UW–Madison Libraries Services during COVID–19

COVID–19 Library Dashboard
Learn more about updates to library services

On, Wisconsin! Songs to Thee, Class of 2020

May 7, 2020

University of Wisconsin-Madison Spring 2020 Commencement, which was scheduled to happen Friday, May 8 (PhD, Medical Professional and MFA, at the Kohl Center) and Saturday, May 9 (Bachelor’s, Master’s, Law, at Camp Randall), will now be held online as a single virtual Spring Commencement 2020 on Saturday, May 9, at noon (CDT). Nate Gibson is devoting his May 7 episode of Circulating Sounds–our weekly radio show we started this semester on WSUM 91.7 FM–to Badger tunes celebrating good times, from “On, Wisconsin!” to “Varsity” with some popular tunes, as well as some more obscure Badger gems thrown in the mix, so we are drawing from that episode here in offering a virtual toast to all the graduating students!

Cover of On, Wisconsin! sheet music, signed by Carl Beck. First edition. Hillson, McCormack and Company of Chicago, 1909.

We have a few different versions of “On, Wisconsin!” in our 78-rpm Sound Recordings Collection. “On, Wisconsin!” is a march and two step, and these versions we’re offering include the introduction, which is not often played today. We digitized these 78-rpm records and provided them to University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives in 2009 for their online exhibit 100 Years of “On, Wisconsin!”

Label for On Wisconsin, by Prince's Band. 1915. Columbia A1762

On, Wisconsin! Prince’s Band. 1915 (Columbia A1762)
Download

Label for On, Wisconsin! All Star Collegians. 1921. (Regal 8998-A)

On, Wisconsin! All Star Collegians. 1921 (Regal 8998-A)
Download

Label for On, Wisconsin! March. University of Wisconsin Concert Band w/ vocal chorus (E.W. Morphy, Conductor). 1926. (Victor 19990-A)

On, Wisconsin! University of Wisconsin Concert Band w/ vocal chorus (E.W. Morphy, Conductor). 1926 (Victor 19990-A)
Download

Label for On, Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin Band (Emmett Sarig, directing 1948-49). (W UW4-389A)

On, Wisconsin! The University of Wisconsin Band (Emmett Sarig, directing). 1948-49 (W UW4-389A)
Download

Label for On, Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin Concert Band, Raymond F. Dvorak, Conductor. 1952. (Souvenir E2-KB-5738)

On, Wisconsin! The University of Wisconsin Concert Band, Raymond F. Dvorak, Conductor. 1952. (Souvenir E2-KB-5738)
Download

“On, Wisconsin!” is often included among college medleys alongside other popular songs like “Varsity,” “By the Light of the Moon” / “If You Want To Be A Badger,” and others. Here are two examples:

University of Wisconsin Songs. Varsity Quartet (Autograph 503)
Download

The Varsity Quartet sings “Varsity” and “On, Wisconsin!”

Label for Medley of College Songs [“By the Light of the Moon,” “Alma Mater,” “On, Wisconsin!”] - University of Wisconsin Glee Club. 1926 (Brunswick 3159)

Medley of College Songs [“By the Light of the Moon,” “Alma Mater,” “On, Wisconsin!” University of Wisconsin Glee Club. 1926 (Brunswick 3159-A)
Download

In this 1926 medley by the University of Wisconsin Glee Club, conducted by E. Earl Swinney, “By the Light of the Moon” is the title used for “If You Want to be a Badger,” and “Alma Mater” is used for “Varsity.”

“On, Wisconsin!” has been interpreted in various ways, by musicians of all sorts of cultural backgrounds. Here is an example by The University of Wisconsin Russian Folk Orchestra:

On, Wisconsin! The University of Wisconsin Russian Folk Orchestra; Victor Gorodinsky, music director/founder. 2017 (self-released)
Download

This is a live version from the The UW Center for Russia, East Europe and Central Asia (CREECA) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison presents the UW Russian Folk Orchestra 20th Anniversary Concert, recorded at Mills Hall, May 2017. Victor Gorodinsky, music director/founder, also works for UW-Madison Libraries as Slavic, East-European, and Central Asian Languages Cataloguer.

Perhaps the most iconic versions of UW-Madison’s most popular tunes are the ones performed by the UW-Madison Marching Band: