Marching Illini

Marching Illini
School University of Illinois
Location Urbana-Champaign, IL
Conference Big Ten
Founded 1867
Director Barry L. Houser
Members 360
Fight song "Illinois Loyalty (school) and Oskee Wow Wow (fight)"
Uniform Navy blue pants and jacket, a white and navy shako hat with a navy plume and an orange "UI" logo in front, one orange and white baldric crossing the torso, an orange cape bearing the name "Illini" in white, white gloves and gauntlets, white spats, and black shoes

The Marching Illini (MI) is the marching band of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Marching Illini is an organization which annually includes approximately 350 students enrolled in the University of Illinois. Part of the College of Fine and Applied Arts and the School of Music, the Marching Illini represent virtually every college, discipline, and major on the University's diverse Urbana-Champaign campus.


The band primarily performs before, during, and after University of Illinois home football games. The band also performs an indoor concert at the Assembly Hall featuring special lighting effects, performances by individual sections, and slightly pithy comic routines. Other performances include a drill for the Illini Marching Festival, halftime performance for the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, halftime performances at postseason bowl games, and an annual away performance at the home football game of another Big Ten school. The MI does not typically perform for parades other than marching to and from the stadium for home games, the annual Homecoming parade, and when marching to and from Foellinger Auditorium where they play several outdoor concerts for University events. In addition the Marching Illini have performed at the 1992, 1995, 1998, 2008, 2014 St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland and the 2015 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music at the University of Illinois houses a collection of University Band recordings. The audio recordings consists of reel-to-reel tapes of performances and recording sessions from 1940-1987.[1]


The Marching Illini Drumline at the postgame Concert

Instrumentation of the Marching Illini is based upon the composition of a typical concert band, but modified in several ways to support outdoor performance. Piccolos are used instead of flutes. Mellophones replace the [horns]. A larger-than-usual section of metal sousaphones adds a deeper low brass sound, not to mention visual interest. The band has a higher-than-usual proportion of low- and mid-range brass instruments (baritone, trombone, sousaphone, and mellophone) and the complete woodwind section that allows the band to play traditional concert band repertoire (unlike all-brass marching bands). An auxiliary color guard and female dance squad (dubbed the "Illinettes") contribute another visual element to the band's performances.


The band performs in a style common to other marching bands of the Big Ten collegiate athletic conference. While the band prides itself on developing innovations in marching, its style is somewhat conservative when compared to other marching bands. The band move among precise drill formations (unlike East Coast scramble bands) and typically remain in a symmetric arrangement about the 50-yard line in abstract patterns (contrast with drum and bugle corps, who ordinarily feature a much greater breadth of formations). The drill style of the band is a necessity since the band performs an entirely new show for every home football game; thus the formations, while considerably complex, must be efficiently memorized by the ensemble.



Professor Barry L. Houser was named as Visiting Assistant Director of Bands and Conductor of Athletics Bands (including Director of the Marching Illini and Basketball Band) in July 2011. Professor Houser served as Director of the Marching Panthers and Basketball Band at Eastern Illinois University while also serving as Acting Director of Bands at EIU from 2008 to 2011 after receiving a graduate degree from the University of Illinois. As a graduate student, Houser instructed with the Marching Illini as a Graduate Assistant, frequently conducting from the backfield podium during performances. Houser attended the University of Florida as an undergraduate and has been involved with the nationally renowned Smith-Walbridge Clinics for drum majors and marching bands with Director Emeritus of the Marching Illini Gary E. Smith. Houser now serves as Director and Head Clinician with Smith-Walbridge.[2]

Houser's immediate predecessor was Dr. Peter J. Griffin. He became the Assistant Director of Bands in 1994. During his tenure at Illinois, he served as Coordinator of Band Festivals and Assistant Director of the Marching Illini. Upon the resignation of Director Tom Caneva in 2006, Griffin was chosen as an interim replacement. Griffin was named as the permanent director in December 2006 and served in that position until May 2011, when he took the position of Chair of the Music Department at Elmhurst College.[3]

