University Bands

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For more than a century, Northwestern University student musicians have upheld a tradition of excellence.

The Symphonic Wind Ensemble, called “the nation’s finest” by prominent wind band conductors in America, has specialized in the interpretation of the richest and most demanding repertoire. The Symphonic Band and Concert Band offer musicians at Northwestern the opportunity to perform original and transcribed musical literature for winds.

The Northwestern Athletic Bands perform widely at university events and travel the nation. Conducted by faculty from the Bienen School of Music and sponsored by the Department of Athletics, the B1GCATS bands include students from nearly every major and school at Northwestern. The nationally acclaimed Wildcat Marching Band is known as “The Finest Band in the Land” and has been awarded the Sudler Trophy by the John Phillip Sousa Foundation.

The first student band at Northwestern University began in 1911, and the formal band program began in 1926 under the leadership of Glenn Cliffe Bainum. The devotion to high standards that he instilled was carried on from 1953 to 1996 by John P. Paynter. Now the Bienen School of Music is proud to have Mallory Thompson as Director of Bands. Under her direction, the bands at Northwestern continue to expand and evolve in their position of national and international leadership.

Beyond the Northwestern Bands, the university's symphony orchestra, chamber orchestra, Philharmonia, jazz orchestra, jazz small ensembles, and Contemporary Music Ensemble produce exciting, quality performances in their respective idioms.

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