Iowa State University Cyclone Marching Band

Iowa State University Cyclone Marching Band

bandname=Iowa State University Cyclone Football "Varsity" Marching Band
nickname=The Pride of Iowa State
school=Iowa State University
location=Ames, Iowa
conference=Big 12 Conference
director=Matthew O. Smith
uniform=White jackets with red trim, red pants with white and yellow stripes, white shako hat with white plumes.

The Iowa State University Cyclone Football "Varsity" Marching Band (ISUCF"V"MB) is the marching band of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. Also known by the shorter Cyclone Marching Band (CMB) and nicknamed the "Pride of Iowa State", the "Best of the Midwest", and the "Varsity Band", the band is one of the largest and most successful college marching bands in the United States.Fact|date=August 2007 The band performs in support of the Iowa State Cyclones football team at all home games, as well as a selection of away games versus Big 12 Conference rivals. The band also exhibits itself at high school band festivals, indoor concerts, and post-season bowl games.

Pep bands drawn from the membership of the ISUCF"V"MB also perform for home volleyball and basketball games at Hilton Coliseum as well as the Big 12 tournament, National Invitation Tournament, and NCAA tournament. Additionally, the band often makes appearances at pep rallies, special occasions, and in the annual spring VEISHEA celebration parade. Thriving student culture and traditions that make it an integral part to the sports and campus of Iowa State.


The first evidence of the existence of a marching band at Iowa State comes in 1881, as a newspaper article mentioned the reorganization of the "College Band". In 1886 a drum major first performed alongside the band for a halftime show. The band is noted to have competed in a band contest held in connection with the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa in 1928 and made its first appearance at an away football game in 1936. The band also appeared in "Pigskin Pageants" in 1947, a college-produced sound-and-color movie documentary.

The 1940s were a defining decade for the ISUCF"V"MB, as women were first allowed to march in the band (in a limited capacity as majorettes and percussionists) during World War II and director Alvin Edgar first instituted "floating" marching formations, which have become a standard of the band's halftime and pregame performances. Basketball pep bands first made their appearance at Iowa State in 1951, and in 1953 hosted its first "Band Day". It was this year too that Mason City, Iowa native Meredith Wilson (most famous as the composer of The Music Man) composed "For I, For S", first played at the annual football game against the Kansas State Wildcats. The Cyclones and the marching band made their first appearance at a bowl game at the 1971 Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas and the next year at the 1972 Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee. As a part of a national movement by college bands to open their ranks to female members women joined the band in 1972.

In 1973 composer Jerry Bilik arranged a new version of the pregame-opening "ISU Fanfare", and in 1976 the band performed in front of President Gerald Ford along with trumpet legend Maynard Ferguson during a halftime show. The band earned its "Varsity" nickname and added a "V" to its acronym in 1979. Band members were using the football team's showers after a game in preparation for a trip to perform for the Kansas City Chiefs, and when confronted by head football coach Earl Bruce a bass drum player responded they were the "Varsity Band". The Alumni Band, a collection of former band members, made its first annual appearance at the 1980 Homecoming, the same year the marching band began to perform at the annual Band Extravaganza with other Iowa State band ensembles. The ISUCF"V"MB was the first college band to play the new Pepsi jingle composed by famous pianist and singer Ray Charles. The band recorded the theme song to and appeared in the introductory sequence of the ABC Sitcom "Coach" in 1995, and performed in London for the millennium New Year's Eve.

Recent Developments

As success returned to the Cyclones' football squad, the band accompanied the team to five bowl games in six years (including twice to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana). Pep bands made appearances at the 2000 men's Elite Eight and 2004 NIT semifinals in New York. Over 300 alumni and five former ISUCF"V"MB directors (including Roger Cichy) joined the band on the field at Homecoming 2005 for a performance of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture", complete with artillery from the Iowa Army National Guard. The 2007 ISUCF"V"MB also made its first appearance at an away conference football game in a decade against the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence, Kansas. The band biannually travels to the rivalry game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.



