George R. Cavender

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George R. Cavender
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Birth nameGeorge Rudolph Cavender
Born (1919-10-10) October 10, 1919 (age 102)
Wakefield, Michigan
DiedMarch 2, 2004(2004-03-02) (aged 84)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Classical music
  • Classical
  • American march music
  • Marching Band
Occupation(s)Musician, music educator, conductor, and marching band director
InstrumentsViolin, Percussion instrument
Years active1952–1990
Associated actsMichigan Marching Band
University of Michigan Assistant Director of Bands
In office
University of Michigan Director of Bands
In office
Preceded byWilliam D. Revelli
Succeeded byH. Robert Reynolds
Michigan Marching Band Director
In office
Preceded byWilliam D. Revelli
Succeeded byGlenn Richter
President of The Big Ten Band Directors Association
In office
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byFrederick C. Ebbs
Personal details
Resting placeFort Custer National Cemetery, Augusta, Michigan, U.S.
EducationNorthern Michigan College of Education

Major George Rudolph Cavender, Jr. ( October 10, 1919 – March 2, 2004) was an American music educator and director best known for his association with the University of Michigan, where he lead the university's bands, including the Michigan Marching Band, from 1952 until 1978, first as Assistant Director and then as Director. During those twenty-six years, Cavender worked closely Dr. William Revelli to develop the Michigan Band into a globally recognized performance group.[1][2][3][4]

Early life and education (1919-1941)

Cavender was born in Wakefield, Michigan in 1919, the only son of George and Emma Cavender.[5][3] In 1941, he earned a Bachelor's degree from Northern Michigan College of Education.[1][6][7]

Military service (1942-1946)

World War II, Cavender attained the rank of Major while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps,[2] commanding a group of tanks in the Pacific Ocean theater of South Pacific. He received multiple commendations during his 29-month deployment which included the Bougainville campaign, Second Battle of Guam, and the Battle of Iwo Jima.[3][8]

Public education (1946-1951)

After the war, Cavender returned to the University of Michigan in 1946 and enrolled in the School of Music as a violinist. He joined the band as a percussionist.[9] There, he received his M.Mus. degree in 1947. After earning his Master's degree, Cavender served as the Ypsilanti Public Schools until 1951. He then decided to pursue a faculty position at the University of Michigan.[10][6]

Assistant Director of the University of Michigan Bands (1952-1971)

As a newly hired faculty member, Cavender served as an instructor of music[6] and was appointed Assistant Director of the University of Michigan Bands in 1952.[3] He rose to the position of assistant professor in 1957, followed by associate professor in 1962, and then professor in 1966.[6] He retained his Assistant Directorship until he was promoted to Director of Bands in 1971.[3][9]

On September 27, 1958, Revelli and Cavender organized and conducted a massed band consisting of over 12,000 musicians.[10]

Cavender played a significant role on the University of Michigan Symphony Band's 1961 15-week performance tour of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East including logistical support.[11][4]

Cavender was a member of Kappa Kappa Psi, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Phi Beta Mu, the American Bandmasters Association,College Band Directors National Association, the National Association for Music Education|Music Educators National Conference, and the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association. In 1969, he was commissioned a Kentucky Colonel in gratitude for his services to Northern Kentucky high school bands.[8][11]

Director of the University of Michigan Bands (1971–1975)

Upon the retirement of Dr. Revelli in 1971, Cavender became Director of Bands at the University of Michigan. He continued to serve in that role until 1975, when H. Robert Reynolds was named as his successor.[9]

Also in 1971, Cavender founded the Big Ten Band Directors Association and became its first president.

