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The Early 1900s

Hoffman's leadership

5 During the fall of 1900, a new leader took charge of the band -- Allen Lynn Darr, a student in the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts. Previously, Darr had played solo cornet in the Michigan Band and also served as the band's president. Beset with financial problems and internal personality conflicts, the winter of 1903 saw the temporary break up of the band. The following fall, it was announced that William Hoffman would serve as the band's new conductor. After one week of rehearsal under Hoffman's guidance it was noted that the band's performance at the October 10 game showed "marked improvement."

It was under Hoffman's leadership that the Michigan Band made a dramatic change in its performance practice at the football games. On November 14, 1903 at the Michigan-Wisconsin game before a crowd of 10,000 people at Regents Field, the Michigan Band made a surprise entry onto the gridiron which was "greeted by a loud burst of applause." During the 1903 season, the band continued to play at the weekly Friday night Mass Meetings in University Hall where it often combined with the sound of the pipes from the mighty Frieze Memorial Organ to give loud, but spirited, renditions of The Yellow and Blue. At the last game of the season -- the annual Thanksgiving Day clash with the University of Chicago -- the Michigan Band experienced its first "snow bowl" as it bravely attempted to play and march in near blizzard conditions. In January, Hoffman resigned his post at the School of Music and left Ann Arbor to assume the position of concertmaster in Walter Damrosch's orchestra in New York City. Taking over leadership of the band was August Schmidt, the band's solo clarinetist and native of Morgantown, West Virginia.

Struggling to survive

The fall of 1904 was the fourth season of Fielding Harris Yost's long reign as head coach of the University of Michigan football team. It was a fabulous season as, once again, the Wolverines overwhelmed all opponents scoring 567 points and allowing only 22. On the October 18 game of that season against Kalamazoo, August Schmidt and the University band reintroduced a song that had not been played at a Michigan football game since the 1899 season. The song was The Victors.

For the next two decades, the band -- truly a grass roots student organization -- struggled to survive. During the fall, it was not unusual to find members of the band on the streets of Ann Arbor "passing the bucket" in an effort to raise necessary funds for the band. With no official University support and no means of financial security, its year to year existence depended solely on the generosity of the campus community and on the savvy of the band's conductors. With the autumn of 1906, the University of Michigan Band began its second decade of existence, and there was hope that its new, young conductor, Eugene J. Fischer, would be able to find a solution to the band's financial problems.

The Eugene Fischer years: 1906-1914