Turn your ear toward one of these five talented Badger State marching bands.
Marching bands are nothing short of an American staple. Most of us have experienced the joy of hearing the spirited melodies and watching the fun formations, whether it was under Friday night lights, at a local parade, or during a military ceremony. But when you see a truly great marching band, you know it immediately.
These age-diverse groups of brass, woodwind, and percussion musicians are a core part of our country’s culture—and have been since John Philip Sousa led the US Marine Band in the late 1800s.
As the concept changed and expanded over time, four categories of marching bands arose:
- Military Bands
- Drum and Bugle Corps
- High School and College Marching Bands
- Party Bands
Versions of all four types of marching bands practice their art across Wisconsin, and we found five of the very best.
Badger Band (University of Wisconsin)
Considering the University of Wisconsin’s marching band is regularly counted among the top 40 college marching bands in the country (in some national lists, it’s even ranked in the top 20), we thought it deserved the No. 1 spot on our list.
Now with more than 300 members, the band affectionately known as the Badger Band began in 1885 as a part of the ROTC. They started playing non-military events the following year and added elaborate halftime shows to their repertoire in 1934. Since 2019, Cory Pompey has served as the band’s director, the first Black person to take the role.
In recent years, the Badger Band has made 10 appearances at the Rose Bowl and performed in Japan; Tampa, Florida; San Antonio; Nashville, Tennessee; Tucson, Arizona; El Paso, Texas; Birmingham, Alabama; Shreveport, Louisiana; and New York City.
To see them work their magic live—whether in-person or on TV—check out a home football game in Madison or one of many other UW sporting events. They also regularly perform at local parades. Alternatively, you can listen to the band playing “Hot Time,” which is considered the school’s first-ever fight song, or watch past performances on its YouTube channel.
However you tune in, we’re fairly certain you’ll be impressed.
Greendale High School Marching Band
Greendale High School has the best marching band in the state, and the title to prove it.
At the 2022 WSMA State Marching Band Championships, the group—which includes 200 of the school’s 900 students—came in first place with a score of 90.725. Not impressive enough for you? They also won top honors for Best Musical Presentation, Best Visual Presentation, and Best Percussion (NBD).
They’ve been invited to appear in the 2023 Macy’s Day Parade, so be sure to tune in to see them during the live Thanksgiving coverage by NBC and Peacock. To see them in person, check out the band’s calendar of events.
Milwaukee’s Brass Animals troupe is the highest-rated party band in Wisconsin, and for good reason.
The brass band brings electrifying musical experiences to local events, from birthday and block parties to weddings and New Orleans-style jazz funerals. They’ve also played events for behemoth companies like Google, NFL, Salesforce, and more.
To see the brass band’s lively and dynamic performances, watch some of their videos (their cover of “Joe Avery’s Blues” will put you in the grooviest of moods) and then promptly book them for your upcoming event. They’ll be a hit with all your coworkers and friends.
Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps
The Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps, affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, is all about being “loud, proud, and pleasing the crowd”—a motto they’ve been living out for more than a century.
Founded in 1920, the World Class and competitive junior drum and bugle corps in Madison has a long and storied history. A few facts: They performed at war bond rallies during World War II, they were one of only two all-male corps left in the country until 2018 when they opened the group up to all genders, they have won multiple DCI World Championships and tons of other awards, and the flag they designed eventually became the official flag of the city of Madison.
Nowadays, the corps is made up of more than 150 performing members who are selected after a months-long application process, with some members joining from across the globe.
132nd Army Band
Last but not least, there’s the 132nd Army Band, the marching band for Wisconsin’s National Guard. They are among 73 Army bands in the Army National Guard and Army Reserve.
Under the motto “Citizen soldiers first,” the 60-member band serves community members and fellow troops alike through music. According to the Wisconsin National Guard, the 132nd Army Band “provides music throughout the full spectrum of military operations and instills in soldiers the will to fight and win, fosters the support of our citizens, and promotes national interests at home and abroad.”
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