* 4 Student Staff
* 1 or 2 Featured Twirlers
* 3 Drum Majors
* 30 Flags


* 40 Trombones
* 20 Baritones
* 70 trumpets and Flügelhorns
* 20 Mellophones
* 25 Sousaphones


* 8 to 10 Snare Drums
* 6 Bass Drums
* 4 or 5 Tenor Drums
* 8 to 10 Cymbals


* 20 Alto Saxophones
* 20 Tenor Saxophones
* 30 Clarinets
* 20 Piccolos


Students seeking to join the ISUCF"V"MB on a wind instrument prepare an audition consisting of two major scale of two octaves each, a chromatic scale of two octaves, and a brief performance piece (a solo, étude, et cetera). Auditions are generally held as a part of a student's freshman summer orientation to Iowa State in person with the band's director, though special appointments may be made or CD/audio cassette recording of a student's audition may be sent instead. Twirler, flag, and drum auditions tend to be more competitive than wind instruments and are held at different times during the summer. Flags auditions take place on selected Saturdays in the spring, and the drum line on the Saturday before the whole band reports to camp in August. Candidates for the twirler positions perform a routine of songs of performance caliber showcasing their skills in front of the director followed by an interview.


Rehearsals for the ISUCF"V"MB generally begin the week before fall classes with Band Camp. Band members move into their residencies early and then report to the five-to-seven day camp that serves as an introduction for new members and stresses marching fundamentals and group unity for the coming season. It is also an opportunity to lay the future groundwork to learn pregame and halftime music and shows. Regular rehearsals begin the first day of class, and are held Monday through Friday 4:30 to 5:50 (Fridays are sometimes allowed as rest on non-game game weeks). ISUCF"V"MB practices formerly took place on the open field between Design Center and Howe Hall (affectionately known as the "Titanic" due to its four smoke-stacks) on the Iowa State campus. However, Iowa State University began construction of a new agricultural engineering building on the site of the practice field in 2008. The band will be relocated to a new field west of the Communications Building.

Rehearsal generally consist of musical and marching warm-ups, sectional rehearsals of difficult pieces of music, periodic reviews of the pregame routine, and the learning of new formations and the execution of halftime shows. The ISUCF"V"MB generally learns six shows a year that include a wide variety of music and marching styles. All students in the ISUCF"V"MB are required to academically register for the 1-credit/hour class MUSIC 114A for the fall semester, and receive a letter grade based on their attendance/punctuality to rehearsals and games. This allows for a minimum recognition of a student's participation in marching band towards their GPA and graduation.



The marching band was originally under the instruction of the director of bands at Iowa State University, but since 1972 has been under the direction of the Associate Director of bands with the help of the Assistant Director of bands. The directors are responsible for organizing the band, auditioning new members, selecting and leading the student staff and leadership, making travel arrangements, writing or commissioning marching drill, selecting music, running rehearsals, directing the basketball pep bands, and communicating with the Athletic Director and university. The current director of the ISUCF"V"MB is Matt Smith (a former assistant of the Baylor University Golden Wave Band and Illinois and Michigan alumnus) who is assisted by Natalie Steele (formerly a director at North Texas University).

tudent Staff

Four student staff members are annually selected through an application/interview process from the current membership of the ISUCF"V"MB. These students are generally senior members with past experience in administration and marching band experiences. They are primarily charged with assisting the directors with the running of the band's logistics, though they also perform other tasks (such as helping the band's librarians with the copying and distribution of music). Staff members also assist the directors and drum majors during practices in improving marching technique and discipline; staff members with conducting experience also help the drum majors lead the band to provide better coverage on the field or in the stands.

Drum Majors

Drum major candidates audition at the conclusion of each season for the position for the next season. Their audition includes aspects of field marching, conducting, and leadership in front of the directors and the entire band. The main responsibility of a ISUCF"V"MB drum major is as a field commander who conducts and calls songs during rehearsals, games, and special performances, though they have other roles as instructors and leaders. They are expected to instruct on fundamental marching and playing techniques during Band Camp, and themselves briefly march on the field at the beginning of every pregame show.

ection Leaders

Each instrument's section has a designated section leader who is responsible for the musical output of the section. The section leaders are selected by application, and are generally very senior members or have special expertise in music (they are commonly music majors). Sections leaders rehearse their sections during special sectional practices during normal rehearsals, special practices organized by the leader themselves, and sometimes also coordinate the section's group travel plans and unofficial and tradition activities.


The whole of the wind instruments are divide into twenty-seven ranks (designated A through Z with the additional "super-A" as @), each with two guides. Flags have their own system of guides, and the drum line has a single guide for each instrument. Guides are selected from a section's membership based largely on experience, teaching ability, and member recommendations. Guides serve as leadership for each rank and are charged foremost with perfecting their marching performance.

Alternate System

Every rank marches with eight members at a time (designated by the Arabic numerals 1 through 8), though there are most often nine or ten members per rank. ISUCF"V"MB veterans with more than two years experience in the band are guaranteed their own permanent spots, while alternates march either pregame or halftime. This alternate system allows the band to absorb absences for sickness and performance conflicts.

