The University of New Hampshire Wildcat Marching Band (UNHWMB), has traditionally been one of the most spirited organizations on campus. Made up of students from the entire campus, with majors ranging from music education and performance to mechanical engineering and equine science, the UNHWMB has been a performing group devoted to adding spirit to all home football games and several other regional exhibitions and parades since the early 1900s.
The ROTC started the university band in 1906, and performed at its first football game in 1919. The ROTC band eventually became a student-run organization until it fell under the auspices of the music department. Since no official records have been kept, the date of which the UNHWMB first became part of the music department is unknown.
Donald Mattran was the earliest director remembered by students but the official dates of his position are not recorded. Stanley Hettinger replaced Mattran as director in the fall of 1965. He came to UNH with a B.A. in Music Education from Ohio State University and a Masters in Music Education from Vandercook College in Chicago. He was the first director to introduce the corps style of marching at UNH in 1965. Prior to Hettinger, UNH had used the Big Ten style, complete with high stepping and 270-degree turns. During the years under Hettinger’s direction, the band performed shows including “Rocky Fanfare”, “Swan Lake”, and the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey”. During the late 1960s, Arthur Fiedler, a long –time conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, appeared as a guest conductor for the UNH Band Day. In 1971, there was no UNHWMB due to funding issues. Mr. Hettinger left the UNHWMB in 1980, replaced by Larry Lang, and passed away on September 17, 1998.
Under the direction of Lang from 1980-1982, the UNHWMB performed shows such as “James Bond” and a percussion feature called “This Masquerade.” Lang left the band in 1982 and was replaced by William Reeves until spring 1988. Reeves was a percussionist from the University of Idaho. He took the UNHWMB to a New York Giants game in 1985, in which the band marched a halftime show. Chuck Winfield of Blood, Sweat and Tears was a guest soloist in the UNHWMB’s “Blood, Sweat and Tears” halftime show in 1986. Under the direction of Reeves, the band performed shows including “Bolero”, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”, “Spinning Wheel”, and “Sir Duke”.
Christopher Humphrey took over direction of the band in the fall of 1989. Humphrey was a trombonist and jazz vocalist who earned a B.M. of Music Education from the University of New Hampshire. Under his direction, the band performed shows including “West Side Story”, “Porgy and Bess”, and “Wildcat State of Mind.” There were about 30 members of the band when Humphrey took over. Over the next three years he increased the size of the band to over 80 members. It was then that he realized that the band was too large for his enthusiasm to carry it alone. He then began to worry about what would happen to his accomplishments if he left the university. He presented the idea of band fraternity to the marching band members and several members enthusiastically accepted the idea. The Iota Phi chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi was installed at UNH on May 8, 1993. The colony was comprised of a core group of marching band members and was sponsored by Mr. Humphrey. When Chris Humphrey left in the spring of 1997, Jeff Bolduc, another trombonist, took over the position. Under his direction, the band performed “Wildcat Fiesta," including “One More Time, Chuck Corea”, and “Spain/Late in the Evening” for their halftime show.
Thomas Keck, a percussionist with a B.M. in Music Education from the University of Illinois and a Masters in Music from the University of Iowa, took over direction of the band in the fall of 1998. During Keck’s time at UNH, he increased the size of the UNHWMB to over 100 members. Under Keck’s direction, the band traveled to Montreal in 2000 and to Europe in 2001. They played shows including “Grease” (You’re the One that I Want, Hand Jive, Greased Lightning, and Hot Summer Nights), “Magical Mystery Tour” (Land Race, Brazil, Firebird Suite Race), a rock show (Karn Evil 9, Carry On Wayward Son, Pinball Wizard), a jazz show (A Night in Tunisia, It Had to Be You, Duke’s Closer), “Strike Up the Band” (Strike Up the Band, Rhapsody in Blue, Porgy and Bess), “Spanish Nights” (La Suerte de los Tontos, I Go toRio, Malaguena), and a “Queen” show (Fat Bottom Girls, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Bohemian Rhapsody).
Mr. Keck left the university in 2003 to pursue his doctorate at Arizona State University. Erika Svanoe took over as Director of Athletic Bands. She came to UNH with a Masters of Music Performance and Pedagogy in Wind Conducting from Okalahoma State University and a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire. Under her direction, the band performed shows such as “Rockin’ Across America” (25 or 6 to 4, Any Way You Want It, Smokin’), a swing show (Big Noise From Winnetka, Mack the Knife It Don’t Mean a Thing (If You Ain’t Got that Swing)), “One More Time” (One More Time, Chick Corea, Tiger of San Pedro, A Night in Tunisia), “Blues Brothers” (I Can’t Turn You Loose, Soul Man, Peter Gunn, Gimme Some Lovin’), “Heroes of the Silverscreen” (Theme from Batman, “The Glory Days” from the Incredibles, Theme from Superman), and “Music of the Who” (Baba O’Reilly, Who Medley #1: “The Seeker, My Generation”, Who Medley #2: “Magic Bus”, “I’m Free”, “Baba O’Riley”).
In 2006, Svanoe left the UNHWMB to obtain her doctorate in conducting from Ohio State Univeristy. She was replaced by Casey Goodwin, with a B.M. in Music Education and a Master of Arts in Music with an emphasis in music education from the University of New Hampshire. Goodwin was a former drum major and graduate assistant of the UNHWMB. Under Goodwin's direction, the band performed shows such as "Back to the Future," "Get on Your Feet," "The Lion King on Broadway," "Don't Touch that Dial!" and "Phantom of the ROCK Opera." In 2009, several members of the band were selected to appear in the Brendan Fraser/Brooke Shields film "Furry Vengeance." Several of the band members are featured prominently in the festival scene near the end of the movie. That fall, the band gave its first annual performance on the ice at a UNH Men's Hockey game. They also performed at the band's first Collegiate Marching Band Festival in Allentown, PA. That December, the band also traveled to Orlando to perform in a New Year's Eve parade in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom park. In 2010, the band performed at Gillette Stadium for the inaugural "Colonial Clash," the first college football game ever to be held there (UNH vs. UMass).
Membership on the UNHWMB has been open to all students regardless of experience level. It is an official academic course in which students may earn credit. A majority of the band members are non-music majors, and the band’s GPA is consistently above the university average. Band Camp begins the season one week before classes begin in the fall. After rehearsals and games, many band members hang out and socialize with each other, creating friendships that last for the season, for the year, and for life.