“Out Upon the Swelling Breezes”

A History of ISU School Songs

The information shared here is based on Band History projects completed by members of the Xi Class. Resources consulted include the Normal Advance and Sycamore yearbooks, the Indiana Statesman, the Indiana State University band library, and the University Archives.

A songbook containing the Alma Mater, March On!, and Cheer for the Blue and White, can be downloaded here.

Alma Mater

The first school song was the “Alma Mater,” with words written by Charles M. Curry, Professor of English, to the tune “Annie Lisle.” The Alma Mater was first published in the June 1912 Normal Advance and has only been slightly changed over the years to reflect the change from Indiana State Normal School to Indiana State University. The arrangement used by the modern State band was created in 1992 by Glen Daum, director of the Indiana State University Stage Band in the 1960s, while the vocal arrangement was done by Ramon E. Meyer, former director of the University Singers and Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra.

Out upon the swelling breezes,
Let our voices ring
As to thee, our Alma Mater,
Heartfelt praise we sing.
Though the years to come may part us,
Friends and comrades true,
ISU, our Alma Mater, here’s our pledge to you.

Cheer for the Blue and White

Before 1931, Indiana State did not have a fight song. To correct this, the 1931 Student Council formed a Song Book Committee and established a contest to find a suitable school song for what was then the Indiana State Teachers College. Student Council President Chester Martin explained, “We need a real peppy college song that compares to the Notre Dame Victory March or the Loyalty Song of Illinois. Who doesn’t thrill when he hears these songs particularly if they are played by the college band at a football game?”

The contest generated several submissions, but “Cheer for the Blue and White,” written by Terre Haute native Malcolm Scott, was selected as the winner of the song contest and became Indiana State’s first fight song. Its first public performance was given by the school band May 13, 1931, in a special chapel session. Replaced by “March On! (You Fighting Sycamores)” in 1939, “Cheer for the Blue and White” was revived in 2005 by Kappa Kappa Psi charter member and State bandsman Dan Peo, who discovered the song in the University Archives. Peo’s arrangement is performed by the Marching Sycamores and Sycamore Basketball Band.

Fight! Fight! For Dear Old State
Raise our banners from far and wide.
Faithful and true we hail to you
with all our loyalty and pride
Shout! Shout for the Blue and White
And sing your praises loud and clear
Glory and honor to Dear Old State
We’re right behind you here

March On! (You Fighting Sycamores)

In 1939, however, Cheer lost its place as the school song when the marching band premiered “On Fighting Sycamores,” better known as “March On! (You Fighting Sycamores),” at a Blue and White Day pep rally on October 20. Written by Joseph A. Gremelspacher, the new band director in 1939, “March On!” has been used as the primary fight song of Indiana State ever since. Contemporary sources suggest that Indiana State did not have a school song when “March On!” was written, which implies that “Cheer” had fallen out of use sometime between 1931 and 1939. Interestingly, “March On!” was written as a standard concert march, and the “full version,” which includes an introduction and bridge, is occasionally performed by the band for special functions. Glen Daum created the shorter arrangement typically played by the band.

In 1969, Indiana State introduced Chief Quabachi as the school mascot. Glen Daum arranged a Native American-themed drum-heavy fanfare introduction to the fight song, called “Indian Ceremony.” Use of this introduction ceased in 1989, when the University ended the use of Chief Quabachi as the mascot.

The latest addition to the fight song was made in 2004, when Dan Peo arranged a new variation, called “Waltz On!,” performed in 3/4 as a typical waltz. That year, the Marching Sycamores and Basketball Band began playing “Waltz On!” after the regular fight song following a victory by an Indiana State team.

March on! March on, you fighting Sycamores, Sycamores!
March on, you Statesmen tried and true!
March on! March on to glorious victory
Raise that flag of royal blue!
March on! March on, you fighting Sycamores, Sycamores!
Shout out that vict’ry song!
Onward, ever onward to our goal!
As we march on and on!

March On! (with vocals)

Waltz On! (no vocals)

The chant at the end, “Go Big Blue, Fight Big Blue, GO STATE WIN!” was added by State cheerleaders at the conclusion of the song, and over time the chant has been ingrained to the point of inseparability.

