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Northwestern University Wildcat Marching Band

The Northwestern University Wildcat Marching Band (NUMB) is the marching band of Northwestern University. NUMB provides pregame, halftime, and postgame field performances at all home football games as well as performing in various pep bands and at "Wildcat Alley" before the game. Other NUMB performances include appearances at numerous Wildcat Welcome and City of Evanston events in early September, any post-season football games, and one Big Ten away game per season.

Northwestern University Wildcat Marching Band
Northwestern Wildcats logo.svg
SchoolNorthwestern University
LocationEvanston, Illinois
ConferenceBig Ten
DirectorDaniel J. Farris
Fight song"Go U Northwestern"
Northwestern Marching Band Uniform.png



The Early Years (1911–1952)Edit

In 1911, Northwestern's first University-sanctioned marching band was organized to play at football games. Under student leadership, their numbers varied before they were put under the supervision of the School of Music in 1926.[1]

Under the leadership of their first full-time director, Glenn Cliffe Bainum, they garnered fame for Bainum's innovative half-time drills. In the early 1940s, with Bainum serving in the military, Harold Finch took over as band director until 1945, when the band was disbanded due to lack of personnel. Bainum restarted the marching band program in 1947 and continued as director until falling ill in 1950.

The Northwestern University "Wildcat" Marching Band performs the Alma Mater at the 1996 Rose Bowl under the direction of John P. Paynter.

The Paynter Years (1953–1995)Edit

John P. Paynter became acting director of bands in 1950–1951 while working on his master's degree and became official director of bands in 1953. During the next forty-three years of his leadership, NUMB developed many of the traditions and culture it still has today. Among the accomplishments during his tenure were NUMB's incorporation of women in the 1970s, and the band's innovative use of drill charts to develop marching shows.

In 1970, James Sudduth became the first person (other than Paynter) to hold the title of marching band director. In the years that followed, several others held the position, including Cliff Colnot, William Hochkeppel, Donald Casey and Don Owens. In 1983, the position of the director of the marching band was shifted to the Athletic Department, and Dale Lonis became the first director of athletic bands. Under Lonis' leadership, the glide step was added to the halftime show style. The "N" formed during the band's pregame routine was slightly altered to match the new "sculpted N" logo which the university had adopted.

Stephen G. Peterson took over leadership of the band in 1987. During his tenure, the band was awarded the 1992 Sudler Trophy in recognition of a tradition of excellence. In the 1995 NCAA football season, Northwestern's football team won the Big Ten Championship, earning themselves and NUMB a berth in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1949. To mark the occasion NUMB ordered new uniforms for the Rose Bowl game, which were completed and shipped to the band in less than a month. Peterson and Paynter both accompanied the band to Southern California. NUMB played a halftime show consisting of opera favorites, including the Overture to William Tell, and Paynter led the band during its performances of the Northwestern Alma Mater. Paynter died on February 4, 1996, just more than a month after conducting the band at the Rose Bowl. His Northwestern life was bookended by the school's only two Rose Bowl appearances (he was an NU marching band member in 1949).[2]

Recent History (1996–present)Edit

In 1996, Mallory Thompson was hired to fill the Director of Bands position left vacant by Paynter's passing. That season the team went to the Florida Citrus Bowl, and NUMB featured the Northwestern Percussion Ensemble in its performance of Malagueña. Peterson departed following the 1996 season, and was replaced by Rodney Dorsey, who served through 1999. Dan Farris, NUMB's current director, was hired as director of athletic bands in 2000. Recent performances included field shows at the 2000 Alamo Bowl, the 2005 Sun Bowl, the 2008 Alamo Bowl, the 2010 Outback Bowl, the 2011 Ticket City Bowl, the 2011 Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, the 2013 Gator Bowl, the 2016 Outback Bowl, the 2016 Pinstripe Bowl, and the 2017 Music City Bowl.

