2019 is a truly amazing year for the Wildcat Marching Band. The ensemble’s 125 performing members (the highest number in many years) are celebrating the band’s centennial year and are preparing to perform at the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade and at St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland.
The band’s history is gradually becoming a bigger part of its identity. After a little digging with the help of the Dimond Library staff, the Wildcat Marching Band was able to get to its roots.
The first band on campus was formed in 1906 as a ROTC band. As football grew in popularity across the country, a need for a more specialized group to perform at games arose.
“In 1919, a band was formed to perform at UNH football games so we treat that as the formation of what we now know as the Wildcat Marching Band,” Director of Athletic Bands Casey Goodwin said.
Since then, the band went a long way to get to where it is now.
“When I started as director in 2006 there were approximately 70 members in the band,” Goodwin said, “We grew for a few years after that and hovered right around 100 members for a long time. In the last two years we have grown from 96 to 125 performing members.”
For the student performers, the growth in band membership is exciting, too.
“I think it’s just awesome that the band is growing and increasing in size,” Nicola Elardo, a senior environmental engineering major and band’s trombone section leader, said. “We’ve had a lot more opportunities to recruit through orientations.”
There are two big performances ahead of the Wildcat Marching Band this year. The first one, coming up over the Thanksgiving break, is the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“The Philadelphia Parade will feature the entire band and will be seen by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people both live and on television,” Goodwin said. “We were lucky enough to get enough support from the university and from donors to cover the costs of that trip.”
The second performance is yet another big achievement. During spring break, around 100 band members will be going to Ireland to partake in St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin. The trip was planned about five years ago as the commemoration of the centennial, but the participation in the parade was more of a surprise.
“It’s been nearly 20 years since the Wildcat Marching Band has traveled internationally, so it seemed like a great reason to head overseas again. Ireland was a great option since knowledge of a foreign language isn’t necessary and music is such an important part of the culture,” Goodwin said. “The performance in the Dublin parade would be a highlight of the trip but if we weren’t selected we would find other performances. Luckily, our application and video led to our invitation to perform from the Lord Mayor of Dublin.”
The band is also participating in other events commemorating its 100th year.
“In addition to the trips we are hosting a centennial celebration Homecoming Weekend,” Goodwin said, “We have many band alumni as well as four former directors of the band coming back for the football game and for a post-game reception. We have an alumni band perform with us at Homecoming every year but we are expecting this one will be much larger than usual.”
Of course, this year’s repertoire reflects the importance of the historical moment.
“This year’s halftime show is called “Unstoppable: The Next 100 Years,” Goodwin said. “It includes ‘Uprising’ by Muse, ‘Feeling Good’ by Michael Buble, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen, and ‘Come What May’ from ‘Moulin Rouge.’ We’re having a lot of fun with it so far and can’t wat to share the full show with the fans.”
Reaching the centennial year is a big milestone for any organization, and the Wildcat Marching Band is no exception.
“I think the understanding of our history as a band as we’ve led up to this centennial year has also made the band members realize that they are a part of something bigger than themselves, and that leads to improved retention and pride in the band,” Goodwin said.