Marching Style

The ISUCF"V"MB utilizes a unique and traditional marching style during its pregame presentations. The high-step march (used for the majority of pregame) incorporates a high leg/knee motion combined with a "downward" toe point. The "swing" cadence the band uses to march into the tunnel is also an ISUCF"V"MB signature; members move in a half-time while jumping from one foot to the other to cadence in a motion that is very similar to merely hopping. For halftime performances the band uses "glide step", which allows it to maximize its musical and marching output. This is also the step the band uses during parades.



The band generally holds a final rehearsal the morning of a Saturday game day on the practice field. The band stretches in a parade block and warms-up in sections to fix any last musical issues before performance, often in costume to reflect the day's music. Last corrections are then made in practice before final runs of all the day's forthcoming presentations. The band assembles roughly two hours before kickoff in the courtyard of the Iowa State Center near the Scheman Building. Here the students again stretch and warm-up on their instruments. Guides sometimes give special performances before assembly for early-arriving Cyclone fans, and the whole band generally performs a few songs and a sample of the halftime shows for the gathered audience. The band then breaks by ranks to form a block and parades under cadences to the south side of Iowa State's Jack Trice Stadium for pregame.


The ISUCF"V"MB pregame show begins as the drum majors enter the playing field and bring the band to attention with the call of "Go State!" The band then enters the field to a double-time "X" drum cadence in tornado-like circles, the looping imagery reminiscent of the Cyclones' nickname. Straight lines are formed at five-yard intervals before half the band "unfolds" to form a square-block for the presentation of the opening "ISU Fanfare". The band then immediately launches into the school fight song "ISU Fights" and forms a gigantic "ISU" (with flanking lines of Flags and Sousaphones), then "floats" it down to midfield and faces the west stands of Jack Trice Stadium. The band then stands to play "Go Cyclones Go!", a more moderately-paced pep tune and a perpetual crowd favorite.

Next comes the playing of Meredith Wilson's "For I, For S", at the beginning of which the band turns to face east. The students in the "S" mark time while the "I" and the "U" march together to form a grand central block. They then flip and march back out having reversed the "floating ISU" to face the east stands and students' section. Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" is the next song performed while the band flips west again and marches en mass to form a five-pointed star in front of the central convert|50|yd|m|-1|sing=on line ladder. Next played is "The Star-Spangled Banner" under the colors of Iowa State's ROTC unit (conducted by the director of a visiting band if one is present). This is followed by the school's alma mater "The Bells of Iowa State"―a song inspired by the Iowa State Campanile.

The band transitions to form the word CYCLONES on the field while playing "ISU Fights", and then "swings" to the tunnel formation. Here the band plays more songs and interacts with the crowd until the football team comes to the field, after which the band runs off in a waterfall maneuver to its position in the stands near the Jacobson Athletic Building. All pregame music is memorized by the entire ISUCF"V"MB.


The band generally enters the field at the conclusion to the first half glide-stepping to drum taps. The song selection of the ISUCF"V"MB is eclectic and varied: classical music, jazz, Latin, movie themes, pop, rock and roll of all decades, show tunes, and swing are all commonly featured. Field formations often reflect the style of music being played or even the individual song itself using picture-oriented drills. Two or three songs are usually selected per halftime and are normally performed facing the west stands of Jack Trice Stadium, though occasionally a song may be played facing east to entertain the opposite stands. Solos (usually on trombone or trumpet) are sometimes part of the presentation, and the pregame "high-step" is often used for dramatic effect at the finale of shows. Favorite shows from the year are frequently memorized for performance by the membership and repeated for special performances or at a bowl game. Every halftime performance concludes with "ISU Fights" as the band marches off the field before the second half and returns to the stands.

The Stands

Also important to the band's performance is its support of the Iowa State Cyclones by playing between plays and during timeouts in the stands. For offense the ISUCF"V"MB has specific fanfares for first and third down, and the drum line repeats cadences for every second down, as well as all other fight songs and pep songs. "ISU Fights" is played after Cyclone touchdowns, and "For I, For S" is played after successful field goals and extra points.

Songs for defense are louder, more bombastic, laced with power chords, and hope to disrupt and opposing teams' pre-play preparations. Song of these songs include short arrangements of Gustav Holst's "", "Night on Bald Mountain" by Modest Mussorgsky, and the organ theme from "The Phantom of the Opera" of Andrew Lloyd Webber. The drum majors usually organize a "Roving Band" in the second-half that parades around Jack Trice Stadium and up into the stands playing fight songs and doing cheers. The band also has the tradition of reversing their shakos and parade order (woodwinds front, brass back) for the march back after a game the Cyclones win.

