Marching Band Has 406 Members This Year

Submitted by BursleyHall82 on August 1st, 2015 at 11:54 AM

The MMB just posted on Facebook that auditions are complete, and there are 406 members of the band this year.


Auditions are complete, the 2015 MMB is set at 406 members strong! Go Blue!
I think that's a hell of a lot. Can somebody more current help me out: If there are 406 members of the band, how many will actually march during games? I believe that all of them play the post-game show, but how many march on the field during pre-game and halftime?
I was in the band in the late 70s, and I believe we had less than 300; 250 people marched, and we only had maybe 40 reserves or so.
There's also some lobbying going on on Facebook for Hackett to take the band to Utah.



August 1st, 2015 at 3:53 PM ^

I have also heard a different number less though I think one was Ufer "220 well disciplined michigan bandsmen, they pour over the eastern sideline; form the big block M and play the greatest college fight song ever written.... The Michigan Victors"


August 1st, 2015 at 12:11 PM ^

I was in the MMB in mid 1999s and we consistently had over 350 people. In 1997 I think the number was almost 420.

Prior to that the auditions were a formality and 99% of people made it since Michigan auditions weekly to determine who marches during the pregame and halftime performances. But with over 400 members they started to actually have cuts because the number exceeded the space and equipment available. That only happened for a couple years, however, as enrollment is somewhat dependent on the team's success.


August 1st, 2015 at 12:21 PM ^

Class of '99 here, and one of the years I was in MMB the "roster" was 420.

235 march in pre-game; they add a few extra ranks (8/rank, rather similar to an Army squad) for halftime, but I was never sure of the exact numbers.  I always assumed that depended on the show.

MMB 82

August 1st, 2015 at 12:16 PM ^

we marched 225; 1981 we were pre-season #1, and had a huge turnout for tryouts that year. But generally, the number of reserves were about 20. We also had to dry clean our own uniforms, grumble grumble....


August 1st, 2015 at 12:40 PM ^


I want my chest vibrating from the roar.  I LOVE that feeling! 

Quite frankly, I feel it's one of the main reasons to go to the game instead of watching it on TV.


Ty Butterfield

August 1st, 2015 at 1:08 PM ^

I remember the announcer saying "the 235 member Michigan Marching Band." My brother was in the band for the 1997 Rose Bowl run. There was obviously more members in the band but they only marched 235. At some point this seems to have changed. Now before they game the announcer only says "the Michigan Marching Band." Maybe someone in the band can shed some light on how many members actually march now?

Bando Calrissian

August 1st, 2015 at 2:24 PM ^

You practice all week on the reserve field and hope after challenges on Friday that you make the block the next week. You still play in the stands and everything, but if you're a reserve, you don't perform halftime or pregame. Some sections (usually woodwinds) march a few more folks for halftime, so some people are halftime-only some weeks.


August 1st, 2015 at 2:43 PM ^

See some other posts in this thread, but yes, there's tryouts for every game, and yes, there's people who might not march a pregame all season (everybody gets to do homecoming halftime). The majority of upperclassmen would march most shows, along with a handful of underclassmen (depended on section a lot) And even if you struggled with the marching (there's no initial marching audition to join the band), I think for the most part, everybody who stuck with the band for all 4 years would at least get one pregame.

Bando Calrissian

August 1st, 2015 at 7:02 PM ^

Yep. Knew a few people who marched maybe one or two games in four years. I spent almost my entire freshman year in reserves. In some sections, piccolos, for instance, you pretty much know you're not going to march until junior or senior year unless either you're really good, or enough (usually) euphs or trumpets suck enough for them to fill slots with piccs.

Mark McBoneski

August 2nd, 2015 at 12:46 AM ^

Each week, the band holds try-outs, or "challenges" for spots in the marching block. Each challenge consists of both pregame and halftime marching styles. The directors and grad staff watch and grade the challenges. They look for very particular things in the MMB's marching style, and band members make block (or don't) based on how well they meet the marching criteria.

Bando Calrissian

August 2nd, 2015 at 12:47 AM ^

Playing is only half the equation. Pretty much 100% of the kids showing up as freshman these days have never marched anything close to what the MMB does for pregame. Getting your body to do that correctly AND play at the same time isn't as easy for some as it is for others. A lot of people never quite get it, while others catch on immediately. I was never a great marcher, but my playing helped make up for it. There are standards for what is correct and what isn't, everything is evaluated during challenges, and those who make the cut get on the field. Those who don't, well, don't.

It's also true that in some sections it's far easier to make block than others, which purely comes down to statistics. When trumpets have 48 slots for 70 people or so, or euphs and tenor saxes have 12 pregame slots for 15 people or so, that looks a lot different than 30 piccolos fighting for 12 slots. And keep in mind, too, that some of those slots are rank leaders and section leaders, who will never not make block. It's hyper competitive week to week.

Which is why 406 people is positively insane.