Directors of the Marching Illini:
Barry L. Houser 2011–Present
Dr. Peter J. Griffin 2006-2010
Dr. Thomas E. Caneva 1998-2005
Gary E. Smith 1976-1997, Sabbatical replacement 2004
Everett Kisinger 1949-1975
Mark Hindsley 1931-1948
Ray Dvorak 1924-1930
Albert Austin Harding 1907-1923


High school seniors planning to attend UI, transfer students, and current UI students are allowed to audition for the Marching Illini. Students must be accepted into the University before setting up an audition time. Since audition results are announced in early May, students must complete their audition by April 28. Auditions continue through the summer for open positions only. If a student desires to audition on multiple instruments (for instance, alto and tenor saxophone) they may sign up for multiple time slots.

Some positions, such as Illinettes, Illini Drumline, Marching Illini Colorguard, and drum majors, have earlier auditions. These positions are generally more competitive and may have a series of camps and auditions starting as early as January.


The Marching Illini in USA Formation during Patriotic Medley from the traditional pregame show

Pregame Show

The traditional Marching Illini pregame show showcases many varieties of marching styles, and is designed to showcase the band's pride in the school, state, and country. The entire show, performed 17–24 minutes before the start of every home football game, consists of seven songs and is nearly 12 minutes in length. Designed for viewing from both sides of Memorial Stadium, the west side serves as the ‘home side’ of the two-sided pregame show. With the move of the student section and the "Block-I" to the north end of the stadium, the Marching Illini have reoriented their final set for William Tell to face north at the end of the show to play directly to the new student section.


The Three-In-One is a tradition forged in the early years of the band’s history from three distinct pieces of the University’s heritage. The Marching “ILLINI” formation was created by A.A. Harding and his assistants in the early 1920s, making it the oldest part of the Three-In-One. The marching drill for this formation originally consisted of a march down the field in a “Block I” formation, and a marching into the ILLINI formation once the band had marched back downfield. The present-day version of the Marching ILLINI is similar to the original, but is highlighted by an intricate countermarch that allows the band to form the ILLINI letter by letter as it marches back down the field.

Another important piece of the Three-In-One, Chief Illiniwek was a part of the tradition since 1926. The Chief appeared at the home football game against Pennsylvania that year, dancing to the newly-written “March of the Illini” before going to midfield to meet a Pennsylvania band member dressed up as a Quaker, and smoke a peace pipe. Chief Illiniwek’s dance is loosely patterned after Native American ceremonial fancy dance. The dance consists of two main parts, the downfield dance and the solo dance. The regalia worn by the Chief was purchased from Sioux Chief Frank Fools Crow in 1983; it is topped by a headdress of turkey feathers (in place of endangered eagle feathers). There have been 34 men who have portrayed the Chief, and one woman who appeared as Princess Illiniwek.

The musical portion of the Three-In-One consists of three distinct Illinois pieces: “Pride of the Illini,” “March of the Illini,” and “Hail to the Orange.” “Pride of the Illini,” written by Karl King with words by Ray Dvorak expressly for the Illinois Bands, was published in 1928. Harry Alford’s “March of the Illini” was also published in 1928, but was used during Chief Illinwek’s performance from the beginning in 1926. ″Hail to the Orange″ was written by Harold V. Hill with words by Howard R. Green in 1910. The three pieces were eventually combined into a medley and given the title, “Three-In-One.” The “Three-In-One” drill and music are an important part of the University’s heritage.

Chief Illiniwek was retired by the University of Illinois in 2007. The Chief last danced to the Three in One on February 21, 2007 at a men's basketball game. However, the Marching Illini continues to perform the Three in One at halftime of football games.

