Director of Bands Mike Leckrone stands in front of his marching band for the last time after a career that has lasted half a century.Image By: Dana Brandt and Dana Brandt
Band Director Mike Leckrone takes his final bow, bringing the stadium to tears
Few band directors get the chance to teach the children of former students. Even fewer directors have conducted their students’ grandchildren, maintaining leadership long enough to influence decades of performers.
UW-Madison’s Director of Bands Mike Leckrone, a career of 50 years under his belt, has done both.
Leckrone, whose career has lasted longer than any other director in the Big Ten, conducted his last halftime show and Fifth Quarter — a tradition he started himself — at Camp Randall last Saturday. Apart from a future appearance at Wisconsin’s bowl game, the Minnesota face-off closed the book on Leckrone’s half-century as marching band conductor.
He’s part of Badger tradition today, but when Leckrone first arrived on campus in 1969, he was a newcomer trying to fill the shoes of a UW-Madison icon.
Leckrone followed in the footsteps of renowned Director of Bands Ray Dvorak, who led the Wisconsin band for 34 years and created such traditions as singing “Varsity” and the hand-wave that accompanies it.
“[Dvorak] was someone who was very revered by the students,” Leckrone said. “It was very intimidating because I felt like I was following somebody who had legendary status.”
Not only that, campus was in the midst of social transformation and unrest when Leckrone took the baton. Wearing a uniform and marching was not popular during a time when many students were protesting the Vietnam War, according to Leckrone. The football team was also deep in a losing streak exceeding 20 games, which Leckrone said lowered interest in the marching band.