Archive for Tuesday, August 29, 2017

End of a long tradition: High school musicians won’t be performing at stadium for KU’s 70th annual Band Day

The Kansas University marching band and many other high school bands from Kansas and Missouri perform during the halftime show as part of Band Day on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015 at Memorial Stadium.

The Kansas University marching band and many other high school bands from Kansas and Missouri perform during the halftime show as part of Band Day on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015 at Memorial Stadium.

August 29, 2017, 12:18 p.m. Updated August 29, 2017, 4:45 p.m.


After nearly 70 years of tradition, high school musicians participating in this year’s University of Kansas Band Day won’t be strutting their stuff at Memorial Stadium.

Each year, the university has welcomed hundreds of young musicians from high schools across Kansas and Missouri to perform alongside its Marching Jayhawks at Memorial Stadium. This year’s event, while keeping the traditional parade through downtown before the game, won’t host a mass band performance on the field during the Sept. 9 football game against Central Michigan.

Matthew Smith, associate director of bands at the KU School of Music, said the decision to cancel the halftime segment was not hastily made. Instead, he said, organizers are attributing the change to a combination of dwindling interest from high schools, reduced parking space and other “logistical” challenges, such as limited storage space for large instruments at Memorial Stadium, that have emerged over the last several years.

“Over the years, you see trends,” Smith said. “So in response to that, we made a decision this year.”

And for now, he said, it’s permanent, though organizers may revisit the idea of a Memorial Stadium performance in the future.

As in years past, the high school bands will march in a parade (slated for 10 a.m., according to the KU School of Music website) down Massachusetts Street before that evening’s kickoff. After the parade, the Marching Jayhawks will hold a performance for all participating bands at South Park, 1141 Massachusetts St.

This year, however, isn’t the first time Band Day organizers have altered the schedule. In 2013, for example, KU officials were forced to cancel the parade because of NCAA rules regarding early kickoff times.

“What we found is that a lot of band directors actually preferred the parade aspect for their students as opposed to the halftime,” Smith said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 15 high schools — including Lawrence and Free State high schools, whose bands typically participate in the parade but not the halftime show — had signed up for this year’s Band Day. In some years, the event has attracted more than 30 schools.

Next month’s event would have marked the first time tiny McLouth High School participated in the Memorial Stadium halftime show. The school’s director of bands, Jacob Bubb, said his students were disappointed by the cancellation of this year’s halftime show. McLouth, with its student population of roughly 150, has long marched in the Band Day parade. When it comes to the cancelled stadium performance, “we don’t really know what we’re missing out on because we haven’t done it before,” Bubb said.

“I think it would have been cool, especially for my kids because we’re in a small town,” he said of performing at Memorial Stadium. “And a lot of those kids, when they think about KU basketball and football, that means the world to them.”

Still, Bubb said, he and his students remain excited for Band Day. What made the event “attractive” for McLouth, he said, was McLouth's proximity to Lawrence and the relatively minimal travel expenses that come with that. The streets of downtown Lawrence might not match the drama of a college football game, but marching in the Band Day parade still presents a rare opporunity for his students to perform on a much grander scale than usual.

“For a town of 800, it’s a big crowd,” Bubb says of the parade.

Smith, who directs KU’s Marching Jayhawks, said the Band Day concept is fairly unique, and that other universities across the country have also downsized or done away with similar events in recent years.

“This has been a growing thing nationally,” he said. “This is not isolated to KU.”

Kansas State University, which was recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1984 for its long-running Band Day, is replacing its program this year with a new event dubbed K-State ALL STAR Marching Band, with only the state’s top high school band musicians selected for the honor. Scheduling, security and financial challenges had made Band Day increasingly difficult to maintain in recent years, according to information shared on K-State’s website.


Matt Daigh 9 months, 3 weeks ago

If they are trying to kill Band Day, they are doing a fine job of it.

David Holroyd 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The kids from small towns used to make the trip and looked forward to it..

It's all about money,,,you would think that with a losing team they would want all the bands they could get and parents to fill the stadium...

SAD! Maybe the new chancellor would have the guts to REVIVE the program and Endowment could fund the small schools to come to KU BAND Day.

REALLY SAD! AND IT doesn't speak well of the School of Music to decline to give the reason..