August 2nd, 2015 at 6:49 AM ^

i'm trying to envision how you differentiate candiate A from candidate B.  my uneducated guess is that most of the kids can play just fine, but playing sometimes breaks down during marching and that added stressor separates some from the pack.   the other thing i'm trying to envision i guess has to be something along the lines of precision, timing, maybe some type of flair (?) as they step through their routine.  maybe it's like figure skating and there is a substantial subjective component.  you guys lived through it so you'd know.


August 2nd, 2015 at 5:35 PM ^

It takes a lot to learn what to evaluate, but you learn it.  I'm not sure how it is done now, but when I was a rank leader, we picked the players in our rank to be challenged each week.  Being that close to it, you know.  As others have said, the challenge process and "earning" your spot in the block is a big deal.  It parallels sports teams in some respects. 

As a freshman, I was a reserve for the first game.  From that point on I marched in either a pregame, a halftime, or both for the rest of the season.  I was challenged every week.  After what I thought was a pretty good track record, I was HEARTBROKEN to not make the bowl trip as a freshman.  (I see now that they wanted to reward upperclassmen, but it was hard to see at the time.)  After the first game my sophomore year, I was challenged.  Then, never again that season.  By my junior year I was a rank leader.

As Bando has stated, for many, they just aren't physically ready for it.  The summers between my Fr/So, So/Jr, and Jr/Sr years, I worked out.  A LOT.  For the most part, I was running 3 miles in under 20 minutes and THEN lifting.  4X a week.  That was because of how grueling my Freshman year was.

Your comment "most kids play just fine" doesn't really capture it, either.  You're talking about people who were among the top handful at their high school.  I really don't think I appreciated how exceptional a group of musicians it was (is) until long after I was gone.

And for the most part, it isn't music majors.  Only a small percentage of the MMB is music majors.  If I recall, less than 10%.  But still, exceptional musicians. 

Realize that all those kids are memorizing the music for a new show each week and the moves to go with it at the same time they are full time students.  It is a stunningly accomplished and capable group that puts on the show each week.


August 1st, 2015 at 2:26 PM ^

Yep. If you didn't make the "performance block", you still dress in uniform, still march to the stadium, still play in the stands, still play the postgame concert.  The "tryouts" for a given week's game were a week or two ahead, sometimes as late as the Friday before the previous game.  Then the marching block would be posted Monday morning and might have as little as 5 days to learn a new halftime show and rehearse the pregame. If you didn't make the marching block, you'd be a "reserve" for the week. Reserves still did all the music rehearsals (you're still playing in the stands and the postgame after all), but then would go work on marching skills during the rest of practice to prep for the next tryout.  Many larger sections could have up to about 1/3 of their overall members as reserves each week. 

Source: In the band 03-06.


August 1st, 2015 at 5:04 PM ^

One person is assigned as a Shadow for each Rank of 12. They follow the Rank during the week to learn the gist of where to go and when. Then if someone doesn't show up on time or gets hurt etc. the shadow is inserted. Happened to me Homecoming 2003. Talk about a terrified March to the stadium, everything turned out okay though, we won.

Mark McBoneski

August 2nd, 2015 at 12:51 AM ^

I once heard about a band member who hurt him or herself on the march to the stadium. When they arrived at the stadium, a Grad Asst found the shadow for the injured person's rank, and basically said "You're marching pregame!" Talk about stressful. But as far as I know, the performance went off without a hitch.


August 2nd, 2015 at 5:44 PM ^

As a freshman reserve, I once got inserted on a Friday.  Basically in situations like that, back then, you have the person next to you not playing, but literally shouting at you stuff like, "turn RIGHT in 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!"  The shadow system as described above makes a lot of sense.  We were not that advanced!

Cool story, bro:

The Friday before the OSU game my sophomore year (1990), playing pickup basketball before marching band practice, I rolled my ankle pretty bad.  By the next morning, it was so swollen, I couldn't tie my shoelaces on that foot.

One aircast, a couple rolls of tape, and about a dozen advil later, I still marched.  Probably not a smart choice -- but it was OSU.


August 1st, 2015 at 2:16 PM ^

I was in the band 03-06. The pregame size never changed and that was 235. I still don't think that's changed (think about the block M, it's always the same). Halftime would vary from week to week, usually a few dozen more people than pregame.  The "travel squad" would be the halftime block plus another dozen or so to help out with equipment, be there in case someone got hurt/ill, etc.  Everyone else who wasn't in the block for a given home game would still march to the stadium, play in the stands, and do the postgame concert.

At some point after my time I think they realized it was a bit of misnomer to announce "the 235 member Michigan Marching Band"... because the band is always more than 235.


August 1st, 2015 at 1:30 PM ^

Speaking of marching bands, did anyone else hear about OSU's band getting in more trouble? Apparently, they found a "special" songbook with lots of songs making fun of the Holocaust, etc. They said on the radio that they'd updated the songs as recently as 2012 and it's been around since the early 90s. Absolute garbage that just goes to show that their band culture is just as bad as everyone thought.

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