Marching Chiefs

FSU Marching Chiefs
FSU Marching Chiefs 9-6-08 Guitar Hero Show.jpg
School Florida State University
Location Tallahassee, FL
Conference ACC
Founded 1941
Director Patrick Dunnigan
Assistant director David Plack
Members 470
Fight song ""
Website Official website

Since 1949, the name Marching Chiefs has served as the official title of the marching band of The Florida State University. The Marching Chiefs is the largest college marching band in the world with approximately 470 members.[1]



In the late 1930s, the first formal band was organized at The Florida State College for Women under the leadership of Charlotte Cooper, Jean Hitchcolk, Allie Ludlaw, and director Owen F. Sellars. With less than twenty students, the band made its first performance at the Odds and Evens intramural football game on Thanksgiving Day 1939. The following December, the Florida Flambeau ran an advertisement announcing try-outs for the first formal band, which was officially organized in 1941.

In 1942, Frank Sykora became the Interim Director while Director Sellars took a three year military leave during World War II. This same year the first uniforms were purchased and first worn for the inauguration of the new college president, Doak S. Campbell.

Marching band was first offered as a course for credit in 1946. The year 1947 saw FSCW become the coeducational Florida State University. The band also became coed, and began its long relationship with the football team in a five game season. Robert Smith took over the band and rehearsals were held on Landis Green.

In 1949, Robert T. Braunagel became the new band director. After a newspaper survey sponsored by the University Student Government Association, the marching band officially adopted the title, Marching Chiefs. The bands first appearance as the Marching Chiefs was at Stetson University.

In 1953, Dr. Manley R. Whitcomb of Ohio State University joined the FSU faculty and assumed the position of Director. When Dr. Whitcomb came south, he brought with him a talented young arranger, Charles Carter. This combination began the long tradition of Marching Chiefs as seen on the field today. Whitcomb instituted fast marching tempos, a high step with arm swing known as Chiefs Step, and introduced the concept of marching eight step to five yards.

In 1949-50, the Seminole football team appeared in a postseason bowl game for the first time at the Cigar Bowl in Tampa. An FSU Band was also in attendance thus marking the band's first bowl game appearance. In 1954, the Seminole football team earned a bid to play in a postseason bowl game at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, and the Miami Daily News proclaimed, "FSU's bid to Sun Bowl clinched by Marching Chiefs" (December 5, 1954). After the chartering of Kappa Kappa Psi at FSU in the Spring of 1955, the brothers published the first issue of the Chieftain that fall. Its purpose was to keep band members informed of upcoming events and activities. J. Dayton Smith's The Hymn to the Garnet and the Gold was arranged for band by Charlie Carter in 1956. The Hymn made its first appearance at Homecoming (as performed by the Marching Chiefs) in 1958. Numerous traditions surrounding the Hymn and the Chiefs first appeared during these years, and continue to the present day.[2]

Five years later, in 1964, the first Florida State versus the University of Florida football game was played and the rivalry began. In 1971, Richard Mayo, FSU alumnus and past drum major, assumed the helm of the Marching Chiefs. The same year, membership grew to over 200 students, and the Marching Chiefs were finalists in the Best College Marching Band Contest on ABC-TV and established the reputation of being one of the country's finest.

The year 1974 made the Marching Chiefs international. The Marching Chiefs were guest of the United States Department of State to perform at the International Trade Fair in Damascus, Syria. While in the Middle East, Chiefs traveled to Amman, Jordan for a command performance for King Hussein.

Thus, the title world-renowned became associated with the Marching Chiefs name. The following year, flag, rifle, and color guard auxiliary were added to the ensemble.

During a single term as director in 1976, William Raxsdale introduced corp-style drill, including glide step, and Chiefs only performed one show all year.

