By Filip Bondy, page C4.
COLUMBIA BAND MARCHES TO ITS OWN TUNE

 NEW YORK - This year alone, they have 
burned an imaginary American flag, educated 
Villanova fans on the fine points of being 
Jewish, and - last Saturday at Wien 
Stadium - formed a map of Bensonhurst 
complete with routes of hasty retreat.

They are the Columbia University marching 
band, coming to your town, playing at your 
football game. Hide the cheerleaders. Bare 
the indignation.

"I tell people we're not their father's 
marching band," says Lyle Zmskind, band 
poet laureate and drum major. "We're the 
cleverest band in the world. Outrageousness
is the goal. The only goal. We'll take a dig 
at anything."

Anything?

Anything.

In recent years, they have driven an 
imaginary car - their formations leave much 
to the imagination - off the Chappaquiddick 
bridge at a Harvard game. They have thrown 
Lions to the Christians at a Holy Cross 
game.

Some days, when the weather is not good, 
there are only 30 or 40 band members. Some 
days, the songs all sound alike. The 
uniforms are rag-tag. The instruments are 
crude - like the box of noodles that is the 
mainstay of the percussion section. But the 
Columbia band gets its point across, which
has nothing to do with the point the band at 
the University of Texas, say, might make.

"Fascist," Zmskind says. "Those kind of 
bands are fascist."

A few people, including the Columbia 
football players, might find this next fact 
hard to believe: The Columbia band is 
censored. Not everything Zmskind and his 
fellow band members have written has gotten 
past the censor, Columbia's dean of students.

The pre-approval mandate started 15 years 
ago, after the now infamous Yale Bowl 
incident. On Children's Day in New Haven, 
the Lions' marching band performed a show on
birth control at halftime of the 
Yale-Columbia game.

The band formed a diaphragm on the field, 
then played a song that has become its 
standard: "I Hear You Knocking, But You 
Can't Come In."

Enough was enough. Deans such as Roger 
Lehecka stepped in. Lehecka now reviews each 
script with band manager Adam Grais in 
mid-week.

One of the band's all-too-easy targets has 
been the Columbia football team, its coaches 
and officials. When you lose 47 of 49 games, 
you automatically qualify for exemption from 
ridicule.

So Lehecka rejected one script that 
presented a mock resume of athletic 
director Al Paul. Paul's former jobs would 
have included personnel director for the '62 
Mets, campaign manager for George McGovern 
and security consultant at the Beirut 
embassy. 

"I think generally the administration has 
gotten a little looser,'' says Zmskind. "I 
was sort of surprised the flag thing went 
through."

This season, the band's relationship with 
the football team has improved. For the 
first time in anyone's memory, the band took
part in a pep rally for the team on the 
steps of Low Library.

The band played. The noodles were shaken. 
The students cheered. And since this was 
Columbia, the football team lost.