Who We Are

The University of California Marching Band is one of the oldest college marching bands on the West Coast with this year being the 131st year of our organization. The full band performs at every home football game, and, over the years, the Straw Hat Band has traveled to games as far as Alabama and Washington. The current Cal Band, under the baton of Matthew Sadowski and under the direction of a student executive committee, boasts a membership of over 200 students, and is the only band in the Pac-12 and one of the few bands in the nation that still marches traditional high-step form.

The success of the Cal Band depends upon the loyalty, devotion, and spirit of its members. Once people see the camaraderie among Cal Band members and the smiles on their faces after a performance, they soon realize that the band members find a family in their fellow marchers through their love of music.

The California Marching Band performs at all home football games, and at select away games. The California Straw Hat Band is a subgroup of the marching band which performs throughout the year at various campus and community events, in addition to Cal’s away football games, basketball games, volleyball, and other sporting events. The Cal Band has also been seen in the Super Bowl 50 Halftime show, the 2018 Warriors Parade, “Wheel of Fortune,” and has been given media exposure on numerous occasions through local radio stations, newspapers, and television stations.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for updates on what we’re doing, and check out our field shows on our YouTube channel!

A Student-Run Band

The Cal Band is one of few remaining student-run marching bands in the country. Our members run rehearsals, choose the songs we play, create the field shows we march, coordinate the trips we take, and advertise our organization throughout the community. We have one paid university staff director who serves on our Executive Committee. The rest of this committee’s members are band members elected by their peers. Similarly, the members of the five committees (PR, Musical Activities, Administrative, Marching, and Internal Relations) are all comprised of selected band members who excel in their respective fields.

This creates a unique opportunity for our members to familiarize themselves with the workings of the University and gain valuable work experience and resume material (e.g. organizing away trips, recruiting for the band, or designing graphics for our website). Unlike many other college marching bands in which staff dictates band policy and performances, the Cal Band decides policy and performance schedules through committee vote and full band opinion, thus allowing band members to become involved in shaping the way the Band is run.

Being a new student on a new campus can be a daunting experience. Since most new students were active participants in student organizations in high school and/or community college, going to a new place and trying to find the same level of involvement can be overwhelming. One of the goals of senior officers is to make newer members feel comfortable from the start.

As a uniquely student-run organization, all members of the Band (including new members) hold power in the policies and functions of the Band. Student officers actively seek input and points of view from their peers. As band members continue their membership, their opportunities for involvement with the Band grow. Leadership positions may begin as soon as the spring semester, just enough time to allow our new members to get comfortable with the Band. After the fall marching season the Band actively encourages new members to pursue leadership positions in the Band. Spring is the time for training new members in the functions that second-year members traditionally hold such as musical section leaders, known as Director’s Assistants or “DAs,” and marching instructors, known as Teaching Assistants or “TAs”.

Straw Hat Band

The California Straw Hat Band is a subgroup of the marching band that performs at many events throughout the year, during the fall, spring, and even summer. The Straw Hat Band gets much of its exposure playing at men’s and women’s basketball games, away football games, but also supports other Cal sports like volleyball, ice hockey, swimming, gymnastics, lacrosse, baseball, and softball. Straw Hat Band performances are optional for all Band members.

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In addition to sporting events, the Straw Hat Band can be seen throughout the year at numerous campus events such as Freshmen Orientations, Alumni functions, and local community events. During Big Game Week alone, the Straw Hat Band performs at over 50 events in and outside of Berkeley, ranging from on board a cable car to even a radio station!

The California Straw Hat Band also has been given large amounts of media exposure. The Straw Hat Band has been heard on radio stations such as Wild 94.9, Live 105, and KCBS 740 AM, seen in newspapers such as the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, and Sacramento Bee, and has been featured in Rolling Stone and on the nationally syndicated game show “Wheel of Fortune.”

If you would like more information about Straw Hat Band performances, please see our page on How To Book the Straw Hat Band.


The Cal Band has been an integral organization in student spirit and life on the Berkeley campus since 1891. As a result of this history, a unique culture and shared experience unites band members of all generations. Every year, the current Cal Band and Cal Band Alumni perform for Alumni Band Day. At the conclusion, a joint formation of over two-hundred past and current band members spell out “California” before the fans at California Memorial Stadium.

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Like any long-running organization, the traditions of the Band are numerous, and have established a unique culture. Leadership through student-run activities, camaraderie through the Big Bear-Little Bear mentoring program, and lifelong communication amongst friends through the Cal Band Alumni Association are all part of the tradition that each member of the organization shares.

The University Cadet Band, the predecessor to the present-day Cal Band, was founded in 1891. After the ROTC absorbed the Cadets, the Band members asked the ASUC to sponsor a student-run band, which first performed on November 25, 1923. The Band continued to grow, and the organization’s first Constitution was written and adopted in 1925, formalizing the unique system of student leadership which continues to this day. The Cal Band operates on a Constitution and bylaws that each member must adopt before formally joining the band.