In 1977, FSU and Chiefs alumnus, Bentley Shellahamer took over as Director of the Chiefs and reinstated the traditional Chiefs' style of marching. One year later Chiefs made their first of many performances at a National Football League game for the New Orleans Saints.[3]

Marching Chiefs displayed on one of the Display Screens

As membership surpassed 300 students in 1981, the season was highlighted by a trip to Ohio State University to perform at the football game. Dr. Whitcomb conducted the combined bands in the National Anthem, which Dr. Shellahamer described as the ultimate experience. This same year alumnus David Westberry took over the position of The Voice of the Marching Chiefs. The next year Shellahamer began working on his doctoral degree at Ohio State, and Andre Arrouet became Interim Director.

In 1982, Sports Illustrated featured the Marching Chiefs in an eight page picture essay in which SI declared that, "Florida State occasionally may lose a football game, but never a halftime show" (December 6, 1982).[4] This is the origin of the unofficial nickname of the Marching Chiefs as "The band that never lost a halftime."

Also in 1982, Dr. James Croft added the traditional end of the year PRISM concert to be included in the annual Tri-State Band Festival and Conducting Conference. Dr. Shellahamer returned to FSU in 1984, and the Chiefs, along with the Gator Band, performed in Super Bowl XVIII in Tampa, Florida. The Marching Chiefs reached another milestone in 1988, when membership surpassed 400 students, thus making the Chiefs the world's largest collegiate marching band.

In 1989, Robert Sheldon took over as Director and adopted the uniforms that the Chiefs wore through the 2000 season. That same year, an effort was spearheaded by several students to officially dedicate Chiefs' field as the Manley Whitcomb Memorial Field, Home of the Marching Chiefs. Their labors bore fruit later in 1992.[5]

In 1991, current Director of the Marching Chiefs, Patrick Dunnigan arrived in Tallahassee. In his first year, Dunnigan and the Chiefs recorded their first compact disc, Our Best Foot Forward. The Chiefs thus became the first college marching band to produce their own end-of-season CD recording.

In 1992, Charlie Carter celebrated his fortieth season with FSU and the Chiefs, and the Chiefs performed a special show saluting Charlie's contributions to the bands at FSU. The 1993 season was especially momentous. To begin the season, Chiefs took an early trip to the New Jersey Meadowlands for the Kick-Off Classic against the University of Kansas. Doak Campbell Stadium was also renovated before this season and a special section was designed specifically for the Chiefs. In addition to the new section, the Chiefs made their first entrance through the endzone door. The Homecoming Show celebrated the Fiftieth Anniversary of the bands at FSU. To end the season, the Chiefs were a part of FSU's first National Championship in football.

May 1997, marked another milestone as Chiefs renewed their title of world-renowned by traveling to London, England to perform a halftime show for the World Football League's London Monarchs.

The following season, Dr. John L. Baker stepped in as Interim Director while Dunnigan took time off to pursue his doctoral degree at the University of Texas. After a miraculous turn of events in December 1998, Chiefs found themselves on their way to Tempe, Arizona, accompanying the football team on another quest to National Championship in the Fiesta Bowl.

Dr. Patrick Dunnigan returned to Tallahassee for the 1999 season. Chiefs once again had a wonderful season ending with a celebration of the football team's second National Championship in the Sugar Bowl.[6]

The Marching Chiefs prior to the 2010 ACC Championship Game

In 2005, a donation of over $1 million dollars was made to the university for a new practice field for the Marching Chiefs. Starting with the 2005 season, the Chiefs have a brand new artificial turf field to march on, fully painted as Bobby Bowden Field would be on game day, complete with the FSU Seminole Head Logo in the center. The artificial turf surface replaces a grass field that was known for its alternating conditions of dust or mud, depending on that day's weather. The 2005 season also saw the re-addition of the Rifle Line to the auxiliary sections.

In 2008, the Marching Chiefs reached over 443 members, remaining the largest collegiate marching band in the country.

In 2009, the Marching Chiefs grew even larger with 520 students auditioning for the band and only 460 making the cut. Marching Chiefs remains the largest collegiate marching band in the world.

Try-outs and practices

Aspiring members of the Marching Chiefs complete a strenuous Preseason Training that begins with the music audition. Following the music audition is a week-long process of learning how to march as a Chief for rookies and a fast-paced three-day refresher for veterans. After being taught how to march, the week concludes with the marching audition. Each audition with worth 50% of the total score which assists in completing the official Marching Chiefs "Block List" which declares which students are members. All who wish to be a member of the Marching Chiefs, new and returning, must audition to be in the band every year.[7][8]

The band institutes an "alternate" system due to its enormous size. Members declared alternates must share their field spot with another member and perform pregame or halftime every other football game.

Marching Chiefs rehearse for two hours on Monday through Friday from 4pm to 6pm. On game days, the band has early morning Continuity rehearsals to review the halftime show and pregame.

Drum Majors

Drum Majors and Assistant Drum Majors of the Marching Chiefs fulfill ceremonial as well as musical positions of leadership within the band. One of the most significant and visible responsibilities of the Drum Major is the pre-game strut, which includes a 40-yard strut and mace toss prior to the beginning of the Marching Chiefs' pre-game show. This tradition began with Jim Bruce during his tenure as Drum Major in the late 1970s. Over the years, Marching Chiefs added the position of Assistant Drum Major (and later a second) to serve as an additional field commander and conductor. For halftime performances and special appearances, the Drum Major dresses in a ceremonial uniform designed in the likeness of the Seminole Indian Tribe, incorporating designs and colors representative of traditional tribal attire.

Season Drum Major Assistant Drum Major Assistant Drum Major
1969 Herschel Beazley
1970 George Rosete
1972 Tom Drick
1973 Tom Drick
1974 Robert Duke
1975 Robert Duke
1976 Chris Dickinson
1977 James Bruce
1978 James Bruce
1979 James Bruce John Thompson
1980 Ken Williams Craig Lawrence
1981 Ken Williams Joe Bowens
1982 Keith Peterson William Faucett
1983 William Faucett Joseph Little
1984 William Faucett Rodney Dorsey
1985 Rodney Dorsey Paige McKay
1986 Rodney Dorsey Steven Oser
1987 Rodney Dorsey Mary Lyle Scott
1988 Tyrone Adkins Claudine Cacioli
1989 Tyrone Adkins Claudine Cacioli
1990 Claudine Cacioli Gregory Johns
1991 Rojay Evans Gregory Johns
1992 Gregory Johns Jonathan Schwartz
1993 Jonathan Schwartz Daniel Oser
1994 Michael Chiaro Brad Wharton
1995 Amie Benedetto Eric Allen
1996 Brad Wharton Eric Allen Amie Benedetto
1997 Eric Allen David Hedgecoth Kelly Monroe
1998 David Hedgecoth Cindy Henman Ernesta Suarez
1999 Chad Temple1 Jeremy Brewer Jonathan Richards
2000 Jonathan Richards Jason Millhouse Charlie Rankin
2001 Jason Millhouse Gabriel Arnold Troy Paolantonio
2002 Gabriel Arnold Jason Millhouse Jonathan Richards
2003 Ryan Kelly Jessey Howard Joey Monahan
2004 Jessey Howard Christopher Cannon Christina Dimitry
2005 Christopher Cannon Jeff Chamlis David Jackson
2006 David Thornton Jeff Chamlis Mark Shilling
2007 Mark Shilling Jodi Chapman Daniel Farr
2008 Daniel Farr Jodi Chapman Philip Magyar
2009 Michael Weintraub Daniel Taylor Andrew Vrzal
2010 Jennifer Mammino Brittni Bailey Andrew Dubbert
2011 Andrew Dubbert Keith Griffis Bradley Parks

1did not complete season


The Marching Chiefs' instrumental sections are known by its members by their own specific names and are as follows:

Flutes: "Chiefs Flutes"

Clarinets: "Pieces"

Alto & Tenor Saxophones: "Section X"

Mellophones: "Hornz"

Trumpets: "Screech Squad," commonly referred to as "Screech"

Baritones: "T.O.N.E. Quality (TQ)," commonly referred to as "Tones"

Trombones: "The Roamin' Bones," commonly referred to as "Bones"

Sousaphones: "The Royal Flush," commonly referred to as "Flush"

Percussion: "The Big 8 Drumline," commonly referred to as "Big 8"

Auxiliary consists of Color Guard, Majorettes and Feature Twirler(s)

Show/Technical Support: "Glue Crew"

Each individual section has its own set of history and traditions, some with their own colors, mottos, symbols, songs, pre-game rituals and/or crests.

