The history of the Huskie Marching Band is a storied tale, reflecting both the growth of the university as well as the changes in student lifestyles and fashion. Very little is known about the first band, formed in 1899 at what was then called the Northern Illinois State Normal School (teachers’ college). We do know that there were football and basketball games held that year. However, the first public mention of the band performing was not until April 12, 1900. It is doubtful that this first band ever marched. It is likely, however, that it performed at athletic events, pep rallies and socials.
Like so many other colleges across the nation, the decade of the 30’s marked the emergence of marching band programs that resemble our notion of the modern marching band, and the substantial records on file with the university support this. While the band would not have performed the type of halftime shows like we see today, back then, it would have taken the field in parade formation, performing traditional marches as the mainstay of its musical repertoire.
Through the 1940’s and 1950’s, the Northern Illinois State Teachers College Marching Band was well versed in marching field formations at football halftime shows. From picture formations to precision drill maneuvers, the band was accomplished in all the most current styles of marching known to college bands.
In 1960, the band was pictured in “The Instrumentalist” magazine (the leading trade journal for school band and orchestra teachers) demonstrating how to design and execute picture formations. During that decade, the NIU Huskie Marching Band evolved into a mature collegiate ensemble of the highest caliber.
Among the many accomplishments of Northern’s marching band program was the progressive attitude regarding the membership of women. Unlike most college marching bands in the United States, the Northern band had welcomed women into its ranks since the 1930’s. (No doubt this was out of necessity, as women students outnumbered men in the first several decades of the schools’ history.)
Long before the passage of the 1972 federal law Title IX, which mandated that all public universities allow women into their band programs, women marched alongside men at Northern -- not only as baton twirlers, but as musicians.
When the band reorganized in 1974 as the Huskie Show Band, it embraced the latest developments and styles of contemporary music and marching. The band, under the direction of Michael Embrey and then Frank Bibb, flourished through the 1980’s into a mammoth organization in terms of size, power and spirit. The Silverettes and Color Guard were also added to the ranks during this period, thus adding color and sparkle to the already dazzling field performances.
All of this leads us to the Huskie Marching Band of today - committed to the ideals of entertainment, service and education.