The boys considered it a rare privilege to play under the great March King's direction.
Pictured above is his appearance with he group in November of 1930. At a luncheon given in
Sousa's honor at the Acacia Fraternity House, he promised that he would dedicate one of his
marches to the University of Pennsylvania, but he died before he was able to carry out his
noble desire. He did conduct the Varsity Band for Seitz's famous "University of Pennsylvania
Band March"; and was gracious enough to tell Dr. Nietzsche that he thought it one of the
best marches ever written, facetiously adding "except my own." This is probably the best
band march ever written for a student band in the United States, and it has been adopted by
scores of other institutions throughout the country.
In 1941, women expressed interest in joining the marching band and cheerleading squad,
but the faculty forbade them from doing so. It wasn't until 1959 that Louise Erlich became
the first woman allowed to play in the stands at football games and in concerts. However,
women were not allowed on the football field according to Ivy League rules. Finally, in the
early 70's, women became full marching members of the Band.
The Band of the 60's to the present day has played for many well known people and
occasions. In 1964, the Band played the opening of the New York World's fair. For many years
they were regularly seen at the Miss America Pageant, the races at Liberty Bell Park, and
the Penn Band was the first college band to appear at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
More recently, the Band has played for Ronald Reagan, Lech Walesa, and Al Gore.
The slow metamorphosis of the Band from a military style marching band to a sweater and
slacks scramble band began as early as the 1940's. Over the next few decades the Band began
writing more satiric shows with marching between formations such as the highball. Along with
the Ivy League trend, the Band became a true scramble band by the early 70's. With women now
in the band and the cost of the blazers rising, the Band decided to don a blue all wool
sweater with a red "P" and white pants. It wasn't until 1985 that they discovered they had
inadvertently copied the Freshman Band uniform of 1931! In 1979, the Penn Band followed the
Men's Basketball team to the Final Four, as well as to 16 of the last 30 Ivy League
Basketball Championships. In 1997, the Penn band celebrated its 100th Anniversary with the
establishment of its own endowment and Alumni Association (BAA), as well as a tour to Disney
World in Orlando, Florida.