Planning the Showlink

With a BOOM! the Cal Band takes the field, making kaleidoscopic flows, dance steps, or a monogram “CAL.” The curious spectator wonders: How do they do it?

1946 rehearsal

Band members review a stunt at the Saturday morning rehearsal, 1946.

With a great deal of work-that’s how. Logistically, it starts with the planning of a show anywhere from a week to a few months before its execution. With the show planned, it goes to someone to chart everyone’s position and movements. That accomplished, hours of rehearsals are required to ensure the performance of each Band member. But even beyond that, to present a show on the field, the Band needs a network of logistical people and paraphernalia-an announcer, field directors, pyrotechnicians, prop masters, and field assistants (they used to be called “water boys”). Oh, yes, and a camera crew to record it all for posterity.

CalChart: Computer-Aided Show Design and Chartinglink

Magnetic charting

A miniature football field and magnetic figures allows show charter Tony Martinez to view his formations from the perspective of the stadium audience. Martinez was the Band's charter from 1964 to 1984.

Tony Martinez

When Martin Haye (’89) wanted to simplify marking music with marching continuity, he wrote a simple computer program that calculated field positions after each maneuver. Other Band members suggested using a more complex program to compute the maneuvers and thereby animate shows. Haye soon added a graphic method of entering marching continuity. Members of the Executive and Stunt Committees provided him with encouragement and ideas. Greg Jones (DM ’90) asked his Stunt Committee to try out the program. Their ideas and suggestions helped turn Haye’s program, “CalChart,” into a standard charting tool for the Band.

The task of entering a show into the computer had been reduced to about eight hours. Dan Isaksen (’90) developed other ideas that became new features. With his mathematical background, Isaksen recognized that many flows represented “linear transformations.” He developed a mathematical function called a “Genius Move” to relocate entire formations based on the movement of three marchers. The new version of CalChart, with Isaksen’s changes, was ready in 1991.

CalChart has been especially helpful in saving time. Over the years Stunt Committee members have spent valuable rehearsal time fixing mistakes which resulted in marching collisions. CalChart has allowed the Stunt Committee to view collisions on the computer before they reach the field, resulting in more efficient rehearsals. CalChart was so successful that it supplanted the old method very quickly. Charters, with their newfound ability to animate a show before it goes on the field, gained more confidence in their shows and attempted more complex maneuvers. Unfortunately, occasionally flows that worked on the computer were too difficult to learn on the field.

Today, CalChart has become an essential part of Cal Band show design and charting, replacing a process that cried out to be automated.

Show Planninglink

Before 1950, the creation of a show required less structure and planning than it does today. The elected drum major was in charge of show design and, depending upon the individual and his staff, he may have accepted the assistance of one or more assistant drum majors. The field show was what the drum major decided, sometimes the night before. As a matter of fact, stunts thrown together on Saturday morning were not uncommon.

Bears poop sheet

A Cal Band stunt sheet shows each Band member his position in the formation.

Bears rehearsal

Shows are rehearsed in Edwards Track Stadium and Memorial Stadium...

Bears performance

... and performed on Saturday afternoon. The stunt sheet is up-side-down because the template faces west, whereas this formation faces east.

In the early ’40s, stunts were drawn to scale and posted on Room 5’s bulletin board by Wednesday. Each Band member was to know his steps by 4:00 pm Thursday, the beginning of a two-hour rehearsal. The drum major, using a P.A. system, directed the practice from high in Memorial Stadium. On Saturday morning, the Band polished up the stunts on Hearst Field, then marched to the stadium.

While the Band used few intricate marching formations, it marched precisely-and well-at 180 steps per minute, spelled out letters, and formed pictures. The shows were well received, particularly when they related in some way to the game or opponent.

The Band took the dismal lack of success with the 1950 Rose Bowl to make the Band take stock of itself and take show design seriously. After Professor Cushing resigned, James Berdahl (SD ’38) was hired as the interim director, and an effort was made to improve the Band’s performance. Although the team lost at the 1951 Rose Bowl, the Band’s show was a marked improvement. The next year, Tony Martinez became the drum major and pushed hard to improve show quality.

1952 poop sheet

Poop sheet from 1952.

