The Marching Blue Band numbers 310 members which includes: 260 instrumentalists, 34 silks, 14 Touch of Blue (majorettes), a feature twirler, and a drum major. Members come from virtually all curricula and colleges represented at the University Park campus of the Pennsylvania State University.
The Penn State Blue Band traces its history to the 1899 formation of a six-member drum and bugle corps initiated by student George H. Deike. A donation from Penn State College Board of Trustees member Andrew Carnegie made possible the formation of a brass band in the summer of 1901. By 1913, the organization was known as the College Band and the first permanent director of bands, Wilfred O. “Tommy” Thompson, was appointed in 1914.
In 1923 a few new blue uniforms were purchased towards replacement of the brown military style uniforms in use. Blue uniforms were issued on the basis of ability and rank. Photos from 1924 show a select group of blue-uniformed members in a block “S” formation surrounded by a large number of brown uniformed band members. This select group became known as the “Blue Band” and represented Penn State as its official traveling band.
During succeeding eras in which Hummel Fishburn (1939–1947), James W. Dunlop (1947–1975), and Ned C. Deihl (1975–1996) served as directors, the name Penn State Blue Band was kept even though all members were uniformed in blue. The current Director of the Marching Blue Band is Dr. O. Richard Bundy.
In 2004 the Blue Band moved into a new permanent home, the first ever for the organization. The Blue Band Building is located on Services Road near the intersection with the University Drive Extension in the northeast area of the University Park campus.
In 2005 the Blue Band was awarded the prestigious Sudler Trophy, a national recognition administered by the John Philip Sousa Foundation. The Blue Band became the first college marching band to perform at a major fashion show when 100 students marched down the catwalk of the 2005 Marc Jacobs event during Fashion Week in New York City, October 2005. Members of the Blue Band appeared in photo spreads published in Vogue and W magazines during Fall 2005, including a photo by world-renowned artist Annie Leibovitz.
The Penn State Marching Blue Band has appeared at 40 bowl games including multiple appearances in the Rose, Orange, Cotton, Sugar, Fiesta, Outback, Alamo, Capitol One and Citrus Bowls. The band has also performed at the Blockbuster and Holiday Bowls, and for the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football. In addition to marching in multiple Orange Bowl, Citrus Bowl, and Fiesta Bowl parades, the Blue Band marched in the Bicentennial Constitution Celebration Parade held in Philadelphia in 1987. The band has also performed in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California in 1995 and in 2009. Other recent appearances have included away football games at Temple, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, as well as multiple Big Ten away games at Ohio State, Michigan, Illinois, Northwestern and Purdue. Additionally, the Penn State Alumni Association sponsors a volunteer pep band, made up of Blue Band members, to travel to each away game that the full band does not attend.