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.
1960s and 1970s: Monumental Growth
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. When Rutgers went co-ed in 1972, so did the Marching Scarlet Knights.
1980: William Berz Named Director of the MSK
In 1980, Dr. William Berz was appointed Director of the Marching Scarlet Knights. In his time as director, he more than doubled it in size, increasing its participation to over 200 members, purchasing new uniforms, and introducing a new marching style similar to that of Drum Corps glide-step. The changes Dr. Berz made to the organization are still visible in the MSK in its present form.
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.
In July of 2001, Timothy Smith, a graduate of Rutgers, was named Director of the MSK. During his leadership, the MSK performed in numerous high profile events, including Super Bowl XVIII and The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. Professor Smith was the longest standing Director of the MSK, serving for 16 years. The organization is grateful for his leadership.
2017- Present: A New Era for the MSK
In 2017, Doctor Todd Nichols was appointed as Director of Athletic Bands. Dr. 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.
Dr. Nichols was joined by Joe Busuito who served as Assistant Director of University and Athletic Bands until 2020 when he was named Director of Bands at East Carolina University.
In July of 2020, after taking a year pause due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the MSK returned and welcomed in the first female Assistant Director, Dr. Julia Baumanis. Dr. Baumanis joined Rutgers as Assistant Director of Bands after spending several years as Assistant Director of Bands and Director of Athletic Bands at the University of Central Missouri.
Together, Dr. Nichols and Dr. Baumanis led the band through an amazing return season in 2021 which was capped off by a performance as the featured collegiate band at Band of America's Grand National Championships in Indianapolis.