By 1954, Band members had studied films of other bands, started using the eight-per-five and six-per-five marching style, and adopted a new uniform. Shows were planned in advance, formal charting sheets were used, and a group to assist the drum major in show design informally developed. The Band’s reputation for quality resulted in an invitation to the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958.

In 1960, a five-man stunt committee was formalized and, in 1961, drum major Mike Flier took full advantage of the new system, designing all the shows before the season ever started. That year also saw the first use of the Flying Wedge pregame formation and the first year of a new uniform introducing the white vest. The vest, combined with rapid pivots that showed the gold cape, created a visual effect known as a “color flash.” The first show included a musical “patter” introducing the uniform.


Charting at the Drum major's Desk

The next year’s Stunt Committee was dominated by a bright group of sophomores, and the creativity of their shows exceeded the practicality. Early in the season, the Band virtually collapsed on the field when a show with complex ideas could not be executed by Band members.

Efforts were made to formalize Stunt Committee training, and a requirement that the Stunt Committee be composed of juniors and seniors was added.

Show design took another major step in 1964, when Tony Martinez (then a high school teacher) was hired as the Band’s permanent charter. Tony brought continuity to charting and moved the Band away from an era of “formation, play, move with cadence, new formation, play, move with cadence, etc.” to an era where the music and drill for one selection moved naturally into the next without the need for cadence transitions.

Today, students do charting with a custom-designed computer program, but show design since 1950 has progressed to a high level of entertainment, presenting seven-and-one-half minutes of creativity, music, visual display-a little razzle-dazzle and a lot of showmanship. When the mix is just right, 150 Cal Band members can make a packed stadium completely forget about football for a little while.


Marking music

Ryan Sanders (’65) marking his music during rehearsal at Edwards Track Stadium.

Long lines

Rehearsing in Memorial Stadium.

Tunnel flow

Drum Major Doug Kern leads the rehearsal, 1978.

Tunnel flow

Saturday morning rehearsal of tunnel flow, 1988.


Practicing special choreography,...


... and stretching before rehearsal.

Long lines

Rehearsing in the snow in Utah, 1963.

Rehearsals are a fundamental part of the Cal Band experience. In the 1920s and 1930s, the ASUC Band’s rehearsals were relatively unstructured affairs. The drum major moved people around from formation to formation. The student director moved instrumental sections around to improve the overall musical sound quality. The basic style consisted of a military-style glide step, but more emphasis was placed on musicality than marching.

Band members gathered for rehearsals three times a week. On Tuesdays the Band met in old Stiles Hall to learn the music for the upcoming show, and on Thursdays they rehearsed the marching drills on Hearst Field. Saturday morning rehearsals were left for polishing the show learned two days earlier. In spite of the few rehearsals, however, the Band took great pride in the fact that it performed a different show each game for both pregame and half time.

In the early 1940s, the Band held music rehearsals at the Greek Theater and practiced marching just down the street at Memorial Stadium. Before moving to the field, the drum major gave an overall “chalkboard” presentation of the show’s concepts, and then the Band would move to the field and begin learning the stunts under the drum major’s direction.

Even during the earlier years of the Band, the tradition of student leadership regarding aspects of the rehearsals was well established. Students leaders conducted the rehearsals. The director’s duties were primarily leading music rehearsals and conducting the Band on the field.

The 1950 Rose Bowl caused many Band members to believe that the only way the Band would regain respect from its audience-especially from the University community-was for it to overhaul its style and the attitudes it held about performance. In 1951, drum major Tony Martinez implemented “Poop Sheets,” an idea he adapted from the Ohio State Band. The Poop Sheet was essentially a road map of each Band member’s position on the field. They were handmade by the drum major and his stunt committee on odious, odorous ditto masters. Rehearsal attendance was poor during the early 1950s, so Tony Martinez developed the system of group leaders who committed to come to every rehearsal and convey the maneuvers to their squad of four or five Band members. By 1954, the Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday rehearsals became mandatory, and an optional Wednesday rehearsal at Memorial Stadium was added. Funds allowed the Band to purchase a scaffold tower, from which the drum major conducted rehearsals, and a public address system so that he could give commands from his new perch. Equipment to draw yard lines on the practice field was procured so the eight- steps-per-five-yards high step could be rehearsed. The groundwork had been laid for the Band to develop a support structure and a rehearsal system that allowed it to achieve the level of performance of the Big Ten bands-without sacrificing the student structure, and, in fact, enhancing it.

