Financial Struggles

Picture:  1911 Halftime "N"

Financial Struggles

As early as 1884, the military department experienced difficulty in providing monetary support for the band program and had to ask the Board of Regents for help providing instruments, music, and a very small salary for the director.  Within only a few years the costs of the band had gone up tremendously.  There was always a need for more instruments and uniforms for members, and director D. F. Easterday was asking for a salary several times what he had been paid in 1884.

The band which had been created with simple drill duties in mind had become a travel, uniform, music, rehearsal space, and instrument requiring organization.  The military was reluctant to continue sinking money into an organization which was acting less as a military band and more as a pep band.  Many letters and memos indicate that the military department's pleas for financial aid were growing increasingly familiar to the Board of Regents.  In 1901 the band's situation was becoming so dire that the School of Music's Willard Kimball wrote a letter to the Chancellor asking for money for the Cadet band, an unusual occurrence considering the Cadet band was not related to the University's fledging School of Music (1).

As the years went on the band's popularity grew and with this popularity the band saw an increase in membership.  The numbers of the band were occasionally so high that there were not enough uniforms to accommodate all of the members.  Colonel F. F. Jewett wrote to the Chancellor in 1928 explaining the plight of the military department.  "The R.O.T.C. band is used for various functions outside of the military department. It is called on to play for all student rallies, for athletic games, special Sunday concerts, and on various special occasions. It has in large measure lost its identity as only belonging to the Military Department and has become a University organization," he wrote.  "As the band has become a University organization it is believed that the entire support of it should not fall to one department."  Clearly, the military department was growing tired of the band's constant financial requirements.

Yet ten years later the military department was still largely responsible for the burden that was the R.O.T.C. band program.  In 1937, another letter to the Chancellor, this time from Colonel Oury, outlined a creative plan for gaining uniforms that involved government funds rather than entirely military department funds.

While issues over resources and funding went largely unresolved, pressure was mounting for the band to better represent the University of Nebraska in both manner and appearance.  After an away trip to West Point for the Nebraska-Army game, the New York News published an article in which it claimed that the Nebraska band "dressed like Western Union messengers."  Then in 1935, a surprisingly vicious editorial written in the Daily Nebraskan attacked the R.O.T.C. band for sounding as if it were "on the way to a funeral and not a very important funeral at that."  The article held up the Kansas band as a shining beacon of precision and dedication, while in comparison, Nebraska's band appeared in "dull and colorless gray uniforms," and was full of "loafers" and "laggards" who were only in band to get out of military drill requirements.  The article called for brighter uniforms and fresh formations and drill, all things which were not in keeping with the military department's vision for the band.

The athletic department eventually began stepping in to pay for travel arrangements for the band, as well as several instruments (1).  The Rose Bowl was a monumental landmark in the struggle over band funding, as the athletic department opted to send the entire band to California.  It would be a little over a decade later when the band would officially break its ties with the military department.