The Rutgers University Bands program is one of the oldest institutions of its kind. Founded in 1915, its traditions still live strong and proud.
1915: The Beginning
The history of the Marching Scarlet Knights begins with the band's founding in 1915 as an 11-member band who played music at weekly drills for the Rutgers College Cadet Corps as a part of the R.O.T.C. program.
1920s: The MSKs Take the Field
The band played at its first football game in 1921. However, what we know as a marching band, with formations on the field, did not begin until 1928. While the band separated from the R.O.T.C. program in 1924, funding and instruction still came from the military. The band also began playing at basketball games during this time.
1940s: The Band During the War
During World War II, membership of the band struggled as members and even directors were often called into active duty. During this period, the band switched from military uniform to more casual, "Ivy League" style straw hats, crimson sport coats, black ties, black slacks, and white shoes.
1968: The MSK Joins Athletics
The year 1968 was monumental in the history of the band. The Military Department ceased funding of the band, and as a result, the Athletic Department took over. With 100 members on the field that year, the band became known as The Marching 100. The band adopted a high step marching style as well as fast paced pregame and halftime shows.
1972: Rutgers goes co-ed
When Rutgers went co-ed in 1972, so did the Marching Scarlet Knights. Although the women were not welcomed with open arms at first, they quickly proved their ability to perform a halftime show as the same pace as the men.
1980: William Berz Takes Over
In 1980, Dr. William Berz took the reins of the MSK. By more than doubling it in size, increasing its participation to over 200 members again, purchasing new uniforms, and introducing a new marching style much like that of the flexible Drum Corps glide-step, Dr. Berz made the band into what it is known as today.
1990s: Change for the MSK
The 1990s were a period of constant change for the band. From 1989-2000, the MSKs were led by six different directors.
2001-2017: Tim Smith Takes Over
After a tumultuous time in the late eighties and nineties, including a half-dozen different directors, the band was taken over by Timothy Smith, a graduate of Rutgers. During this period, members of the band performed in numerous high profile events, including Super Bowl XVIII and The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.
2017-Present: A New Era for the MSK
In 2017, Professor Smith was replaced by Professor Todd Nichols as Director of Athletic Bands. Professor Nichols, in addition to his roles with the Athletic Bands, was named Assistant Director of University Bands. He joined Rutgers after spending years at local New Jersey high schools building nationally recognized programs. He also is the director of the Eastern Wind Symphony.
Professor Nichols was joined by Joe Busuito who joined the Marching Scarlet Knights after completing the doctoral program at the University of Illinois where he worked with the Marching Illini. Doctor Busuito served as Assistant Director of University and Athletic Bands until 2020. He headed the Basketball Pep Band.
Notable performances during this period include playing for former Vice President Joe Biden at the College Ave. Gym, and playing on the PIX11 Morning Show.