BGSU to celebrate 100 years of University Bands during 2023 Homecoming

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – One year after its 100th Homecoming celebration, Bowling Green State University will recognize another milestone in its history during this year’s Homecoming festivities Sept. 21-24 by honoring 100 years of University Bands.

Along with multiple events and activities for alumni, current students and loved ones, this year's BGSU Homecoming celebration will culminate with alumni band members joining current Falcon Marching Band members for a pregame show and a halftime performance on the field of Doyt L. Perry Stadium during the Homecoming football game on Saturday, Sept. 23.

In 1923, BGSU – then Bowling Green State Normal College – welcomed its ninth class of students to campus and student Leo Lake and faculty member Earl Claire Powell established the very first marching band at the University.

Known simply as “the College Band,” this ensemble had about 20 members and was led by Powell, an industrial arts faculty member who had no formal experience in music. Powell, who gave each band member a freshman cap to wear since there were no uniforms, led the band until the spring of 1927.

The directorship of the band changed hands in 1927 as music faculty member Charles F. Church took the helm, and the director position has remained in the hands of music faculty ever since. Women first joined the band during the 1942-43 academic year during Robert Getchell's tenure as director. Getchell directed for the first half of the season in 1942 and then was drafted into the military for World War II.

Post-war, the band continued to expand. The year 1948 marked the first time the Falcon Marching Band played the "Forward Falcons" fight song. In 1953, Professor Roy Weger became the band's leader, and his presence is still seen as the bleachers on the south side of the Sebo Athletic Center bear the name “Weger Band Stands” in his memory.

For nearly 28 years, the Falcon Marching Band was led by powerhouse director Mark Kelly – "The Chief” - who commanded excellence from the band from 1966-1994. He is credited with creating the band's high-powered entry and pregame drill, which has retained much of its initial flair. The Kelly Instrumental Rehearsal Hall in the Moore Musical Arts Center is named in his honor. Kelly was selected as the Ohio Music Education Association’s outstanding music educator and the National Band Association named him one of the 10 most outstanding music directors in the United States.

The band saw another milestone in 2003 when Dr. Carol Hayward became the first female director of the Falcon Marching Band. During her 12-year tenure, the band grew to over 280 members - becoming the largest student organization on campus - and earned its own page on Wikipedia.

Now under the visionary second-year Director of Athletic Bands Jon Waters, the 240-member Falcon Marching Band performs at a variety of events throughout the fall semester, including University events, football games, concerts, regional marching band shows, national and international events, parades and other athletic events. The band is open to students of all class levels and majors and is composed of students from all colleges of the University. The Falcon Marching Band is an academic course and all members of the ensemble must be registered for the class to participate.

With the band's long history and the University's reputation as a destination for future music educators, the Falcon Marching Band also generates a large and passionate alumni band membership. Hundreds return to campus each year for Homecoming and alumni band reunions.

While the 100th anniversary of the Falcon Marching Band is celebrated this year, overall music programs at BGSU date back even earlier. BGSU has never been without music on campus, from the first existence of a department (1914-1961), then a School of Music (1961-1975) and then the College of Musical Arts in 1975.

For more information about this year’s BGSU Homecoming celebration, visit

Updated: 09/12/2023 04:28PM