No, Rouser—Hats off to Thee!

College alums often feel a strong devotion to their alma mater, with the school’s fight song as a connecting force. Marching band students who play the song hundreds of times find it even deeper ingrained into their souls.

Image courtesy of Gopher Photo

It captivates audiences, motivates a student body and encompasses the pride of Minnesota—not bad for a 57-second fight song. Nothing else can create nostalgia, pride and excitement like the “Minnesota Rouser.”

As a member of the University of Minnesota Marching Band, I have played the “Rouser” more than 150 times throughout the fall semester. And you get sick of songs on the radio? Even after countless run-throughs of this song, I do not get tired of it. The “Rouser” has special meaning for me which hours of practice cannot take away.

Rundown of Performance

From the first note to the last “Rah,” the “Rouser” evokes emotion. Whether I am playing in the concert hall, on the field or in the stands, the “Rouser” resonates with significance. It is a historical piece that creates value for many Minnesotans.

In the concert hall, I am sometimes tempted to monotonously blow through the introduction. Then, I remember my director urging us band members to play with a crisp and energized marcato style. I constantly critique my performance as I play each note. I am playing for my own enjoyment and the enjoyment of thousands of fans and supporters. I want and need to play it well. It is my pleasure to execute this duty with perfection.

It is more complicated out on the field. Not only must I play with musical finesse, but I must also march simultaneously. Knees up, hit chair, point toes. Stand up straight, look straight ahead. Stay with the conductor, watch the people near you, hold the line. Play with expression, steady your horn swing. Ignore the dripping sweat and pain in your feet. Don’t forget to breathe. With so many areas to focus on, it is easy to forget the special meaning of the “Rouser.” I look into the faces of the fans, parents and students in the stands, and I remember that significance.

The Birth of the “Rouser”

The Minnesota Rouser has been the University of Minnesota’s fight song for more than 100 years. In 1909, University Alumnus Dean B. Gregg recognized the need for an enthusiastic and rousing song. Minnesota needed a little more than its heartwarming anthem, “Hail! Minnesota.”

Gregg offered a cash prize for new best song, and then the Daily and the Minneapolis Tribune collaborated to promote the contest. After hours of examination, judges chose Floyd M. Hutsell’s “Minnesota, Hats Off to Thee,” dubbed the “U. of M. Rouser” by the Star Tribune newspaper.

Fans did not respond favorably at first; however, it gradually found a place in their hearts. Fans today sing the same chorus as in 1909.

Effect on the University of Minnesota

The “Rouser” unites a diverse and huge population. The “Rouser” causes fans of all ages to leap to their feet and join in rhythmic applause. I could not be more proud to be a part of this.

When I play the “Rouser,” I am not just playing for a college, I am playing for an idea—the pride of Minnesota. This pride is embedded in many fans, students, alumni, families and supporters.

As I scan through the crowd at home football games, I see the nostalgic alumni member, decked out in Minnesota gear from the 1980s. I see the ecstatic students, smeared with maroon and gold paint. I see the proud parents of the players, wearing athlete buttons. Everyone is here for the same reason: to cheer for Minnesota. Maybe it’s to cheer for the football team; maybe it’s to cheer for the academic success of the university; or maybe it’s to cheer for fond memories at the U of M. But they are all cheering for Minnesota.

Suddenly a diverse and huge population is connected by a 57-second fight song. Hats off to Minnesota! But in addition, hats off to the “Rouser!”

Note from the Editor: Click here for more information and to listen to an MP3 of the University of Minnesota Marching Band playing the “Rouser.” 

Photo of the Seattle Cascades Drum and Bugle Corps.

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