A major milestone for the group in this period was when Northwestern Athletics began funding the band in 2011. Funding has allowed the band to operate on a larger budget, meaning that the band can report earlier for band camp and pays to stay in university housing during the weeks before Northwestern's fall quarter begins. The band was also able to purchase new uniforms in 2011, which were meant to replace the hastily-designed uniforms from the Rose Bowl season with a more modern look.

NUMB's instrumentation includes a drum line, brass and woodwind sections, a color guard, and two or three drum majors. [1]

Pregame and Halftime ShowsEdit

The Wildcat Marching Band forms the "Sculpted N" and performs "Go U Northwestern!" to close its pregame performance at the 2005 Sun Bowl.

The Northwestern University "Wildcat" Marching Band's pregame show lasts around ten minutes. The band runs down a ramp on the north side of the stadium, enters the field while "growling" and using an accentuated chair step, and plays the traditional "Fanfare" to the press box. After the drum majors perform a backbend, the band marches down the field and forms a block "N" to the turn of its fight songs "Downfield" and "Push On". NUMB continues with its "Patriotic Medley", featuring renditions of "You're A Grand Old Flag" and "God Bless America". The drill includes forming an American flag, and animating the form to make the flag appear that it is waving in the wind. The show continues with a performance of the visiting team's fight song, which is immediately followed by the main Northwestern fight song "Go U Northwestern!". The band forms a sculpted "N" during the fight song, which then breaks into a tunnel which the football team runs through to enter the field. The band concludes with the "Star-Spangled Banner". Previously played in the middle of the routine, the anthem was moved to the end of the show in 2008 so that the football team could be on the field for the performance. The pregame show is done using a combination of the traditional high chair-step marching style and the more modern Drum Corps International (DCI) influenced glide step.

The band's halftime shows primarily use the glide step technique. The drill is written by the Director of Athletic Bands and graduate conducting students in the Bienen School of Music. Show drills can vary from curvilinear and seemingly abstract, to recognizable words and animated shapes. Several different drills and musical selections are played during the season, with music generally including various rock, jazz, and pop selections.


March of the SteelmenEdit

While Charles Belsterling was Vice President of U.S. Steel he wrote the march that came to be known as "March of the Steelmen." Glenn Cliffe Bainum adapted the music to match a drill called the "Old Plus-Four". It has since been performed at the close of every home football season since 1928.[3] The drill showcases the Northwestern monogram and a line of brass spanning length of the football field.

Colors of the Big TenEdit

Since 1948, the "Wildcat" Band has been fronted by the colors of the Big Ten Conference universities. In 1975, purple and white flags were also added.[1] The 2017 season marks the first time that the Wildcat Band has fielded all of the Big Ten colors since the conference expanded to include fourteen member universities. The band had previously only fielded the Big Ten West flags.

Alma MaterEdit

The band is known for its a cappella performance of the University Hymn (also known as the Alma Mater). Under the baton of the Director of Bands, new students and veteran members learn and practice the Alma Mater at each year. It is performed during halftime and post game and is sung in four-part harmony following the conclusion of the post-game performance. On certain occasions (such as the 1996 Rose Bowl and the 2005 Sun Bowl) the Alma Mater is performed during the pre-game show. The melody of the Alma Mater is based on the Chorale St. Antoni by Franz Josef Haydn (also heard in Johannes Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op. 56B). The text originally was sung entirely in Latin (written by J. Scott Clark), but in 1953 the music was arranged by John Paynter and new English lyrics were written by Thomas Tyra.[4][5][6]

High School Band DayEdit

Beginning in 1956, John Paynter began the tradition of inviting high school marching bands from the Chicago area to join NUMB on the field for halftime at one game each year. While Band Day was dropped from the schedule for several years in the '90s, it returned in 2004 and continues to be a feature each year. At its peak there were nearly 10,000 high school musicians participating.[3]


NUMBALUMS are those band members who have graduated. The NUMBALUMS perform during Homecoming at the parade, alumni gatherings, and during the pre-game and halftime shows at the Homecoming football game. NUMBALUMS also perform at such other occasions as away games where the student Band does not make an official appearance, but where there are sufficient NUMBALUMS available to put together a Spirit Band to cheer on the football team.