Band Cheers

The ISUCF"V"MB has a number of its own cheers that are unique from the rest of the stadium's stands. They are sometimes led by the directors, staff, or drum majors and are usually situational. Some of the more prominent include:

* "Hey Band!" ― A simple attention-getter used by the leadership, always responded to with, "Hey What!?"
* "How much longer?!" is yelled after gaining the band's attention at the five-minute mark of a quarter, to which they enthusiastically respond, "Five, More, Minutes! HA HA HA HA!"
* "Kick 'em in the Kleptach! Yeah, the Kleptach!" ― Referring to Assistant Director of Bands Gary Kleptach and usually shouted when Iowa State's cardinal mascot Cy beats up on opposing mascots.
* "It's a Bird! It's a Plane! NO! It's overthrown! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!" ― A jest if the opposing team happens to overthrow a pass.
* "It's all your fault!" ― A jeer chanted at an opposing player when they make some sort of error.

Favorite Songs

New and old stand songs are cycled every year, but some band and crowd favorites are often retained from season to season. Some of the most enduring of these songs (among others) have been the following:

* "Basket Case" by Green Day
* "Hey! Baby" by Bruce Channel
* "Hush" as performed by Deep Purple
* "I Can't Turn You Loose" as performed by The Blues Brothers
* "Vehicle" by The Ides of March

Basketball Pep Bands

Interested members of the ISUCF"V"MB can also audition for the basketball pep bands for home basketball games at Hilton Coliseum. The pep bands are open to the same woodwind and brass instruments as the marching band (members do not necessarily play the same instrument between the two), though percussion is limited to a drum kit and sometimes a bass guitar in the men's band. Students receive credit in MUSIC 114B in acknowledgment of their participation, much as they do with MUSIC 114A and fall marching band. Auditions are held in October consisting of a demonstration of major scales, a chromatic scale, and sight-reading in front of the directors. Regular rehearsals begin soon thereafter and run through the spring from 6:00 to 7:00 PM on Tuesday nights.

The band's uniforms consist of a yellow-and-red hockey jersey and jeans, which marks Iowa State as rather informal among pep band circles. Music choices include all fight songs and cheers from marching band; the sequence of "Celebration" by Kool & the Gang, "Phfft! You Were Gone", and "That's All Folks" of Looney Tunes fame traditionally being played after a Cyclones victory. A folder of retained music is also kept that draws from the most successful songs of the previous marching band season, as well as a vast selection of past favorites and original student arrangement. Some of the most popular―and often performed―songs of the folder included:

* "Ants Marching" by the Dave Matthews Band
* "Birdland" by Weather Report
* A medley of "Black Dog" and "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin
* "Come on Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners
* "Take on Me by a-ha
* "Thriller" by Michael Jackson
* "Throwdown" by Roland Barrett

tudent Traditions

* Sectional Clothing: Each section generally before homecoming each year creates some article of clothing to represent themselves―generally a t-shirt, though in the past such outlandish things as capes or long underwear have been made. The members of the section are usually listed by rank and number on the back, and serve as a memorial to the season for the student. Shirts from previous years are worn by returning members in reverse order to the extent of their seniority during homecoming week, culminating with the unveiling of the newest shirt on Friday.

* Hockey Pep Band: Also present is an unofficial pep band organized in support of Iowa State University's men's hockey club. While small and modest, it has remained persistent within the university for over a decade through new membership and alumni contribution.

* Homecoming: Homecoming is always a festive time for the band; the night before the game no exception. Current band members and alumni usually gather at the Music Hall before midnight and sneak to the Campanile to play for the gathered crowd under fireworks. The group then proceeds to Lake LaVerne to sing "The Bells of Iowa State" for the swans Sir Lancelot and Elaine, and then plays fight songs and favorites up and down Welch Avenue near the university into the early morning. This completed they gather in the Friley Hall courtyard, play the entire pregame sequence, and then retire to rise early for the day's football game.

* Band Banquet: Another annual student tradition of the band is the "Band Banquet", a semi-formal party and dance often held in the Great Hall of the Iowa State Memorial Union. Shown during Banquet is a slide-show of student-submitted photographs of the band, its functions, and its members from the previous year. Also shown is the annual video; a collection of skits and parodies performed by the senior members, leadership, and directors of the group.

External links

* [ Official Site]
* [ Unofficial Site]
* [ Alumni Band Site]
* [ Parents' Site]
* [ Songs and Cheers]
* [ Drumline Site]
* [ Saxophone Site]
* [ Hockey Pep Band Site]

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