In 1908 the first known band director, Albert Miller, was at the Y. When he started is not exactly known, but it was in that year he passed the baton to Robert Sauer, known for his composition, “When it’s Springtime in the Rockies,” who continued for the next 35 years. During his tenure the bands met at the lower campus College Hall in the Education Building. Under his baton the band toured the Western U.S.
The band was known as “The Cougar Band,” and just like today was always there to support the school. During a large service project for which many Y students helped clean up brush and dead wood from the Provo bench (the area now known as Orem), the Cougar Band went along and played to help support the project.
The marching band started off in a slightly different function than it is known today. Originally it was the ROTC marching band. In 1943 J.R. Halliday took over as the third director, with Norman Hunt as his assistant. While he was director, the band once again toured the West. By this time the bands had moved from the College Hall to the East Room of the Social Hall.
After Halliday’s tenure, Norman Hunt served briefly as the director until 1945, when Ralph Laycock took over as director of bands for the Y, with Richard Ballou as his assistant. During Laycock’s 13 year tenure the band played at many events, including the Music Educators National Convention in 1958, and the College Band Directors National Association convention in 1964.
In 1965 the Harris Fine Arts Center was completed and the band settled into its new home. The next year, Richard Ballou assumed his reign as the director of the Cougar Marching Band until 1970. He was followed by Grant Elkington, 1970-1973, Bruce Bastian, 1973-1977, Dan Bachelder, 1977-1984, David Blackinton, 1980-1985, Donald Peterson, 1986-2006, and Fred McInnis, 2007-present.
The 225-member band consists of approximately 175 woodwinds and brass, 25 percussionists, and 30 colorguard members who add extra color and pizzazz to the formations on the field. The band members represent 34 states as well as majors across campus, with about 20% being music majors.
The marching season begins with a rigorous week-long band camp, or “Sweat Week,” as it is traditionally called, the week before school begins. Band members fly in from all over the U.S. and Canada to participate. During this intense week, the group begins at 8:00 a.m. and continues until 10:00 p.m. rehearsing in the west stadium parking lot and the Cougar Marching Band Hall. The results of these 14-hour days include sun-burnt bodies, chapped lips, and 225 new friends. During this time, members learn basic marching techniques, memorize music to the pre-game and first halftime shows, and then learn the drill to the actual shows, all in preparation for the first home game performance.
During regular football season, the band meets 3 days a week from 4:10-6:00 p.m. through all the wind, rain, heat, and snow. One can usually hear the phrase, “I love band!” particularly on those extreme-weather days. The band can be seen at every home game and travels with the team to in-state games and occasionally to places like Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles. Also, the band generally performs at a post-season bowl game, a tradition that is expected to continue with the excellence of BYU Football.
The Cougar Band has performed at these bowl games supporting BYU
1974 Fiesta Bowl —Tempe, AZ
1976 Tangerine Bowl — Orlando, FL
1978 Holiday Bowl — San Diego, CA
1979 Holiday Bowl — San Diego, CA
1980 Holiday Bowl — San Diego, CA
1981 Holiday Bowl — San Diego, CA
1982 Holiday Bowl — San Diego, CA
1983 Holiday Bowl — San Diego, CA
1984 Holiday Bowl — San Diego, CA
1985 Florida Citrus Bowl — Orlando, FL
1986 Freedom Bowl — Anaheim, CA
1987 All-American Bowl — Birmingham, AL
1988 Freedom Bowl — Anaheim, CA
1989 Holiday Bowl — San Diego, CA
1990 Holiday Bowl — San Diego, CA
1991 Holiday Bowl — San Diego, CA
1993 Holiday Bowl — San Diego, CA
1994 Copper Bowl — Tucson, AZ
1997 Cotton Bowl Classic — Dallas, TX
1998 Liberty Bowl — Memphis, TN
1999 Motor City Bowl — Detroit, MI
2001 Liberty Bowl — Memphis, TN
2005 Las Vegas Bowl — Las Vegas, NV
2006 Las Vegas Bowl — Las Vegas, NV
2007 Las Vegas Bowl — Las Vegas, NV
2008 Las Vegas Bowl — Las Vegas, NV
2009 Las Vegas Bowl — Las Vegas, NV
2010 New Mexico Bowl — Albuquerque, NM
2011 Armed Forces Bowl — Dallas, TX
2012 Poinsettia Bowl — San Diego, CA
2013 Fight Hunger Bowl — San Francisco, CA
2014 Miami Beach Bowl — Miami, FL
2015 Royal Purple Bowl —Las Vegas, NV
2016 Poinsettia Bowl — San Diego, CA