Adrian Turner 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I participated in Band Day in 1977. Though we did march at halftime, I can see the logic of discontinuing it for a more personal experience. I think that KU Marching Band performing for all the attending High Schools is adequate, and perhaps those Saturday participants (read attending High School Bands) can get home a little earlier.

Cindy Bracker 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I participated in the band day parade first as a girl scout carrying a sign, then as a Marching Lion and then as a Marching Jayhawk. I think discontinuing the half time performance is probably very wise. The parade is a more unique and worthy experience to a developing musician. The opportunity for the high school bands to watch the KU Band's rehearsal between the parade and pregame was always exciting for me to observe as a high school musician. (And then subsequently to be a good example to the next generation as a collegiate musician). There is little benefit to the musical education of the high school students in standing on the field with the KU Band and playing 4 songs plus the KU fight song (at HALF tempo). Some readers of this article may not know that The Marching Jayhawks host the Heart of America Music Festival, at which high school bands have the opportunity to perform for their peers in a full marching band performance of their own. I am certain that the KU Bands considered what is in the best interest of their own students, future students, and the community before making a decision. I support them all.

Brett McCabe 9 months, 3 weeks ago

It's good to get the input from both you and Adrian (above) - people who have actually participated in the event. As a fan, I always liked seeing the kids in the stands and was always very disappointed when 90% of them left after the half-time show.

The purple pussycat idea could be borrowed and we could host a Kansas City all-star band with participants from the 10 or 12 counties that make up the KC metro area (both sides of the state line). This might extend our recruiting reach across the river.

Calvin Anders 9 months, 3 weeks ago

One more step in KU Athletics trying to distance itself and the use of it's football facilities from the community (and from other sports). Taking out the track and moving track events off campus was another. It is certainly within KU Athletics rights to hold football facilities away from other community activities, but guarding the use of the stadium will just serve to alienate the community and ultimately will drive away donors. KU used to be so generous with the use of their facilities. From the Kansas Relays to Red Dog Days to 4th of July fire works. It's a shame KU Athletics doesn't seem to understand what it means to be part of a community anymore. And they wonder why there is so little enthusiasm among students and alumni for the football program.

Jim Williamson 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Put a consistent 7-5 or 8-4 football team on the field and students and alumni couldn't care less about Band Day.

Sam Crow 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Anders you have no clue what you are talking about.

David Holroyd 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Lets see if Fritzel lands a large contract for the stadium renovations.

All things point that direction..

Ramon Romero 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Terrible decision. It's easy to throw away something that has no value to you even though it may have great value to others who have less. KU should be ashamed.

Ken Lassman 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I gotta say that it made an impression on me as a high school kid standing on the field in the stadium, playing with all the other schools (and I swear that there used to be more schools in the parade/on the field in the 70s than today), and while the musicality was dumbed down to make coordinating a bunch of bands possible, it was definitely pretty darn neat. I also remember the brand new LHS uniforms getting rained on and then the plastic covered hats getting moldy--what a waste! Was it chaotic? Yes. Was it great fun? Yes. I think it has always been a great recruiting tool for KU to get kids from all over the place on campus in this fashion, and while I'm sure that if I were involved in trying to herd a bunch of high school kids around, I'd prefer Heart of America competitions and the like. But I think that future kids will be missing something pretty cool when this becomes history.

Clara Westphal 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I think the use of the stadium for football only happened with Charlie Weis. The KU band used the field for practice .When the stadium was no longer available to them, they practiced on an asphalt pad on West Campus. Not quite the same as marching on grass.

Kristen Caldwell 9 months, 3 weeks ago

You might want to fact check a bit regarding McLouth. This wouldn't have been the first time performing at halftime. Early 90s clear into 2010? The band had performed at halftime. I know I did in 1997. Maybe this band director'a first time - but not McLouth Marching Band's first time.

Kathy Collins Reusch 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Yes, fact check because my son graduated in 2010 from McLouth and I watched him march at the stadium and have it on video. I believe 2010 they did not march at halftime.

Leighann Paige 9 months, 1 week ago

McLouth High School students have participated in the KU Band Day half-time performance before. I graduated from McLouth in 2009. I participated in KU Band Day and walked on the field during the half-time show my Freshman through Senior years. There are pictures to prove it. We did have a different band director at the time, though, so it could be a misunderstanding from the new band director.

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