Letter From the Director

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Matthew Sadowski

Dear Prospective Band Members and Parents,

The California Marching Band has a long, proud history that dates back to 1891, making it one of the oldest marching bands on the west coast. From a group of eighteen student-musicians, the Cal Band now boasts a membership of 200 and is a fixture at Cal Athletics events and many other activities across campus, the Bay Area, and beyond. Membership in the Cal Band helps make a place like Cal (with 30,000+ students) a lot more personal. Friendships forged between band members last a lifetime.

The Cal Band is an extracurricular activity. Members receive no academic credit. The average weekly time commitment is 8-10 hours, with game days adding an additional 10-12. That’s a lot of time! But, in return, you will make many new friends, travel beyond Berkeley, and feel a deep attachment to the university. You will learn tons of awesome music, how to play your instrument better than ever before, and how to efficiently manage your time. You will also have opportunities from the get-go to learn how to arrange music and chart field shows for the band, help plan trips, design and execute publicity and fundraising projects, and contribute to internal band culture. For the vast majority of band members, the time spent on these activities feels a lot more like “fun” than it does “work,” and the feeling of satisfaction after a great show, campaign, or performance is incomparable to any other experience at Cal.

There are five student-officers who—along with me—manage all aspects of the Band. Together, the six of us constitute the Executive Committee (or simply “ExComm”). Band-wide elections take place each December at our season-end banquet, and newly elected officers serve for the following calendar year. Learn more about the Band’s structure and our approximately 70 student leadership positions here.

Here are some Band statistics that answer many commonly asked questions:

  • As of 2022, membership is about 49% men, 43% women, and 8% non-binary. 
  • 63% are students of color
  • 40% self-identify as LGBTQ+*
  • 10% self-identify as disabled*

We work hard to ensure that our members can balance academics with Band membership…

  • Our Big Bear-Little Bear system pairs each new member with a veteran who helps guide and support them through their time at Berkeley (and produces some pretty memorable photos!).
  • Our Academic Advisors connect Band members with similar majors, keep the Band updated about academic calendar deadlines, and organize “study pods” throughout the fall and spring semesters. They also plan job fairs, résumé reviews, and mock interviews with our Cal Band Alumni Association.
  • Our Accommodations Committee works to support disabled Band members with guidance from the university’s Disabled Students Program.
  • Each section holds bondings throughout the year that offer fun social and recreational outlets—essential to balancing schoolwork and maintaining academic momentum!

The vast majority of our members graduate on time, and often can’t imagine doing so without the community and support of the Cal Band.

The Cal Band Scholarship Program awards $70,000 in scholarships each year in amounts up to $3,500 to approximately 20 students. Award amounts can vary and are based on “talent, financial need, and commitment to leadership and service.” Once awarded, recipients continue to receive the scholarship for the remainder of their time in Band so long as they remain in good standing, up to a maximum of four years. Students not selected may re-apply in following years.

As a member of the Cal Band, you will grow tremendously as a musician, build lifelong friendships, and hone invaluable “soft skills” that employers crave—all while proudly representing the great University of California (and having a ton of fun!). An enthusiastic and supportive group of peers awaits you. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to email me at msadowski@berkeley.edu.

Go Bears, and Go Band!

Matthew Sadowski
Director, California Marching Band