ABOVE PHOTO: Tom Barnett, UW-River Falls marching band director, leads the UWRF pep band at Smith Stadium at Ramer Field in October 2022 prior to the start of a home game against UW-Eau Claire. This fall, UWRF will restart its marching band program after more than 30 years without such a band at the university. The marching band will perform at Ramer Field, pictured in the background, for pre-game and halftime performances.
More than three decades after it last appeared on campus, the University of Wisconsin-River Falls is getting ready to strike up the marching band again.
The Marching Falcons will be directed by trumpet Professor Tom Barnett, director of UWRF’s
athletic bands, and make appearances at university football games and other events beginning in
the fall. The last time a UW-River Falls marching band took the field at UWRF was more than 30
years ago before budget constraints ended the program around 1990.
“A marching band brings so much spirit and excitement to university and community events,”
said UW-River Falls Chancellor Maria Gallo. “The program also provides another quality co-
curricular experience to our students who have told us for years they would like to participate in
marching band if we offered it. This is a response to that need.”
“The Marching Falcons will bring back a proud tradition at UWRF,” said Barnett, the driving force
behind the return of the marching band. Since Barnett began teaching at UWRF in 2001, he has
heard many requests from potential students to have a marching band.
“This area has such a rich tradition of high school marching band success, it just makes sense to
have a UWRF marching band,” he said. “We’re trying to create a diverse student group that will
span potentially all the majors on campus.”
The Marching Falcons will also have a color guard, Barnett added, allowing for more students to
get involved with the group. The marching band has been restarted with a $100,000 lead gift from UWRF alums Pat and Dave Stone to buy instruments and storage, Barnett said.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Pat Stone, who played in the marching band for two years
when she attended UWRF in the mid-1970s. “Music is the universal language of all other studies.
It brings a sense of unity. Marching band is a place for non-music majors to get plugged in. It is
also a source of family at the university.”
The marching band will perform at football events, including the Homecoming Parade, as well as
other special events around campus, Barnett said.
A marching band class is planned for students to earn credit and better prepare for the band,
Barnett said. The band will be marching basic maneuvers. The goal is to build the band and
potentially join band competitions as the band becomes more seasoned. There will be an
application process but no formal auditions.
UWRF has a pep band with more than 40 members that play at football games and traveled to the
inaugural Culvers Isthmus Bowl when UWRF defeated Washington University in St. Louis 48-27
in November 2021. The game marked the first postseason college bowl game in Wisconsin state
history and the first bowl game in UW-River Falls football program history.