Wabash Cannonball

The only “school song” performed by the State bands that was not written for the university is “That Valley Favorite,” the “Wabash Cannonball,” a folk song written about a fictional train. Although the song is also used by the Kansas State, University of Texas, and Stephen F. Austin bands, Indiana State can claim the most appropriate use of the song given our proximity to the Wabash River. The Wabash Cannonball’s position as a school song was cemented in 2005 when it was the centerpiece of an advertisement used by the university, seen below. The band’s current version of Da Bash is a 2009 arrangement by Dan Peo.

Other Songs

(Back Home Again in) Indiana

The Indiana State bands also play “(Back Home Again in) Indiana,” a signature song of the state of Indiana. The official state song is the similar “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away,” which was performed by the Indiana State University Brickyard Band at the first nine Brickyard 400 races, but “Back Home” is played instead at ISU events. This is because of the greater popularity and recognition of “Back Home,” which is in part due to Jim Nabors’s famous singing of the song before each running of the Indianapolis 500.

Back home again in Indiana
And it seems that I can see
The gleaming candlelight, still shining bright
Through the Sycamores for me
The new-mown hay sends all its fragrance
From the fields I used to roam
When I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash
Then I long for my Indiana home

Where the Highways Cross

Written by Harold Bright, Where the Highways Cross is a typical American march. In 1930, Bright joined the faculty of ISTC as Director of Bands. In 1932, Bright organized the first marching band at Indiana State. The Harold Bright Distinguished Service Medal, awarded to the senior who has contributed the most to the university through his or her participation in the school bands, was inaugurated by Bright in 1935. Where the Highways Cross was first performed by the Indiana State Teachers College Band on May 22, 1940, under Bright’s direction. The piece is a musical depiction of U.S. Highways 40 and 41, which meet at the intersection of Third Street and Wabash Avenue in Terre Haute. This crossing earned Indiana the nickname “Crossroads of America.”

Where the Highways Cross begins with a quotation of “Illinois Loyalty,” in honor of Terre Haute’s proximity to Illinois, and its second strain contains quotations of several nineteenth-century favorites: “Dixie,” “Old Folks at Home” (Swanee River), “Marching Through Georgia,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and Indiana’s state song, “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away,” can all be heard harmoniously intertwined, depicting the meeting of the North, East, South, and West. A simple, chromatic trio melody, performed under under a highly ornamented clarinet and piccolo obbligato, leads into the brass-dominated episode. The brass continue to prevail into the grandioso, playing the trio melody at a fortissimo marcato to end the march.

Hail! White and Blue

This elusive school song seems to only have been referenced in an article appearing in the October 28, 1949 Terre Haute Star, which mentions it as part of the ISTC band’s Homecoming plans. It is unknown if it was used before or after Homecoming 1949, or if it was ever arranged for full band.

Hail! White and Blue
Hail, Hail to you;
We’ll all be faithful,
Loyal and true;
And in those future days,
We’ll sing our songs of praise;
Hail! White and Blue,
Hail, Hail to you.

Sycamores (Indiana State Teachers College)

In the 1940s, famous bandleader Fred Waring began writing songs for several colleges, and the students of the then-Indiana State Teachers College petitioned him to write a song for State. In 1941, he did so, and the resulting song (called “Sycamores,” subtitled “Indiana State Teachers College”) was performed by Waring’s band on radio. The published version, for voice and piano, is held in the University archives. A simple vocal arrangement can be found in the band library, but while there is evidence that the ISTC band performed the song, there is no extant band arrangement.

Sycamores, oh Sycamores
Our banners to the fore for the Sycamores
We’ll wave the Blue and White,
We’ll wave it day and night,
You’ve got to fight a fight
for a victory, can’t you see?

Sycamores, oh Sycamores
For everlasting fame win the game
Go piling up the score
and you’ll hear the darndest roar,
Sycamores! Go Sycamores!

Tonight we’ll gather on the banks of the Wabash,
And then we’ll lift our hearts in song
For win or lose we’ll be loyal to our Alma Mater,
True and strong.