Field preparation became more organized as well. All aspects of rehearsal logistics were subsumed under the Senior Manager’s area so that the drum major could concentrate on actual show design, preparation and rehearsal. In 1967 Teaching Assistants (TAs) replaced the group leaders and their role became further defined. TAs taught Band members the fundamental steps and helped them learn their individual maneuvers in the shows. Director’s assistants, musical equivalents to the TAs, were added to the Band’s rehearsal structure by Student Director Sue Mattson in 1980.

This basic rehearsal structure is still in use by the Band today, a testament to the Band’s ability to adapt to new challenges and change its structure as the need arises. Many people doubted that the Band could achieve the high level of performance of a Big Ten band without sacrificing its student structure in favor of a full-time, paid staff. Ironically, the attainment of its current level of performance has resulted in the development of a sophisticated organization. The evolution and expansion of the Band’s structure made it organizationally possible for the Band to prepare and execute more sophisticated performances-performances that have justified its title of “the Pacesetter of College Marching Bands.”


For more than half of its existence, the Band did not have an announcer. The same performance that brought the Band face to face with its problems in show design also made it realize the need for an announcer.

The scene was the 1950 Rose Bowl against Ohio State. The Band performed a stunt intended to make fun of the opposing conference, the Big Ten, with a stunt called “(Big) Ten Little Indians.” Try as the Band might to get this idea across through its actions on the field, the audience could not understand what was happening. After that experience, the Band decided that a script read over the stadium’s public-address system was a necessity.

Bill Ellsworth

William Ellsworth, Cal Band announcer 1957-1972.

From 1950 through 1956, Jack Tatum (’52), then Wayne Henderson (’48), then Jim Lieberman (’51)-each of whom had recent student associations with the Band-served as announcer for the half-time, though there were no pregame announcements until 1954. In 1957, the Band needed a new announcer and turned to Bill Ellsworth (’46).

John Larrisou

Pyrotechnician John Larrisou prepares the Cal Band Bomb.

Ellsworth brought a sense of permanence to the job. He defined the role of announcements in the Cal Band’s performance. His voice could employ distinguished tones to introduce “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” or the air of excitement embodied in the Band’s explosion from North Tunnel. Apart from mere tonal quality, Ellsworth helped delineate how announcements were used.

He watched rehearsals, and made suggestions as to how and when announcements should be employed. He wrote nearly all of his own announcements. Generations of Band members recall his legal-size yellow sheets, loose leaf, folded the size of an envelope and stuffed in his pocket from one show to the next.

Ellsworth’s announcements were not simply informational; he used words that created a picture or a mood that related to the Band’s performance on the field. This style gave the audience an image as part of the total show experience and is one element that sets the Cal Band’s performances apart. When cancer claimed one lung in early 1973, he fought back, and announced the Spring Show, noticeably short of breath but with the same air of enthusiasm. He died that summer. Faced with finding a new announcer for the first time in 16 years, the Band turned to Phil Diamond (SM ’70) who was in his third year at Boalt Hall. Diamond served the 1973 football season.

Albert Locher

Albert Locher has been the Cal Band announcer since 1974.

The Band tapped Albert Locher, who had been Diamond’s successor as manager, to be his successor as announcer. Locher announced in the style Ellsworth had forged-writing most of his own material, using words to create images, not overusing announcements. He also followed Ellsworth’s tradition of giving a pregame prediction of the score, invariably no more accurate than his predecessor had been. Beginning his twentieth season in 1993, he had missed only the Bicentennial Tour and a single football game.

When Locher did need a stand-in, the Band had only to look as far as Joe Paulino. Paulino had never been a Band member, but was hired as an employee to do electrical and sound work for the Band on the 1976 Bicentennial Tour. He remained with the Band after the tour, unpaid, doing electrical and sound work for both football games and the Spring Show. With hopes for an acting or radio career (realized in later years), Paulino had a natural actor’s voice that served well in announcing the Bicentennial Tour Show, and provided unique vocal impressions (such as Vincent Price’s spoken lines from Michael Jackson’s hit “Thriller”) when needed. Joe Paulino’s voluntary commitment to the Band spanning 17 years has been truly extraordinary.

