History of the Marching 97

The Marching 97 has been a part of Lehigh University for over a century - its humble beginnings in 1906 mark the start of a remarkable and singular history. In its heyday, the band was regarded as among the finest in the world, and performed both field shows and stage concerts across the country. Auditions were held at the beginning of each academic year - competition was fierce for spots among the band's ranks, and the members were held to rigid standards of performance and attendance. Both then and now, the band has been known above all for its gregarious, fun-loving, rowdy enthusiasm - a type of spirit the band likes to call "psyche". For a hundred years and more, the men and women of the Marching 97 have been cut from the same cloth - while the members and directors may change, the spirit of the band is every bit the same as it was when the first bandmembers assembled in 1906.

Perhaps nobody has better described the Lehigh Band than its founder, E.E. Ross (class of 1908) - "There was never a single case of jealousy or friction.....we worked with little formal system but with complete cooperation - and we had a lot of fun."


1906- The first Lehigh University band is founded under the direction of E. E. Ross, 1908. Approximately 15 men meet for the first time in Saucon (now Christmas-Saucon) Hall.

1908- The band performs for Andrew Carnegie, who arrives on campus to celebrate the construction of Taylor Hall (funded by the Carnegie Foundation and named for Lehigh alumnus and Carnegie employee Charles Taylor, class of 1876).

1908- The first concert performance of the Lehigh Band is held in newly-built Drown Hall. The concert is followed by a dance to the band's lively waltzes and two-steps.

1963- The Lehigh band performs a concert in Carnegie Hall.

1964- The band plays at the New York World's Fair

1969- The 97 first allows girls to join, as cheerleaders. Cheerleaders are taken from Cedar Crest, Moravian College and other nearby universities and are considered a part of the band.

1969 - The Lehigh Band returns to Carnegie Hall, this time in concert with the Yale band.

1971- Lehigh University first admits female students.

1971- The band travels to the Lehigh-Delaware football game by train, serenading onlookers with powerful renditions of the 1812 Overture.

1973- The first female musicians join the Marching 97.

1973- Lehigh hosts the non-competitive Globe-Times Band Festival at Taylor Stadium.

1977- The band travels to the Pioneer Bowl with the football team. Lehigh beats Jacksonville State 33-0.

1987- The Marching 97 marches its final season in the venerated Taylor Stadium (the band currently performs at home football games in Goodman Stadium).

2011- The band dons spiffy new uniforms for the 147th Lehigh-Lafayette game

2014- The band performs at Yankee Stadium for the 150th meeting of the Lehigh-Lafayette game

Fun facts

After an away football game against Harvard, a Harvard newspaper declared the Marching 97 the "Finest Band East of All Points West". This appellation was embraced by the band and has stuck to this day.

In the 1960s, the concert band (which included almost all of the members of the marching band) would play a concert at whichever school the current band Manager's girlfriend attended.

The ever-popular "Eco-flame" (where the band marches around campus interrupting Friday classes before the Lehigh-lafayette game) began in the 1970s, when Professor Rich Aaronson asked the band to play for his ECO 001 class.

Directors of the Marching 97

1906- E.E. Ross (1908) founds and directs the first Lehigh University Band under the eye of Professor William S. Franklin.

1924-1945- Dr. T. Edgar Shields

1946-1956- LTC William T. Schempf

1957-1972- Professor Jonathan Elkus

1968- Dr. Albertus E. Meyers (During the sabbatical of Professor Elkus)

1973-1977- James Brown

1978-1988- Clark CJ Hamman

1989-1992, 1994- Casey Teske

1993, 1995-2016- Al Neumeyer

2017-Present- Darin Lewis

The Alma Mater Controversy

At the 1970 Lehigh-Cornell game, Cornell fans mocked the fact that both schools' Alma Maters sounded identical (both are in fact based on a 19th-century ballad called "Annie Lisle"). Embarrassed bandmembers resolved to replace the current Alma Mater with "Centennial", a piece written in 1965 by bandmember Joseph Godfrey (which is still played by the Marching 97 after every football game). The band even sponsored a contest to write lyrics for the tune, awarding a $25 dollar prize to the winner. However, these efforts raised the ire of many alumni, who were reluctant to abandon tradition - as such, "Centennial" never became the official Alma Mater of Lehigh University.