In 1930, Charles Cushing (Student Director ’27) became the faculty director of the Cal Band. The next year, the Band had 150 members, a home in Room 5 Eshleman Hall, and new uniforms. In the late 1930’s, the Band played for the ground-breaking of the Golden Gate Bridge, the opening of the Bay Bridge, and marched in the 1938 Rose Bowl. The Cal Band went through a transition after the 1950 Rose Bowl, where its performance appeared lackluster compared to the Ohio State Band. The Band studied several Big Ten Bands and adopted its current high-stepping style. From 1952 to 1973, the Band was under the direction of James Berdahl (Student Director ’38). Until the spring of 1954, when a totally new constitution was adopted, the Cal Band was run by a three-member executive committee (Senior Manager, Representative-at-Large, and Director). This restructuring of the Band’s government laid the groundwork for all the successes that followed. The new constitution became effective with the first five-member executive committee (Senior Manager, Representative-at-Large, Drum Major, Student Director, and Director) in the 1954 fall season.

In 1950, the Straw Hat Band was founded; it continues to this day to be a trademark of the Cal Band. Recognized by the State Department, the Cal Band represented the United States at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, Belgium and later went to the Rose Bowl in 1959! Several Cal Band traditions were established in the 1960’s: the “bomb,” a flash powder device announcing the Band’s entrance to the field before pregame; the “flying wedge” formation also in the pregame show; the “Script Cal”; and the full-field spread during “America the Beautiful.” The year 1965 saw the production of the first Cal Band Spring Show after the Band returned from its first national tour. The Band also toured California in 1968 for the University’s Centennial.

Alex Walker

There were three major changes in the Band in the early 1970’s. First, the Cal Band got a new director, Robert O. Briggs (Cal Band ’47-‘50). Secondly, the Band moved from the sponsorship of the ASUC to that of the University. Third, women were admitted into the Band for the first time in 1973. The Band toured Japan in 1970 and the United States in 1976.

In 1991, the Cal Band received the Berkeley Citation, celebrating the 100th year of the University of California Marching Band. The Band also had the good fortune of going to four Bowl games in six years, including the Citrus Bowl, the inaugural Alamo Bowl, and the Aloha Bowl. In 1995, Robert M. Calonico, (Student Director ’75) returned to California Memorial Stadium as the Band’s new director, replacing longtime director Robert O. Briggs. Also in that year, the Cal Band boasted sharp, untarnished colors of their new uniforms (cut in the traditional style).

Within the last ten years, the Band has been to numerous events around the United States and the world. In 2010, 2012, and 2014, the Band led the San Francisco Giants’ victory parade. In 2016, the Band traveled to Asia, performing at the Great Wall. Additionally in 2016, the Band marched in the Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show with Coldplay, Bruno Mars, and Beyoncé, as well as recording backup instrumental and vocal tracks. In 2018, the Band led the Golden State Warriors victory parade in downtown Oakland.

Bones Marchup

A major event of 2018 was also the entrance of new director Matthew Sadowski. “Teaching others how to give life-changing musical performances while learning from them about their own backgrounds and interests is my passion,” said Sadowski. “I am excited to contribute to the continued growth and success of UC Berkeley’s Marching Band and Wind Ensemble.”

For over one hundred years, the Cal Band has been motivated by a desire to perform, serve the University, and foster school spirit. The Band has truly earned its well-deserved title: “The Pride of California.”

Band Director

Dr. Matthew Sadowski was appointed in 2018 at the University of California, Berkeley to direct the Cal Band and conduct the University Wind Ensemble. As an avid instrumental music conductor, chamber ensemble enthusiast, and interdisciplinary collaborator, Sadowski (or simply “Matt”) earned his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Georgia’s Hugh Hodgson School of Music. He also holds music degrees from Ithaca College (Ithaca, New York – MM Wind Conducting) and Michigan State University (East Lansing, Michigan – BM Music Education). His foremost conducting teachers include Cynthia Johnston Turner of the University of Georgia, and Stephen Peterson of the University of Illinois.


Matthew directed high school band programs in Newport and Beaverton, Oregon and Federal Way, Washington from 2008 to 2013. He is proud to have served as a founding member of the Beaverton Friends of Music community advocacy group in 2011, which has successfully reversed cuts made to Beaverton school music programs and continues to strengthen and protect access to music for all Beaverton students K-12. Several of his former students have gone on to attend top music schools, become music educators themselves, and even perform as musicians in the United States Army and Navy. Matthew performed on euphonium with the Southwest Washington Wind Symphony in Camas, Washington for three years, and served a two-year term as Vice President of the Northwest Association for the Performing Arts.

Since 2014, Matthew has taught conducting and music theory to middle and high school students at the Ithaca College Summer Music Academy, and has served as the Program Coordinator for the Wind Division since 2016. While a student at Ithaca, he was honored with an invitation to conduct at the 2015 Frederick Fennell Memorial Conducting Masterclass at the Eastman School of Music, and appeared as a guest conductor with the Auburn Chamber Orchestra in Auburn, New York in the same year.

Outside of music, Matthew enjoys running, cooking, visiting National Parks, amateur iPhone photography, and traveling to visit family and friends. He is a soon-to-be member of the California Music Educators Association, and an established member of the College Band Directors National Association, the National Association for Music Education, Pi Kappa Lambda Music Honor Society, Kappa Kappa Psi Music Service Fraternity (honorary), and the Blue Key Honor Society.

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