The Husky Band enters 2010 in its 81st season. Since 1929, the world famous Husky Band has been entertaining audiences ranging from the shores of Lake Washington to Australia, China, Japan, and even Norway. Loyal UW Alumni and other band followers can always sing along to the HMB's fight song “Bow Down to Washington” or “Tequila!” which is known to Husky Fans as the HMB's signature song.
The first marching band on the campus of the University of Washington was started after two years of exhaustive efforts to establish a campus-wide band. The first rehearsal was held on Tuesday, March 5, 1901 at the University Armory. Students who participated in the band were permitted to miss compulsory military drill when it conflicted with practice. Don Myer, the bandmaster of the Seattle Military Band, led the first group.
In 1929, Walter Welke organized the official 'Husky Marching Band.' Starting with an initial membership of just 34, Welke worked to quickly build up the size of the band that had more than doubled to 70 members in just two years. The new Husky Marching Band took over the ROTC band's duties of performing at football games. Under the direction of Welke, the band adopted its current 'high-stepping' style of marching and became an innovator in the combination of on-field drill and musical performance. It was also noted as being one of the few bands on the west coast that was composed entirely of University students, a point of pride in the newly formed ensemble.
By 1940, the band had reached 144 members in number. The outbreak of war the following year took a heavy toll on the band with many students serving overseas in defense of the Union and the University. The size on the band decreased dramatically during this period of conflict.
Welke retired as marching band director in 1958 after nearly 30-years of uninterrupted service to Washington and Bill Cole, a 1946 graduate of Illinois, replaced him. Cole had served the past 10 years as Assistant Marching Band Director under Welke before his promotion.
After a string of losing seasons, things were pretty quiet in the student section of Husky Stadium by the late 60's. However, the 1970's saw spirit return with a whole new style when Rob Weller made his debut as Yell King. Capturing student energy with new cheers and an abundance of wit and enthusiasm, Weller brought new life to Husky Stadium. In addition to being recognized as the former co-host of "Entertainment Tonight," Weller, along with then band director Bill Bissell, is credited with creating "The Wave" when he returned to Washington for Homecoming, 1981.
Succeeding Cole on his retirement in 1970 was Bill Bissell. One of the great showmen among college band directors, Husky crowds watched Bissell's bands recreate the Mt. St. Helens eruption, stage horse races and wear outrageous costumes. In addition to his duties with the Husky Band, Bissell was also placed in charge of commencement and served as an administrator for the Alumni Association.
Since its inception in 1929, the Husky Band has gone through many changes, but still strives for a high degree of musicality, precision marching and the ultimate in Husky spirit and pride. The current director, Dr. J. Bradley McDavid, is the HMB's fourth Head Director. He follows in a long history of true and dedicated Huskies to accept the reins.
The Husky Band appeared in the 1996 Disney film "The Sixth Man." Other special performances include the 1995 and 2002 Wheel of Fortune Collegiate Tournament of Champions and the Key Arena Opening Night, which included a performance with the Seattle Symphony. The Husky Band has also made appearances on the USS Kittyhawk (1995), USS Constellation (1996 and 1999) and the USS Nimitz (2001).
The Husky Band has also performed with the Seattle Symphony a number of times, most notably in 2003, when the band joined the symphony in performing the closing movement of the "1812 Overture" during the Symphony's Opening Night Gala at Benaroya Hall.
In the last few years, the Husky Band has also been fortunate enough to send bands to many UW sporting events. The band represents the University at athletic events such as football, men's and women's basketball, volleyball, softball, baseball and gymnastics. In 2004-2005, pep-bands performed at the NCAA Men's Basketball Sweet 16 in Albuquerque, NM, as well as the Women's Volleyball Final Four in Long Beach, CA.
In addition to supporting Husky Athletics, the band prides itself in its musicality and has traveled internationally to showcase its musicality and unique Husky spirit. During the summer of 1998, a portion of the band traveled to Sydney, Australia and performed at many famous sites including the Sydney Opera House. The Husky Band South Pacific Tour also included stops in Fiji and New Zealand. The summer of 2001 saw the Husky Band travel to China, where band members performed Husky favorites on the steps of the Great Wall along with other sites throughout China. During the summer of 2005 the band traveled to Scandinavia with stops in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, where they were the featured band at the annual Rebild Danish-American Independence Day celebration. In addition, this Fall, the Husky Band will be sending a 90-piece contingent to Japan for the Midousuji International Festival in Osaka.