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Throwback Thursday: From Princeton Pranks to Traditions that Last

For several years during football games, the Big Red Band merely marched, performed at halftime, and would leave with the masses at the end of the game. However, in 1947, Cornell emerged victorious in a close game against the Princeton Tigers. As a result, the band was attacked in a small riot by Tigers fans on its way out of the stadium.

The next game that the Big Red Band played at, the group gave an impromptu concert while the masses left. This began the tradition of having a short performance at the end of every game as the crowd leaves. The Big Red Band had rehearsals for the marches, school songs, and prepared a specialty number for the concert. In addition, at the conclusion of every game, the band would often play the “Tiger Rag.”

Founded in 1930, the Big Red Band operated as a part of the Reserve Officers Training Corps until 1948. Since then, it has been financed by Cornell University Athletic Association, Student Council, and the University itself.

In 1954, the band was under the direction of Professor William Campbell, and the officers were Robert A. Long (conductor), Richard B. Lacy (drum major), and Richard M. Townsend  (manager). The percussion section needed to be started from scratch, which worried Campbell. This was due to many graduated performers and some players on academic probation. Fortunately, there were several freshman recruits, and Campbell was actually most enthusiastic about the horn and clarinet section.

The band’s final trip, an ongoing tradition, was to the University of Pennsylvania on Thanksgiving day. Each year, the band added new formations to their march and new sets to their final concerts. They would play at football games, pregame rallies, and basketball games, as well as performances for special public events.

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