History of the Butler University Marching Band
One Saturday afternoon, in the fall of 1919, as Butler and
DePauw squared away on the football field, a few people suddenly
noticed that DePauw had something Butler lacked: a BAND! These
people immediately began to correct the problem by raising money
through the selling of magazine subscriptions. They raised enough
money to buy two bass horns and to hire some talented musical
directors. Despite this meager beginning, the Butler Band was
The original band consisted of twelve musicians without uniforms.
By 1921, however, additional funds were raised to outfit the band
with white sweaters, blue trousers, and hats. In the same year, the
band took its first road trip to Urbana, Illinois, where the
Bulldogs defeated the Fighting Illini for the first and only time
in school history.
The band continued to grow under a series of student directors
until 1925 when James Bradley (better known as "J.B.") Vandaworker
was hired as the band's first professional director. The esteemed
Mr. Vandaworker was nationally known and respected as a musician
and builder of men through his work as director of the Indianapolis
Newsboy's Band. Mr. Vanderworker served as Kappa Kappa Psi Grand
President and was later honored with the distinguished Bohumil
Makovsky Memorial Award.
Under Mr. Vandaworker, the band had acquired military uniforms
and the student body had raised money to purchase capes by the late
1920s. In 1928, the custom of awarding "B" letters to senior band
members with at least seven semesters of service was inaugurated.
Although this tradition is no longer practiced, senior members
flipped the capes of the version of the uniforms used from 1990
through 2007 to display a giant "B" at the last football game in
honor of the this practice.
With J.B. Vandaworker, the band grew in size discipline, and
musical quality. In 1927, Butler executed its first marching
formations, which spelled out words on the football field. Mr.
Vanderworker also lead the band in three or four indoor concerts
per semester, which increased exposure to the community. He also
added numerous engagements outside the university setting. By the
end of the 1920s, the band number 60 members and played engagements
at the Indianapolis 500 Festival and over WFBM, a leading local
radio station at the time.
It was during this period that local band fraternity Beta Mu
Sigma was formed. In 1929 Beta Mu Sigma petitioned to obtain a
charter from the National Committee of Kappa Kappa Psi. The
petition was granted and on May 31, 1929 the Alpha Beta chapter of
Kappa Kappa Psi was installed at Butler University.
During the 1930s and 1940s Butler's band program, like all those
nationwide, suffered through the repercussions of the Great
Depression, World War I, and World War II. However, at Butler, the
legendary Tony Hinkle directed athletics, which meant a rise in the
quality of our sporting teams. To accompany this rise, a topnotch
band was essential. At this time the Butler football team had game
attendance approaching 10,000 and many football as well as
basketball games were televised. Entertainment at the half became a
The band acquired its first full time director in 1946. Charles
Henzie began his tenure which would last until 1966. Under his
leadership, the band grew in both size and musicality. In 1948, the
band became the band became the first in the state to use a 8-to-5
marching style with the chair step. Soon after, flag girls and
twirlers were added under the name of the "Half-Time Honeys."
The 40s saw another important addition. On July 7, 1946, the
Epsilon chapter of Tau Beta Sigma was chartered as a sister
organization to Kappa Kappa Psi. The Epsilon chapter was just the
fifth in the nation to be activated.
Consistent growth marked the 50s. In 1958, Michael Lekrone became
the assistant band director under Charles Henzie, and, in 1964,
membership peaked at 180 marchers. Michael Lekrone became director
of the marching band in 1966 and continued to serve the Butler Band
department until 1969 when he left to direct the University of
Wisconsin Marching Band. Unfortunately, the late 60s were a
difficult period for the band and membership decreased. This trend
continued even an outstanding band director, Vincent Praxia, became
the new Director of Bands in 1969, a position he held until
In 1973, Robert Grechesky became the Director of the Marching
Bulldogs and brought the band roaring back. From a membership of 72
in 1973, the band grew to 120 in 1976. During this time, the Butler
Marching Band was featured three times in Sports Illustrated for
their unique performances. Due to health reasons in the
spring of 1989 Dr. Grechesky announced that he would no longer be
the director of the marching and concert bands. Soon after all
university bands were joined together into a new Department of
Bands under the direction of William J. Hochkeppel and Dr.
Grechesky became chair of the Music Education Department. Shortly
before the beginning of the 1989-90 school year, a new director for
the marching/concert band was found in Mr. Dave Coffing. Mr.
Coffing kept the band performing while a national search was
conducted to locate our current director, Mr. David
From a hardworking group of 33 members in 1991 the band grew
steadily during the 90s. In 1992 Butler became the host band for
the Indianapolis Regional Bands of America Championships, and began
exhibition performances for BOA in 1994. The band hosted a
performance of the West Virginia University 360-member marching
band in the Butler Bowl in 1996, and in 2001 and 2002 the Butler
Marching Band performed at the US Grand Prix at the Indianapolis
Motor Speedway. At the same time growth in the Butler University
Basketball Band (BUBB) mirrored the rise of our basketball team and
a string of postseason performances. BUBB is generally considered
to be the most exciting and entertaining basketball band in our
conference and one of the best in the midwest.
Under Director of Bands Dr. Robert Grechesky and Director of
Athletic Bands David McCullough the past two decades have been seen
growth in the entire Butler band program. The 2010 marching band
included 135 members; the largest in over 40 years and the BUBB
performance opportunities have increased with NCAA tournament
travel most years, including two recent trips to the Final
2014 will see yet another exciting change in Butler's band
department as after 40 years of dedicated service to Butler Dr.
Grechesky is retiring. We are happy to wish Dr. Grechesky a thankful farewell and welcome
as Butler's newest Director of Bands Col. Michael Colburn. Col. Colburn comes
to Butler after 27 years in the internationally acclaimed "The
President's Own" US Marine Band, the last 10 serving as the band's
The Butler University Band - It's
a Great Place to Play!