CWU News

CWU's Marching Band One of the Largest in the Pacific Northwest

There won't be quite 76 trombones, but there will be a heck of a lot of brass on Tomlinson Field this weekend. Central Washington University's magnificent marching band is 220 players strong this year—a historical high for the ensemble. A Wildcat tradition for more than 90 years, the ensemble performs at every home game.

"The CWU Marching Band is an exciting group of talented students who consistently put on electrifying performances. They bring an extraordinary energy to CWU football games and other venues they perform in,” commented Lewis Norfleet, director of bands.

"This year we are thrilled to present the largest CWU Marching Band in the school’s history. The inclusion of more students from a variety of majors, excellent student leadership and continued support from the university have helped fuel this surge in enrollment. They pride themselves on sounding great, and truly earning the moniker ‘The Sound of Central,’ something you will no doubt experience at every home football game."

One of the largest marching bands in the Pacific Northwest, the 2017 marching band has nearly 100 brass players, 80 woodwinds, 30 percussionists, and 20 color guard members—more than enough to vibrate the metal bleachers and rattle the neighbors' windows.

"The experience is open to all students on campus—no audition necessary—so if you're not ready to hang up your horn after high school, you can find a spot with the band," said Mark Lane, associate director of bands. "Students get an academic credit and become part of a community dedicated to excellence in music!"

History of the Marching Band
Courtesy of Norm Wallen, Unofficial and Self-Appointed Keeper of CWU Music Legend, Lore, and Mythology; and renowned composer, musician, and CWU Jazz Studies music lecturer

In 1925 music professor George Beck, who conducted the symphony orchestra, founded the band. Beck, a geologist, is also known for discovering the famous Gingko Petrified Wood Forest in central Washington.

In 1938, under the direction of music professor Cloise Meyers, the band, with new matching official band uniforms, was at the cutting edge of collegiate performance. At that time, most college bands played exclusively in the grandstands, or stood in concert formation on the football field. Meyers and the Central band pioneered marching and maneuvering at football games and parades decades before most other schools.

During World War II, Meyers enlisted in the Army, and passed the baton to Wayne Hertz (Hertz Hall, the former music building, is named after him). Meyers returned to Central after the war as Major Meyers to resume building the bands. It should be noted that WW II hero Douglas Munro, the only member of the US Coast Guard to be awarded the Medal of Honor, was a Central Marching Band Drum Major. Munro was killed in action in Guadalcanal. Munro Hall, also known as the Music Dorm, is named for him.

From that point on the band grew consistently, with "The Marching 88" in 1964, and increased to more than 100 by the late 1960s.

Key to this growth and success was consistency and excellence of instruction Central had only four directors in 78 years, with just three directors spanning 74 of those years: Meyers (1938-1947), Bert Christianson (1947-1978), Steven Allen (1978-1981), and Larry Gookin (1981-2015). Excellent consistency breeds excellence!

After Gookin retired, Lewis Norfleet became the new director of bands. Following tradition, the band is larger and more exciting than ever, remaining firmly at the cutting edge of precision, performance, and musicianship.

Media Contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, Public Affairs, 509-963-1518,