The Story Behind “Hail Varsity” and the “Band Song”

Thank you to Cornhusker Marching Band alumnus, Becca Wolf, for sharing her story with us and David Max for writing the article with help from the Wolf and Tollefsen familes. Please read the full story from Husker Max.

“Everyone is familiar with the NU fight song “Hail Varsity” that is played by the Cornhusker Marching Band at every Huskers game. “Hail Varsity” was composed in 1936. The lyrics were written by Joyce Ayres, a 1930 Nebraska graduate, and the music was composed by Wilbur Chenoweth.
However, “Hail Varsity” was not played before or during Nebraska’s game against Stanford in the 1941 Rose Bowl because of a nationwide strike by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), a music licensing organization that pays royalties to composers of licensed music.
Instead, a few members of the Cornhusker Marching Band composed their own “Band Song” which was performed for the first time in the 1941 Rose Bowl parade and game. Today the Cornhusker Marching Band proudly performs the “Band Song” as a prelude to “Hail Varsity”.
The Wolf family was very instrumental (pun intended) in the creation of the “Band Song” and being part of the Cornhusker Marching Band through generations. Special thanks to their family friend Tay Tollefsen for bringing this to our attention and allowing us to share the story behind the “Band Song” with you.
DeWayne Wolf from Kearney was a member of the NU Marching Band in 1940. He has since passed away in 2015 at age 92. Here are some of his memories that he wrote in 2012.”

Max, D. (2018 August 21) The Story Behind “Hail Varsity” and the “Band Song”, Husker Max, retrieved from
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CMB Exhibition August 17th!

The Cornhusker Marching Band Exhibition will be held this Friday, August 17th at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, NE at 7 p.m. The event is FREE and open to the public! Enter Memorial Stadium through Gate 3 (SW Entrance) and Gate 11 (NW Entrance) Gates open at 6 p.m.
This year, we will have section 23 designated as the ‘CMB Alumni Section’! We invite all alumni and their families to sit together. Look for the BAA banner and signs. We’d love to get a picture of everyone together!

Where to find Section 23

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Register today!

Our reunion is Sept 14/15 and the deadline to register is exactly one month from today: Sept 1, 2018!

If you need to rent an instrument from us, make sure you register ASAP- those instruments are first come, first serve- and we have a limited number!

Reminder: uniform change! Red shirt with black shorts/pants and comfortable shoes (just no flip flops, please).

Join us on Friday Sept 14 at Blue Blood Brewery for our dinner and annual meeting, followed by the Robber’s Cave pep band at 8:30 and 9:30 p.m.!

Join us after the game at the Union for a post-game party taco bar- guaranteed instant food, drink, and no waiting at a restaurant! Save money by registering early- $15 in advance and $20 at the door!


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Band Department Report!

Hello alumni –

As we gear up for our annual reunion it is a great time to bring you up to speed on what has been happening in the band department. There is a lot to celebrate! Since we saw you last September, we welcomed two guest artists to campus to work with the ensembles thanks to the Donald Lentz Memorial Band Fund. The symphonic band performed a ground-breaking concert devoted to female composers, collaborating with special guest Rachel Whelan, and the wind ensemble, symphonic band, and graduate band conductors all worked with conductor Jake Wallace when he was in residence in the spring. This December we will welcome Pulitzer Prize nominee Carter Pann to campus as composer in residence with the wind ensemble, conducting, composition, and piano studios. Composer Stacy Garrop will be with us in April to collaborate in a consortium premiere with Paul Haar and the wind ensemble. I think Donald Lentz would be proud of the variety and quality of experiences his namesake fund supports.

Foundation funds and alumni donations also support our very active and influential commissioning program through which the Nebraska bands have gained a national reputation for innovation and excellence. Last year we completed projects with Larry Tuttle, Stacy Garrop, Ryan Lindveit, David Maslanka, and Carter Pann. We are currently working with John Mackey, Michale Krueger, James Syler, and  Zhou Tian. Check out their websites to get a sense of the spectrum of styles, textures, and compositional languages to which our students are gaining direct access.

As you can sense, the whole department has been busy. The wind ensemble was featured at the Nebraska Music Educators Association Conference in November and engaged in a special partnership with the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra during the annual Winter Festival for Winds and Percussion in January. In addition to a full home season, the Cornhusker Marching Band performed a special exhibition at the Nebraska State Bandmasters Association State Marching Contest to great acclaim. Big Red Express was busier than ever with a national championship run in volleyball, and a particularly complex tournament season for basketball, and the Campus Bands are bigger than ever thanks to the creativity and energy of our Graduate Assistants.

All of this activity is supported by alumni and generous donors in yet another way: scholarships. Each year we are fortunate to be able to award more than $14,000 to outstanding students in our band program. Wonderful as this is, it’s a drop in the bucket when you consider that there are more than 400 students involved in UNL bands and tuition and fees are rising. $14,000 covers awards to just 14 students. We hope you’ll be inspired to contribute in whatever way inspires you: scholarships (Jack Snider Band Alumni Fund), guest artists (Donald Lentz Memorial Band Fund), or general operations such as “The Ride of All Nebraska”, the semi-trailer, instruments, raincoats, iPad drill software, etc. (University of Nebraska Foundation and/or Jack Snider Band Alumni Fund).

You may have graduated, but your spirit and influence is still felt in the work we do each day. Thank you for your support and encouragement, and Go Big Red!

Carolyn A. Barber
Ron & Carol Cope Professor, Director of Bands

Register or donate now!



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Registration for Sept 14/15 Reunion is OPEN!

We hope you can join us for this year’s reunion!

See the tabs on the menu of our website for more information and details!


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