn Band at Franklin Field

Nikolas Alvelo (far left), and the rest of the band play for the football team as they run out on to the field prior to the game against Princeton, on Nov. 4.

Penn Band practice

Jenna Harowitz (from left), Kyle McKee, and Richard DiNapoli go over the list of songs to practice during an evening practice in the Cheeseman Band Room at the Platt Student Performing Arts House on Dec. 4.

Penn Band at Franklin Field

The band performs the "Star Wars" theme song for the crowd during halftime of the football Homecoming game against Princeton on Nov. 4.

 

Penn Band at Perelman Quadrangle

Band members take a short break in the Perelman quadrangle, after a performance stop at Houston Hall as part of the 2017 Homecoming festivities on Nov. 4.

Benjamin Parker leads his fellow band members during an evening practice in the Cheeseman Band Room at the Platt Student Performing Arts House on Dec. 4.

Melanie Xu (front center) and her fellow bandmates watch the action on the field during the Homecoming football game against Princeton on Nov. 4.

Homepage photo: Kyle McKee leads the Penn Band’s performance along Locust Walk during the 2017 Homecoming Weekend festivities on Nov. 4.

Photo at top: On Monday nights, the Penn Band practices at the Platt Student Performing Arts House, a central hub that supports the performing arts at the University by providing a rehearsal space, a place to relax, socialize, and generate innovative ideas for the next big show.

  • Text by Jill DiSanto
  • Photos by Eric Sucar
  • Video by Denise Henhoeffer