Posted by: thezedword | October 13, 2010

Marching Band, part deux

Last month I wrote an article for the Daily Trojan about the USC Marching Band appearing in promos for the new Hawaii Five-O (http://tinyurl.com/33hgbh6).  I wrote a second piece that was to accompany that article, about how things have changed for Art Barnter, the Spirit of Trojan director who has some new challenges to face in his 41st year on the job.

The article never ran.  So, here it is:

Most people would retire after forty years on the job. Not Dr. Arthur Bartner. At seventy, he just started his fifth decade on the ladder as the director of the Trojan Marching Band and his legacy is as storied as that of the football team itself. When he first arrived on campus in 1970, the Spirit of Troy was regarded as one of the worst in the country. Now it performs in over 350 appearances each year, schlepping their instruments some 15,000 miles.

The band has become a fixture outside the walls of USC in sports, playing at the Olympic opening ceremonies, the World Series and the World Cup. It’s made a mark on entertainment, having appeared in a handful of movies and over 100 TV shows, and earned the nickname Hollywood’s Band. At the intersection of sports and entertainment, the band’s there too. In 2007, members posed, in uniform, with models in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

Even Bartner admitted, “This band is a rock star in it’s own right.”

The new season brings something new for Dr. Bartner. The 2010 school year is one of beginnings for USC, with a fresh president, athletic director, and head football coach.

Change, Bartner insisted, is a part of every season. “It never stays the same. And it can’t stay the same. Every year you get new student leaders, and every year you get about 100 new freshmen. So the top and the bottom are all new kids,” Bartner said. “And the tunes change. The shows change.”

The band has incorporated rap into their routines over the years, and will soon debut the addition of electro in the form of Zombie Nation’s “Kernkraft 400.” They’ve also started playing the Jaws theme when the Special Teams takes the field. The idea came from Special Teams coach John Baxter.

“[Baxter’s] into the whole thing. He came over and taught us the shark thing. I mean, he taught the band. I can’t remember the last time the coach came over and taught the band a cheer,” Bartner said.

Baxter, along with Defensive Coordinator Ed Orgeron, who Bartner says is really “the rah-rah fire-up guy,” replaces a connection between the coaching staff and the band that left with Pete Carroll.

“You’re getting a whole new coaching staff, with a whole new philosophy,” Bartner said. “I mean, this is not Pete Carroll anymore.”

Carroll’s relationship with the Spirit of Troy was unique for college football. He regularly visited the band during its practices, and tried to rally as much Trojan spirit in them as in his own team.

Though he has visited practice with Barkley, Kiffin hasn’t approached the band with that same enthusiasm.

“Where Lane might not be as rah-rah as Pete, there’s other guys on the coaching staff that have filled that void. So, the relationship is still very strong,” Bartner said. “We’re about as close to our football team as any band in the country.”

Bartner has no plans of climbing down off the ladder anytime soon though.

“I used to fret about that. I don’t fret about that anymore,” Bartner said. “When it happens, it happens, when you lose the spark, or you can’t get up the latter, but I don’t worry about that anymore.”

Instead, he’s given up other responsibilities, from guest conducting to adjudicating, even a directing summer college band for Disney. “I said in my twilight years, I’m just going to concentrate on USC. I’m just going to have fun at USC,” Bartner said.

While he does, he can only strengthen his own legacy, and that of the Spirit of Troy.

“I wanted the band to be more than a field band. I wanted it tied to the football team. I wanted the band to be the hub of the university,” Bartner said. “Now we’re all encompassing. I think it’s cool. I like it. And the secret is, the kid’s like it. I could take a gig and if the kid’s don’t want to do it, then you have no band.”

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Responses

  1. Outstanding! Great write up – thanks!


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