Cavender is credited with creating the simple lyrics of "Let's Go Blue" in a moment of enthusiastic improvisation after the song had been played several times at a Ice hockey|hockey game in Yost Ice Arena.[12]

Director of the Michigan Marching Band (1971–1979)

Ongoing improvements

Dr. Revelli's retirment in 1971 also lead to Cavender becoming Director of the Michigan Marching Band|MMB that summer.[3][9] During his tenure as the Director of the MMB, Cavender strove to build upon the band's success achieved in the preceding decades. He continually experimented with show elements, instrument placement, marching techniques, and uniform designs in pursuit of continuous improvement.[9]

Title IX

After the passage of the Education Amendments of 1972 which included Title IX, Cavender oversaw the integration of women into the Michigan Marching Band in 1972. Until that time, only men had participated in the band.[9]

Other changes

Cavender also championed the fund-raising efforts needed to build a modern practice facility for the Michigan Marching Band, Revelli Hall. He also helped get the name of the MMB's practice field changed from Wines Field to Elbel Field. This was the first campus property to be named in honor of the man who wrote "The Victors".[9][3]

Passing the baton

At the conclusion of Cavender's time as Director of the Marching Band, he passed the baton to Glenn Richter in 1979.[9] Cavender was the last person at the University of Michigan to serve simultaneously as Director of Bands and the Director of the Marching Band.[13]

Senior faculty (1976-1990)

Cavender became the School of Music's Director of Development and School Relations in 1976 and served in that capacity until 1982 when he took on the new role of Coordinator of Special Events which he held until 1990.[6]

In 1982, the Northern Michigan University Alumni Association honored Cavender with its Distinguished Alumni Award.[7]

Retirement (1990-2004)

On May 1, 1990, the Regents of the University of Michigan named Cavender a Professor Emeritus of Music in anticipation of his impending retirement from faculty life on May 31 of that same year.[6]

A Michigan Marching Band scholarship is named in honor of George Cavender.[14]

The George R. Cavender Tower, an observation tower built at Elbel Field is also named in Cavender's honor.[15][16]

Personal life

George was married to Florence. He had a son named David, a daughter named Patricia, and several grandchildren. He died in 2004 in Ann Arbor after a prolonged illness. He is buried in Fort Custer National Cemetery.[3][2]

Published material

  • Marching Fundamentals and Techniques for the School Bandsman (co-author), Les Strang Publishing Company, 1961.[17]
  • Michigan Band-o-rama Series Field Production Guide [for Marching Bands] · Volume 1, Hugo & Luigi-S. French Music Publications, 1967.[18]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Annual Report of the Bureau of Co-operation with Educational Institutions For the year ended June 30, 1947. The University of Michigan. 1947. p. 149. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Nationwide Gravesite Locator". U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 "Ex-chief of U-M Marching Band, George Cavender, dies at 84". March 5, 2004.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "UM Symphony Band 1961 Russian Tour: Home". UM School of Music, Theatre & Dance. The University of Michigan. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  5. "In Memoriam". Music at Michigan (Spring 2004). University of Michigan School of Music. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 "Memoir: George R. Cavender". University of Michigan Faculty History Project. University of Michigan. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Past Award Winners". NMU Alumni Relations. Northern Michigan University. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "George Cavender's biography, 1982". NMU Alumni Relations Dept - Navigation. Northern Michigan University. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 "History". Michigan Marching Band. Michigan Marching Band. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "UM Symphony Band 1961 Russian Tour: Prof. George Cavender". UM School of Music, Theatre & Dance. The University of Michigan. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Spring concert Thursday". Oxford Leader. May 23, 1968. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  12. Smith, Leanne (January 22, 2010). "Peek Through Time: Jackson Native Albert Ahronheim Gave U-M Football Fans the Halftime of Their Lives". The Ann Arbor News. Retrieved February 9, 2021.
  13. "Band (University of Michigan) records: 1892 - 2012, 1929 - 2012". Bentley Historical Library. The University of Michigan. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  14. "Endowed Scholarship Funds - Michigan Marching Band". Michigan Marching Band. Michigan Marching Bands. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  15. "Cavender Tower to be built at Elbel Field". University Record. The University of Michigan. March 12, 2001. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  16. Wernert, Doug (28 Sep 2005). "The Making of a Football Saturday". The University of Michigan. The Michigan Daily. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  17. Revelli, William Donald; Cavender, George (1961). Marching Fundamentals and Techniques for the School Bandsman. Les Strang Publishing Company. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  18. Cavender, George (1967). Michigan Band-o-rama Series Field Production Guide [for Marching Bands] · Volume 1. Hugo & Luigi-S. French Music Publications. Retrieved 9 February 2021.

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