The early history of the Duke University Marching Band is spotty but relatively concrete. The band is credited with being founded in 1906 at Trinity College. After this there are no records until 1914, when a photo of a thirteen-person band appeared in that year's edition of the Chanticleer, the student yearbook.[i] Rosters from the band's archives start at 1914 and mention a "college military band" in 1919.[ii] The first faculty director, Dr. H.L. Blomquist, a member of the college's botany department, took over the band from 1920-1924. Uniforms were purchased in 1929 as the band continued to grow. In the 1920s the band, under the direction of G.E. "Jelly" Leftwich, Jr., acted largely as an "entertainment jazz band," performing not only at athletic events but also in parades, at pep rallies, at the University Chapel, and in outdoor concerts as well as on the radio.[iii]
The band continued to grow fairly steadily and, with exception of a notable 86 members in 1930, seemed to average about 60 to 70 members from 1925 to 1932, after which membership dropped back down to 20 to 30; this may have been due to the Great Depression.[iv] The band continued to perform in this vein until the arrival in 1935 of a new Director of Instrumental Music, Robert B. Fearing. Mr. Fearing essentially created the marching and concert bands as separate ensembles by dividing the band a military unit and a concert unit, all with West-Point-style uniforms. The military band was comprised of about 95 members by 1936. Women were invited to join in 1943, and in 1944 control of band was passed to Allan H. Bone.
The detailed recorded history of the Duke Band seems to start in 1951, when Mr. Bone hired Paul Bryan to "teach theory, [teach] brass instruments, and direct the bands."[v] Paul Bryan remained the Director of Bands until his retirement in 1988. Of those 37 years, his first nine were spent leading the marching band. It is interesting to note that, although Mr. Bryan was hired by and taught classes in the music department, he received his salary from the athletic department.[vi] The marching band at that time performed only for football games, both home and away; basketball games were supported by the Navy ROTC band.[vii]
In 1960 Mr. Bryan hired Jim Henry to lead the marching band, and the Duke Band continued to perform field shows at all home football games. The band eventually began playing basketball games as well, and in 1962 according to Mr. Henry, the Duke Band started the "first modern-day (peppy music with dancing cheerleaders) style basketball pep band east of the Mississippi."[viii] Another important revolution occurred in the 1970's, when the band, at the request of the athletic department switched from being a scramble band to being a marching band.[ix], [x] The band as a scramble band in 1976 was "very casual," with scatter-style field shows involving music and field designs accompanied by a story-style script.[xi] This scramble band was replaced in 1977 with a corps-style field show in the manner of other military marching bands.[xii] The band's "classier image" received a mention in the Chronicle, the student newspaper.[xiii] It was also around this time that the band started playing for the occasional women's basketball game in addition to the men's games.[xiv]
Neil Boumpani was appointed director in 1987. During Paul Bryan's tenure as Director of Bands in 1988, the marching band--although it was not officially affiliated with the music department--worked closely with the music department, sending joint letters of recruitment to freshmen and working around each other's schedules. With Mr. Bryan's retirement, the marching band became involved solely with the athletic department, of which it had always officially been a part.[xvi] Mr. Boumpani and his students recruited enthusiastically, going from a band of 40 upon his arrival to a record-high 145 in 1996.[xvii]
Jeff Au took over as Director of Athletic Bands after Mr. Boumpani's departure in 2005 and has continued working towards expanding the program. In recent years the Duke Band has added a pre-season band camp and continues to gain recognition throughout the Atlantic Coast Conference.[xviii]
[i] Trevarthen, R.R. and Paul Bryan. PB, Who He? Trevarthen Music. 2008. Chapter V: The Duke Years--1951 - 1988. p.47.
[ii] Duke University Marching Band Records, 1958- 1978 and undated. Retrieved from the University Archives. 13 November 2008.
[iii] Trevarthen, R.R. and Paul Bryan. PB, Who He? Trevarthen Music. 2008. Chapter V: The Duke Years--1951 - 1988. p.47.
[iv] Duke University Marching Band Records, 1958- 1978 and undated. Retrieved from the University Archives. 13 November 2008.
[v] Trevarthen, R.R. and Paul Bryan. PB, Who He? Trevarthen Music. 2008. Chapter V: The Duke Years--1951 - 1988. p.48.
[vi] Trevarthen, R.R. and Paul Bryan. PB, Who He? Trevarthen Music. 2008. Chapter V: The Duke Years--1951 - 1988. p.47.
[vii] Bryan, Paul. Duke University--Former band director and Professor Emeritus. Phone interview. November2008.
[viii] Henry, James. Duke University--Former band director. Written questionnaire. November 2008.
[ix] Pyatt, Tim. Duke University--Alumnus and University Archivist. Personal interview. November 2008.
[x] Henry, James. Duke University--Former band director. Written questionnaire. November 2008.
[xi] Sprecher, Janet. Duke University--Alumna. Written questionnaire. November 2008.
[xiii] Odell, Davin. "DUMB sports new uniforms, works toward classier image." The Chronicle. 14 September 1977.
[xiv] Pyatt, Tim. Duke University--Alumnus and University Archivist. Personal interview. November 2008.
[xv] Bryan, Paul R. and James D. Henry. Letter to incoming freshmen about the Duke band program. Duke University Marching Band Records, 1958 - 1978 and undated. Retrieved from the University Archives. 13 November 2008.
[xvi] Boumpani, Neil. Duke University--Former band director. Written questionnaire and phone interview. November 2008.
[xviii] Au, Jeff. Duke University. Personal interview. November 2008.