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University of Minnesota Band records

Identifier: ua01009


The collection contains the administrative records of the University of Minnesota band program.


  • circa 1890s-1990s

Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Historical Note

The University of Minnesota Band Program originated in 1892 when a group of students, under the direction of Neville Straughton Jr. formed the University of Minnesota Cadet Corps Band. This 29 piece band began to appear at home football games that fall as well as play during military drill exercises. By 1894, the University hired Charles W. Graves, the director of the Third Infantry US Army Band at Fort Snelling, to direct the Cadet Band, which created the first paid band director position at the University of Minnesota. While under the direction of Charles W. Graves, the band traveled to its first away football game in Madison Wisconsin, and began performing concerts outside of the football season.

After Graves resigned in 1898, The University hired B. A. Rose, the director of the Minneapolis Philharmonic Orchestra. Rose became the first long term director of the band with his tenure at the University lasting until 1918. The Rose years saw some exciting new opportunities for the band including the dedication of Northrop Field in 1899, performances at Commencement ceremonies, the first recorded appearance at a Gopher Basketball Game, and the first known “M” formation on a football field in 1910. The Rose era also saw the introduction of the University’s anthem, Hail Minnesota in 1902, and The Minnesota Rouser in 1909. Rose resigned in 1918.

In September of 1918, the band, along with all other male students at the University, were enlisted into the armed forces due to the First World War. The band itself became a combined Army and University Band creating the First Regiment Band under the direction of J. A. Lample.

In January of 1920, Michael Jalma, director of the 151st Field Artillery Band, was hired as the University’s new bandmaster. Under Jalma’s leadership, the band officially split from the R.O.T.C. and created a concert band ensemble that was not tied to the University Military Band. Some of Jalma’s new innovations included awarding band scholarships and awards to graduating bandsmen at the end of each year. The Jalma era also saw a new music building in 1922, the opening of Memorial stadium in 1924, and a new home for the band in Northrop Auditorium in 1930.

After Jalma’s resignation in 1931, and after a year under the direction of William A. Abbot, the band welcomed Gerald R. Prescott as the new director and the first full-time band director at the University. During Prescott’s early years, the concert band saw its first female members in 1934 and the concert band and marching band became completely separate ensembles. Prescott also introduced the concept of “picture shows” and halftime shows tied to certain themes which were different for every home game.

Prescott was called away for Military service in 1942, and Daniel L. Martino took over as the interim band director until the end of WWII in 1945. During these years, many of the bandsmen went to serve overseas so women regularly filled the marching band rank positions. Women also became regular participants in the concert band and the varsity band became an all-women’s group.

After his delayed return and a year under the direction of Metron Utgaard, Prescott returned the University in 1947. Between 1947 and 1957, the marching band adapted the new 8 to 5 (22 ½”) step size instead of the traditional 6 to 5 (30”) step size, the first high school band day in 1951, and a creation of an “All Girl’s Band” in 1950 under interim director Ernest Villas. Jerome Glass became the first Assistant Director and Marching Band director, and is credited with the creation of the first Gopher mascot. In 1957, Gerald Prescott stepped down from the director of bands position, with the position going to Gale Sperry who served as the director of bands until 1960. Prescott remained at the University teaching music education courses until 1967.

In 1960, Frank Bencriscutto was hired as Director of Bands at the University of Minnesota, and under “Dr. Ben,” the band program saw a multitude of changes and new traditions that have lasted to this day. The Marching Band made two appearances at the Rose Bowl (1960-1961, 1962-1963), appeared at the Presidential Inauguration Parade in 1965, and performed on tours to London, Spain, Mexico and Brazil. During this time, some of the Marching Band’s most recognizable traditions were introduced. These include the creation of Spat Camp, the swinging gates routine to Battle Hymn of the Republic, as well as the Marching Band Indoor Concert, which has been held at Northrop Auditorium annually since 1962. Bencriscutto’s tenure also saw the complete integration of women into the Marching Band in 1972.

The concert bands also saw some major milestones under the direction of Frank Bencriscutto. During this time, the University’s Concert Band Ensembles became one of the most elite wind band ensembles in the world. The most notable event during Bencriscutto’s tenure was the seven week tour of the Soviet Union in 1969. While touring the USSR, the band visited sites including Lennengrad (now St. Petersburg) and Moscow and performed for many high ranking Soviet government officials as well as thousands of public spectators. The tour ended with a performance for President Richard Nixon in the Rose Garden at the White House. The Concert Band Ensemble also toured Europe (1974), played at Carnegie Hall (1975), toured China (1980) and toured Scandinavia with a return visit to Leningrad (1990).

Bencriscutto, with the help of Assistant Band Director John Zdechlik, created the first Jazz program in the School of Music’s history. The first jazz bands rehearsed as student groups without the recognition from the School of Music. However, after a very successful win at the Eau Claire Jazz Festival, the School of Music finally recognized these jazz ensembles in 1972 and eventually a degree in Jazz Studies in 1979.

Frank Bencriscutto greatly influenced and shaped the University’s band program. The current arrangements of The Minnesota Rouser, Minnesota March, Battle Hymn of the Republic, and other school songs were his arrangements. He also introduced many of the program’s current traditions and saw the bands through many of their landmark moments. “Dr. Ben” retired in 1992 and went on to continue composing as well as guest conduct many honor bands and festivals around the world until his passing in 1997.

Today, the band program is under the direction of Dr. Emily Thrienen who also conducts the University Wind Ensemble (formerly the Concert Band Ensemble). The program also contains five additional concert bands, The Symphonic band Conducted by Jerry Luckhard, the University Band conducted by Betsy McCann, and three Campus Bands conducted by graduate assistants. The program also features two big bands conducted by Dean Sorenson and three jazz combos conducted by Phil Hey. The Marching Band is conducted by Betsy McCann who is the first female marching band director in the Big Ten Conference. The Marching Band’s assistant director is Lance Sample who also conducts one of three Athletic Pep Bands.


55 Cubic Feet (44 boxes)

Language of Materials



The collection is organized into series first by type of ensemble (Concert, Jazz, Marching, Pep, Military, Clinic/Honor, Other); a series of materials created by and about former Band Directors; followed by multiple series consisting of materials related to general band activities based on subject and/or material type (Administrative, Media, Alumni, Programs, Student Life, Women in the Band, Conferences).

Related Materials in the University Archives

  • Photograph Collection: Images of University Bands
  • Print Collection: Minnesota, Hats Off to Thee by Frank Bencriscutto and Mike Gaffron, published by the University of Minnesota Band Alumni Society, 1992; History of the U of M Bands, 1878-1978, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, by Bruce A. Bodelson, 1978.
  • Audio Collection: Selected recordings of University Band ensembles. Contact the Archives for more information.

Administrative History

Band Directors

  • Neville Staughton Jr.: 1892-1894
  • Charles W. Graves: 1894-1898
  • B. A. Rose: 1898-1918
  • J. A. Lample, First Regiment Band: 1918-1919
  • Michael Jalma: 1920-1931
  • William A. Abbot, Interim Band Director: 1931-1932
  • Gerald Prescott: 1932-1957
  • Daniel Martino, Interim Band Director: 1942-1945
  • Metron Utgaard, Interim Band Director: 1945-1946
  • Ernest Villas: 1950-1951
  • Gale Sperry: 1957-1960
  • Frank Bencriscutto: 1960-1992
  • Craig Kierchhoff, Director of Bands: 1992-2015
  • Emily Threinen, Director of Bands: 2016-Present

Processing Information

Collection was processed in 2019.

University of Minnesota Band records
Kyle Boeser
November 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area