FSU Marching Chiefs Traditions

"Skull Session" - The Chiefs perform together at a pregame "Skull Session" before each home football game in Tallahassee. When Manley Whitcomb, the founder of the Marching Chiefs, came to Florida State University from The Ohio State University, he brought several traditions with him, one of those being the "Skull Session." The idea is that the Chiefs get the music into their skulls before the game and can focus more on the marching and visual performance during the game. Originally, Skull Session was held in Opperman Music Hall but has since become a public performance. Now, performing on Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium (located next to Doak Campbell Stadium), the Chiefs perform section cheers and then go on to give the audience a sneak preview of the day's halftime show selections. Most section cheers tend to be either well-known pop songs, opportunities to poke fun at school opponents/other sections or inside jokes. All cheers are arranged by students who are current/alumni Chiefs.

"Come On and Go" - This is a pregame tradition which the band opens with. The drumline begins by playing the cadence "Come On and Go" as the band high steps out onto the field from under the stadium. As the cadence progresses, the band performs a double-time high step known as "Go Cadence" onto the field.

"The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" (Retired)- This was a tradition that started in the early 1980s when the Chiefs were under the direction of Dr. Bentley Shellahamer. As the Florida State football team was finishing its on-field pre-game warm up exercise routine, the Chiefs joined the team's vocals. As they finished, the players lined up shoulder to shoulder on the fifty-yard line, held up their helmets and walked in a side-by-side line toward the North end zone as the Chiefs played the "main title" theme from the 1966 film "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" which has been arranged into "G.B.U.", an extended intro which then leads into the playing of the "FSU Fight Song," or the "Warchant" (or "War Chant"). Even though this tradition is retired, the Chiefs still play "G.B.U." in the stands.

"'Flushing' The Field" - The Royal Flush, during every pregame performance, "flushes" the field by running around the Seminole head logo at the center of Bobby Bowden Field while the head drum major stands at the center of it. As the rest of the band transitions to the team entrance formation, The Royal Flush follows and the entire band ends the exit cadence by counting aloud the number of Flush members and ending with "Flush!" This can be heard on each and every recording of the Exit Cadence.

"Roamin' The Stadium" - The Roamin' Bones "roam" the stadium during 3rd or 4th quarter and perform different arrangements from the Bone Book, their collection of musical charts written specifically for the Roamin' Bones.

"The Hymn To The Garnet & Gold" - Most Chiefs will agree that their favorite school song is what is commonly known as "The Hymn". When Florida State University was looking for an alma mater, several composers sent in their contributions. The Hymn did not make it as the official FSU Alma Mater, but it lives and thrives as a long-standing school tradition, as the Chiefs sing it at the end of every game.


  1. ^ Retrieved on July 24, 2010.
  2. ^ "Our History". A Humble Beginning: 1930-1963. Florida State University Marching Chiefs. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  3. ^ "Our History". International Chiefs: 1964-1977. Florida State University Marching Chiefs. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  4. ^ "Sports Illustrated - December 06, 1982". All Horns Up!!!. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  5. ^ "Our History". Unprecedented Growth: 1978-1990. Florida State University Marching Chiefs. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  6. ^ "Our History". National Titles & 50 Years of Bands: 1991-Present. Florida State University Marching Chiefs. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  7. ^ "Future Chiefs". Preseason Training. Florida State University Marching Chiefs. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  8. ^ "Future Chiefs". Joining the FSU Marching Chiefs. Florida State University Marching Chiefs. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 

External links

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