The Centennial Moment

To celebrate the Yale Bands’ centennial season, we will be publishing a piece of the Band Archives each week of the 2018-19 season: photos, concert programs, articles, letters, and posters that offer a glimpse into the first hundred years of the Yale Bands. Scroll down to see older posts!

November 12, 2018: 1990 - The World’s Biggest Drum

The Harvard Band was so proud of their “world’ biggest” drum that what else could the Yale Precision Marching Band do but make one that was bigger? It was designed, prepared and constructed after hours in the workroom of the Eli Whitney Museum in New Haven (yes, the place where mass production was pioneered!) The drum had two detachable heads and a bungee cord apparatus that held the head tight to the frame.  The beater was a prop (otherwise it would have put a hole through the heads).  At the 1990 Yale-Harvard Game in Cambridge, MA, the YPMB wheeled out ÜberDrum and assembled it on the 50-yard line, and the crowd roar was deafening! The following year, when The Game was at home in New Haven,  the drum was brought out once again.  This time the heads had been repainted with a crimson H, and were treated with flammable glue. Black powder charges were placed in the frame. The finale of this show was the demolition of the “Harvard” drum.  Triggered by batteries and safety flares, the heads burned up, and the frame exploded, sending toothpick shrapnel everywhere.  This is the kind of trickery that could only have happened decades ago, before the development of safety rules and the general elimination of explosives and fire on the fields.


November 5, 2018: 1959 - Yale Concert Band first American university band to tour internationally

In 1959, the Yale Concert Band produced the first international tour of any American university* band.  The mode of transportation was the propeller(!) plane serviced by Pan American Airlines, the largest air carrier of the time. As with the Yale Bands, Pan Am was founded by three military leaders, Army Air Corps Captains “Hap” Arnold, Carl Spaatz, and John Jouett.  These men incorporated Pan Am in 1927 in response to German-owned Scadta Air, which operated in Colombia, and was perceived as a possible aerial threat by Germany to the Panama Canal. In 1927, with capital and influence provided by Cornelius Vanderbilt and Averell Harriman, Yale class of 1913, Pan Am secured the air rights to Cuba! Thirty-two years later, the Yale Concert Band inaugurated its international tour program with this tour to England, Holland, West Germany, Switzerland, and France, 32 concerts and radio broadcasts.  Air travel was such a novelty then that the program (shown above) had a section for travelers to record data about the flight and the service crew, just as fans today track each pitch and play in baseball.  The Yale Concert Band completed its 28th tour in June of 2018 – performing in Australia’s Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, and Newcastle.

*St. Olaf’s College band traveled to Norway in 1907, but Yale’s was the first such trip by an American university.


October 22, 2018: 1985 - Yale Jazz Ensemble produces first Ivy League Jazz Festival

On April 27, 1985, the Yale Jazz Ensemble produced the first of eight annual events that became known as the Ivy League Jazz Festival. The YJE was fresh off performances in New York City’s renowned Village Vanguard and at the Budweiser Festival in Bermuda, where it played for over 100,000 students on spring break. Initially, each Yale-produced Ivy League Jazz Festival was presented outside on the Cross Campus steps, where students and the public could come and go as they wished. Yale Dining Services served lunch outsdie – the Bands had a captive audience, much of which stayed to enjoy the jazz. Rain drove the Festival inside two years in a row, which broke the momentum – no lunch, no steps, no captive audience. At present, the Yale Jazz Ensemble collaborates with the Harvard Jazz Ensemble, perfoming annually (so far – the second event wil be held on Feb 9, 2019) in Boston’s preeminent jazz club, Scullers.


October 15, 2018: 1968 - The YPMB is the Cover

Drum Major Michael Dunn SM ‘69 and the YPMB grace the cover of the Yale/Columbia football game program (October 19, 1968, Yale Bowl).


September 28, 2018: 1946 - The “Worst Dressed” Band

The Yale Band’s uniform changed every few years, from the pith-helmeted bands of the 1920s to the band blazers of the post-WWII era.  Members supplied their own gray pants, and when it rained, they covered up with whatever raincoats they owned.  This is gentle criticism from Mr. Booth, who complains about the “look” while extolling the sound, the formations and the shows in the parlance of the 1940s – ‘You’re doing a swell job!’ all typed without error on a manual typewriter.”


September 11, 2018: 1939 Field Shows

In 1939, Yale’s football team played and beat Michigan’s in Ann Arbor! And the Yale Band was there, with four accordions in its ranks! The Michigan Band’s script and formations present a tribute to mothers and dads for Homecoming Day. Yale’s script and formation for the Princeton game of the same year focus on beer. Little Brown Jug  apparently the special request of “the boys at Yale” — was a hit by Glenn Miller, who would be commanding the 418th Army Air Force Technical Training Command Band, stationed at Yale University from January to June 1943.


September 3, 2018: 1930s Yale Clubs Reunion

This 1930s local newspaper article reports that the Yale Band will provide the entertainment at a reunion of New England Yale Clubs.


August 27, 2018: 1926 Community Concert

The Yale Band performs on December 3, 1926, at Bristol High School in Bristol, Connecticut. Notice the saxophone soloist, Rudy Vallee (Yale Class of 1927), America’s “first crooner” and drum major of the 1927 Yale Band.


August 13, 2018: 1977 - Band in the Pool

The Yale Precision Marching Band contributes its talents to a 1977 Yale swim meet in the Kiphuth Pool in the Payne Whitney Gymnasium.