Purdue’s Boilermaker football team isn’t the only group capable of creating sparks at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana. So can the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band! Organized in 1886, a year before Purdue’s first football team, it enjoys a 129- year tradition on the West Lafayette campus. Each fall the band serves up some of the university’s favorite traditions – the Block P formation and the Big Bass Drum – along with lively half-time shows that blend the latest trends in music with nostalgic looks at past eras. Directed by Jay S. Gephart, the 390-member band stands as the largest in the Big 10 and one of the largest in the nation.
From the very beginning it’s been a band of firsts…
- First band to break military ranks to create a formation of any kind – the Block P.
- First band to think enormous when it came to drums, creating what’s still considered the “World’s Largest Bass Drum.”
- First band to create nation-wide recognition for its featured twirler – the Golden Girl.
- First college band to have members invited to perform at Radio City Music Hall.
- First college marching band invited by Ministry of Culture to perform in China.
And it’s also been a band of honors…
- 1995 recipient of prestigious Sudler Trophy for Excellence in Marching Bands.
- Lead band in Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade since its inception in 1957.
- Official band for opening ceremonies of Indianapolis 500 since 1919.
- Represented Indiana in Inaugural Parade for Pres. George Herbert Walker Bush, 1989
- Performances in international parades, including Venezuela, Japan, Singapore, China, Ireland, and Colombia
- Bowl game parades including Rose Bowl Parade, most recently in 2001.
Purdue’s “All-American” Marching Band has built all this tradition without a school of music.
Students receive university course credits for participation in band but no majors or minors are available. Each year more than 700 students enroll in the Bands Department’s wide array of performing ensembles that include marching, jazz and concert bands as well as orchestra, chamber music and a percussion ensemble. Reflecting the documented link between aptitudes for science, math and music, 70 percent of the department’s musicians major in science, engineering or mathematics. Although rehearsal and performance schedules are rigorous, band members consistently achieve GPAs that are above the university average.