News Column

Madison in 100 objects: Mike Leckrone's jacket

August 4, 2014

By Nico Savidge, The Wisconsin State Journal

Aug. 04--The tradition started 40 years ago, when Mike Leckrone sweated through his blazer at the first UW Varsity Band Spring Concert.

Leckrone -- the band's immutably enthusiastic conductor and showman-in-chief, a UW mainstay known for choreographing his high-stepping musicians and imploring crowds to do "The Chicken Dance" just a little bit faster this time -- emerged for the second act of that show in an ostentatious shirt he happened to have handy.

The outfit earned Leckrone some friendly derision and begged the question that sparked a campus tradition: "What are you going to do next year?"

Leckrone's answer has come during each Varsity Band Spring Concert in a series of custom-made, ever-flashier jackets heavy on ritz, fun and, inevitably, sequins.

They feature sparkling red and white checkers, American flags, a big silver "W," roses.

Dozens of jackets from years past now hang in Leckrone's closet.

He and Lois Levenhagen, the band seamstress who has sewn those sequins for 25 years, collaborate on the designs. They find inspiration from old Elvis outfits, figure skating competitions and trips to the Liberace museum.

Each year, when the concert's second act starts, Leckrone dons his new jacket and debuts his latest work of a style he calls "Wisconsin gaudy."

The jackets bring pomp, but still have fun; they're for a showman who's not afraid to look a little silly.

For Leckrone and the UW Marching Band, they of the rigid halftime formations and hair-down Fifth Quarter antics, it's just the right look.


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Source: Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI)

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