University of Wisconsin - La Crosse Alumni Band
University of Wisconsin - La Crosse
Alumni Band

UW-L Alumni Band History

The Marching Chiefs Alumni Band was granted a charter from the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse Alumni Association in 1981. Having achieved recognition with "club" status, a minimum of one organized event a year was among the requirements in the bylaws for a not-for-profit group. Officers at this time were: Wes Rainer, Dick Danaher, Pierre Beelendorf, and Glenn W. Gossfeld as president.

Alumni of the UW-La Crosse marching band, which until 1990 was known as the Marching Chiefs, are considered eligible to join the Alumni Band. Located in La Crosse, WI, the University has had one of the most demanding and spirited performance ensembles of its kind for many, many years.

Having an opportunity to continue this spirit beyond the time of graduation (or thereabouts) is one of the founding reasons for the present Alumni Band. Memories of playing before an NFL crowd, the chore of raising money to travel to and play in a New Years Day bowl parade, or the daily preparation on the practice field for pregame, halftime and postgame shows at Memorial Field in Wisconsin's Coulee Region do not have to be the end of an individual's playing career.

The legends live on today as 2002 will mark the 18th anniversary on September 30th of the bands' appearance in a local 3-mile procession with national prominence, Oktoberfest USA's Maple Leaf Parade. From one side of La Crosse to the other, acquaintances are renewed, tender chops are blown, drum heads are broken while big, big smiles and waves are exchanged as at least 100,000 people applaud and cater to their favorite unit which brings the parade to a close. A weekend of October bliss can easily become a whole week of festing. This is all because of a bonding association with someone in your squad over 20 years ago.

Storied Times

The above description fulfills that one qualifying event stipulated in the bylaws. Regardless of that however, there are many other opportunities to be a proud member of the Marching Chiefs Alumni Band. The storied past of the originating organization reached a turning point in 1969 when John L. Alexander was named director of the La Crosse State University Marching Chiefs Band. Replacing Dr. Wahl was a daunting task as commitments were already made for an appearance in the next Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. Successfully fulfilling this obligation planted a seed for perhaps even more adventurous trips, pro football half time shows and playoff games on the frozen tundra of the refurbished UW-L field.

A change occurred in 1990 following the school's nickname change from Indians to Eagles. The Screaming Eagles is the name for the UWL band today. Dr. A's tenure eventually gave way to a series of other directors and presently the band is under the downbeat of Dr Tammy Fisher.


The Alumni Band has managed to survive without an actual director of performances, although an occasional drum major's whistle has helped. Relying on a commanding style from Alexander's time frame, music is creatively recalled for parades. Oktoberfest averages around 200 performers from across the country including a color guard and twirlers. Surprisingly the Pompon girls have not made an appearance to date but are encouraged to do so. Whether any choose to march in a parade today should not exclude their participation in the activities of the Alumni Band. All are welcome.

Performances in other communities in Wisconsin have also occurred. This is anticipated to increase in number as the next millennium begins. Previous notable parades include the City of Festivals Parade and the Bayview Water Frolics Grand Parade in Milwaukee, Lake Mills Town & Country Days, and a preview that was accomplished from a political standpoint at Cashton's Fall Festival and the Spanferkel in Melrose.

Sponsorship has provided funding for uniforms (event T-shirts and hats) since the Alumni's first Oktoberfest in 1985. This procedure eliminates the need for dues from members or official documentation of membership. This unique method enables everyone to not feel constrained by the traditional hassles of funding alumni organizations. The sponsors are Quillins, Inc., a La Crosse chain of supermarkets and City Brewery in La Crosse, brewers of fine fermented beverages. New sponsors are always welcome.

An interesting note about the first Oktoberfest appearance of the band in 1985 was that without instruments the band actually sang several pieces for the first few blocks! The equipment bus had not arrived at the starting point with Blue Stars Drum & Bugle corps members and instruments for the Alumni Band. A respectable portion of both instruments and members were making their second run of the day on the parade route. This inconvenience was abated in 1990, as the Alumni Band was the recipient of percussion equipment and some weighty brass.

Future Note

This website ushers in a new era for the band in more ways than one as better communications is an obvious result. Visit this site often and pass the word.

A HUGE Thank you to our Sponsors!