The NUMBALUMS were created by John Paynter in 1972, formally chartered as an organization in 1999, and officially recognized by the Northwestern Alumni Association in 2002. The NUMBALUMS are an active organization that not only provides opportunities for the Alums to get together and perform, but also has raised funds for the purchase of new uniforms and equipment for NUMB. There are currently roughly 3,000 members.[7] [8]

In April 2014, NUMBALUMS made public its efforts to establish the Northwestern Bands Push On Fund. The Endowment will be entirely donation-funded and used to improve the lives of Band members and the Band as a whole. [9]

The SpiriTeamEdit

Founded in the 1960s, the "SpiriTeam" consists of two leaders of the band: the "Spirit Leader" and the "Grynder" (also known as "Grinder").[2][10] Traditions surrounding the SpiriTeam evolved over time, reflecting the personalities of the members of the SpiriTeam. The 2007 season marked the first all-female SpiriTeam.

The Spirit LeaderEdit

The Spirit Leader is in charge of leading the band, the students, and the home crowd in various cheers. By tradition, the Spirit Leader is elected by the band.[11] The Spirit Leader's symbol of office is the Spirit Leader's Hat – a black aviator-style cloth helmet, which according to tradition belonged to a Northwestern football player who served in World War II.

The GrynderEdit

The Grynder assists the Spirit Leader with cheers and keeping the band's spirit up during football games. During weekly Spirit Sessions, The Grynder performs an often loud and exclamatory work of slam poetry focused the upcoming game. In the past the Grynder has been in charge of special cheers, including a traditional post-halftime extended cheer extolling the spirit of the band and its ability to growl loud enough to rattle the other team, wake the dead, and to be heard by the Grynder's mother no matter where on Earth (or Heaven) she is. The Grynder is in possession of a mutant gene, recognizable only to the previous Grynder, who selects his/her successor.[11] The Grynder's symbol of office is the Grynder's Hat – a button-festooned black felt hat originally bought at the Wildcat's first Rose Bowl (1949) and handed down from Grynder to Grynder. The traditional goal of every Grynder is to take The Hat back to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl.

The GeekEdit

The Geek's purpose is: to celebrate the traditional view of band members as "band geeks," the band chooses one member to take on all duties of being the official "Band Geek." The three official duties of the "Band Geek" are to be as loud and as obnoxious as possible, to assist the SpiriTeam when necessary, and to embody the spirit of band geeks everywhere; past, present and future.

Staff and LeadershipEdit

  • Mr. Daniel J. Farris —Director of Athletic Bands (2000–present)
  • Dr. Mallory Thompson —Director of Bands (1996–present)
  • Gary English —NUMB Graduate Assistant (2018)
  • Jonathan DeBruin and Nick Pecora —Drum Majors
  • Daniel Cook —Doctoral Conducting Assistant
  • Shane Kealy and Chris Ward —Masters Conducting Assistant
  • Will Cooley —Percussion Instructor
  • Stephanie Cook —Color Guard Instructor
  • Pete Friedmann —Voice of the Wildcat Band (1981–present)
  • Nick Pecora —Band Staff Manager
  • Nick Pecora and Emily Schram —Personnel Managers
  • Mark Biedke —Properties Manager
  • Jonathan DeBruin and Nick Mata —Librarians
  • JJ Hale —Drum Captain
  • Tia Chung-Swanson —Color Guard Captain


  • Wildcat Band Fire Up! (1994)
  • Hail to Purple (2004)
  • Push On! (2008)