Recently, there have been calls to remove the music of the Three in One completely from performances. Stephen Kaufmann, a professor at the University of Illinois and a longtime opponent of Chief Illiniwek, brought the issue up at a faculty meeting in October 2015. He asked Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson to take action and stop the Marching Illini from performing the Three in One at future events because of its link to Chief Illiniwek. Kaufmann also threatened to approach the NCAA about the situation if no further action was taken. Wilson refused to take action on the matter.[4][5]

Revised Entrance #3 and Patriotic Medley

"Revised Entrance #3", originally based on the ″Governor′s March″ by Col. A.F. Hand, the pregame opener and calling card of the Marching Illini, combines an opening fanfare with a march version of the Illinois state song. The band moves into dual U of I logos, and then transform into four arcs – two arcs facing each sideline. Sousaphones and percussion are centered between the arches, while the auxiliaries flank both sides of the band.“Patriotic Medley” follows, and the winds adjust to an outline of the United States, while the percussion form the state of Illinois with one cymbal player strategically placed in Champaign. At the climatic point of “God Bless America,” a dramatic high chair 4-count turn to the home stands accompanies a downward cascade in the music, and the crowd invariably applauds. After a short mark-time, the formation changes to a large rectangle. During “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the rectangle compresses into a circle, pentagon, and finally a star, where the band halts and finishes the medley with the closing phrases of “America The Beautiful.”

Illinois Loyalty

Illinois Loyalty is the Illinois school song and was written by Thacher Howland Guild specifically for the university. It was first performed by the University Military Band in concert on March 3, 1906. As the only band at the university in 1906 the Military Band functioned as a marching, ceremonial and concert band.

Oskee Wow Wow

Oskee Wow-Wow written by Harold V. Hill (music) and Howard R. Green (words) is used as the Illinois fight song since Illinois Loyalty is not well-suited for rousing a crowd during a game. The University is somewhat unique in this regard, as it is uncommon for a school to have a separate fight song and school song.

Hail to the Orange

The Illinois Alma Mater, Hail to the Orange, also by Hill and Green is performed as part of Three in One at the end of each halftime performance. It is also sung a cappella in 4-part harmony by the Marching Illini before the band is dismissed at the end of the post-game concert following each home game. This song is based on the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity song "Hail to the Purple."

On 19 June 2014 the University Summer Band conducted by Linda Moorhouse played a tribute to traditional Illinois marches and songs and to the Marching Illini as part of the Twilight Concert series. Guest conductors were MI directors Gary Smith, Thomas Caneva and Barry Houser along with former band faculty family members Robert Hindsley, William Kisinger and Mark Duker. The Illinois pieces played were:[6]
Cheer Illini (H.V. Hill & H.R. Green)
Entrance #3 (A.F. Hand, unrevised)
Glory of the Gridiron (H. Alford)
Hail to the Orange (Hill & Green)
Illini Fantasy 2006 (Curnow)
Illinois Loyalty (Guild)
Illinois March (E.F. Goldman/arr. Leidzen)
Illinois State Song (A. Johnston/arr. M. Hindsley)
March of the Illini (H. Alford)
Oskee Wow-Wow (Hill & Green)
Pride of the Illini (K. King)
Three-In-One (revised)
University of Illinois March (Sousa/ed. Keene)

Facts and figures

The Marching Illini at the 2004 Marching Festival

The Marching Illini was the second band to ever be awarded the prestigious Louis Sudler Intercollegiate Marching Band Trophy in 1983, after only the Michigan Marching Band. In addition to Rose Bowl appearances, the Marching Illini has performed at the All-American, Peach, Liberty, Citrus, Hall of Fame, John Hancock, Holiday,, Texas, Sugar, Kraft Fight Hunger and Heart of Dallas Bowl games.

In addition to its performances, the University of Illinois Bands could claim the honor of holding the largest collection of original works and papers by John Philip Sousa, until 1994 when these items were transferred from the possession of the band to the university's archives, under the control of the University Library. These archives remain housed on the upper level of the Harding Band Building.

The Marching Illini can also lay claim to several firsts, which are listed on the band's official website. These include:[7]


  1. "University Bands Tape Recordings, 1942-1987 - The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music".
  2. Wurth, Julie (22 July 2011). "Marching Illini's new director coming back to UI". News-Gazette. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  3. Wurth, Julie (3 May 2011). "Marching Illini director leaving UI". News-Gazette. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
  4. "'Three-in-One' in Kaufman's sights". Retrieved 2016-02-12.
  5. "'Three-in-One': The song remains the same". Retrieved 2016-02-12.
  6. Information from the participants′ concert playlist (unpublished) and band parts.
  7. "The Marching Illini".
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