For over forty years, announcements have set the tone. Anyone in Strawberry Canyon on a fall afternoon can hear it a few minutes before kickoff, when the teams have left the field; the mere preamble “Ladies and Gentlemen” begins a rousing cheer for “The pacesetter of college marching bands, the pride of California-the University of California Marching Band.”

Camera Crewlink

Dan Cheatham

Dan Cheatham is the Cal Band's photographer.

On a clear day in Memorial Stadium you can see-well, if not forever at least into the top level of the press box. High up in the sky, above the honored University guests and below the circling birds, the Cal Band Camera Crew peers over the edge of the box railing and captures the Band’s performances for eternity.

The Camera Crew, made up mostly of Band alumni, began to function as a formal group in 1961. Using equipment bought and maintained by the Cal Band Alumni Association, the crew has taken on the job of filming the Band’s performances on the field and at its annual Spring Show. Initially, the Crew filmed 16mm color movies of the band. Later, the Band switched to videotape.

1965 Camera Crew

The 1965 Camera Crew operates its large, 16mm camera from atop the old Memorial Stadium press box.

In its early days, the Camera Crew had to get the job done using outmoded equipment and lots of enthusiasm. The Band’s tight operating budget did not permit rental of new-or even modern-photographic gear. Other members of the photographic press corps found the older equipment quite amusing and constantly inquired as to whether the camera operated by electricity or with the aid of a large crank.

Over the years, the Camera Crew has fought considerable odds to get films of the Band. Older members recall filming in colder climates such as Washington, Oregon, and Utah, where they had to thaw out the film to get it to run through the camera smoothly.

Monica Johnstone

The present camera crew uses video cameras to record the Band. Monica Johnstone tapes the Band, 1983.

Prior to 1969, the Crew’s filming in Memorial Stadium came from the top of the old press box, among the worst in the country. There, the Camera Crew occupied a windswept location entirely exposed to the elements. Nothing as civilized as an elevator served the old press box, so all equipment had to be hoisted to the top of the stadium on foot. The equipment was large, bulky, and outdated (of particular note was the tripod, known as “Big Bertha”), and it had to be packed up seemingly endless flights of stairs into the press box facilities. Early crew members were chosen as much as for their muscles as their photographic ability.

The Camera Crew at the Big Game of 1966 endured the rain on the press box roof while attempting to film under a plastic sheet and worse: during pregame, the Stanford rooting section launched a weather balloon which repeatedly floated in front of the camera lens.

Understandably, the Camera Crew members welcomed 1970s new, air-conditioned press box that not only served hot meals but provided elevator service to the Camera Crew’s new glass- enclosed location.

The Camera Crew has filmed nearly every half-time performance of the band since 1961, beginning with the split wedge at the Texas game in 1961. The films and videotapes remain as a valuable archive of Cal Band show history past and present. The only film that is missing is the film from the Porgy and Bess show at the Duke game in 1963. Technical difficulties caused a moment of extreme embarrassment for the band, when its first attempt at a pre-recorded show ended in electronic disaster. The Duke 1963 film disappeared in what many Band members at the time considered to be an act of mercy.

Administrative Supportlink

Louisa Crawford

Louisa Crawford was the Cal Band's administrativve assistant from 1976 to 1983.

Margy Wilkinson

Margy Wilkinson has been the Cal Band's administrative assistant since 1983.

For over forty years, the Band has had some form of administrative support. In the days of Room 5, Director James Berdahl often recruited one or two graduate students from the music department to help with administrative matters. When the Band moved to the Student Center, a separate office was built for an administrative assistant. At that time, one administrative assistant supported all of the ASUC Musical Activities, of which the Cal Band was the largest.

By 1971, the Band finally had its own administrative assistant, although no one filled the position on a long- term basis until Louisa Crawford took the job in 1976. Margy Wilkinson, the Band’s current administrative assistant, succeeded Crawford in 1983. These two in particular have been invaluable in the smooth day-to-day operations of the Band.

They have helped with accounting, purchasing, maintaining data bases, and secretarial duties. Their knowledge of the campus and how it functions has been a valuable resource for students with Band or personal concerns. Perhaps most valuable has been their understanding of the importance of the Band’s system of student government and their willingness to work with the Band’s student leaders.

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