  • 1887 Formation of the first Northwestern University band.
  • 1911 Formation of the first modern-style marching band at Northwestern under the direction of Dr. Milton Cruse.
  • 1912 "Go U Northwestern" written.
  • 1913 "Rise, Northwestern" (Push On) written.
  • 1926 Glenn Cliffe Bainum becomes Northwestern's first Director of Bands.
  • 1928 First performance of "March of the Steelmen".
  • 1942–45 NUMB temporarily accepts women as most men are occupied by the war including the director, Bainum.
  • 1949 NUMB performs at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
  • 1953 John P. Paynter becomes second Director of Bands in Northwestern history.
  • 1956 First High School Band Day.
  • 1960 The short documentary film "Strike Up the Band" is produced.
  • 1970 Jim Sudduth becomes first person other than Paynter and Bainum to be NUMB director.
  • 1972 Women permitted to join NUMB.
  • 1974 Cliff Colnot becomes NUMB director.
  • 1978 William Hochkeppel becomes NUMB director.
  • 1978 Second ending of "Push On" changed to its current version.
  • 1979 Donald Casey and Don Owens become co-directors of NUMB.
  • 1981 Pete Friedmann becomes the first NUMB announcer; he remains the voice of the "Wildcat" Band to this day.
  • 1983 Dale J. Lonis becomes NUMB director.
  • 1988 Stephen G. Peterson becomes NUMB director.
  • 1992 The "Wildcat" Band is awarded the Sudler Trophy.
  • 1996 NUMB performs at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
  • 1996 Mallory Thompson is named the third Director of Bands in Northwestern history.
  • 1997 NUMB performs at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.
  • 1997 Rodney Dorsey becomes the first African-American director of NUMB.
  • 1997 First performance at Ryan Field.
  • 2000 Daniel J. Farris becomes as director of NUMB.
  • 2000 The band performs at the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.
  • 2003 NUMB performs at the Motor City Bowl in Detroit, Michigan.
  • 2005 NUMB performs at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. The halftime show features "Rocky Point Holiday" and "Fire Dance".
  • 2006 The band is accompanied by a performance twirler for the first time in 20 years.[12]
  • 2008 NUMB performs at the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas for the second time.
  • 2010 NUMB performs at the Outback Bowl in Tampa Bay, Florida.
  • 2011 NUMB performs at the inaugural TicketCity Bowl in Dallas, Texas.
  • 2011 Current version of the pregame "Fanfare" debuts.
  • 2011 The current uniforms are debuted during the 2011 season's home opener.
  • 2011 NUMB performs at the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas in Houston, Texas.
  • 2013 NUMB performs at the Gator Bowl, where the Wildcats won their first bowl game since the 1949 Rose Bowl.
  • 2013 NUMB performs on ESPN's College GameDay when it visits the lakefill for Northwestern's homecoming game v. Ohio State.
  • 2016 NUMB performs at the Outback Bowl for the second time.
  • 2016 NUMB performs at the 2016 New Era Pinstripe Bowl in New York City, NY.
  • 2017 NUMB performs at the Music City Bowl in Nashville, TN.
  • 2018 NUMB performs at the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl in San Diego, CA.


  1. ^ a b c "Northwestern University Wildcat Marching Band". Official web site. October 31, 2006. Retrieved July 2, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Patty Dowd Schmitz (Fall 2000). "The Sound of Purple". Northwestern magazine. Retrieved July 2, 2011.
  3. ^ a b "The 50 Greatest Northwestern Football Traditions". September 30, 2010. Retrieved July 2, 2011.
  4. ^ "Northwestern Fight Songs". September 27, 2005. Retrieved July 2, 2011.
  5. ^ "Behind the Music: Northwestern Alma Mater and Fight Song". Northwestern University. November 25, 2003. Archived from the original on December 15, 2006. Retrieved July 2, 2011.
  6. ^ "Behind Northwestern's Songs". Northwestern University. Retrieved July 2, 2011.
  7. ^ Matt Spector (February 6, 2007). "Marching Band Alumni Of All Ages Reunite, Perform Together". The Daily Northwestern. Retrieved July 2, 2011.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Patrick Cooper (February 21, 2002). "Showcased Showdown". The Daily Northwestern. Retrieved July 2, 2011.
  11. ^ a b Elisa Block (October 12, 2000). "Two Wild and Crazy Guys". The Daily Northwestern. Retrieved July 2, 2011.
  12. ^ Matt Spector (October 24, 2006). "Homecoming Pep Rally Showcases Community Talent, Spirit". The Daily Northwestern. Retrieved July 2, 2011.

External linksEdit