Expanding Boundaries

Mike Lawson • Archives • August 7, 2008

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With their trademark dark sunglasses, Southern California swagger, and gleaming gold helmets, it is clearly evident that this band steps onto the field with a rock-star approach. They have great presence, a bravado and cool that seems to transcend the idiom. The USC Trojan marching band, led by the legendary Art Bartner, this months cover profile, has taken the genre into realms that are far from the norm. The band can be Hollywood, Hip Hop, Rock •n Roll, Classical, Jazz or any other style they want, and their resume has the gold to prove it. They’ve worked with such diverse superstar artists as OutKast, The Offspring, John Williams, Fleetwood Mac, and George Clinton; they’ve appeared in numerous movies, television shows, magazines, and CDs, including Forest Gump, Fame, Naked Gun, the Sports Illustrated “Swim Suit” issue, and at the Olympics and Super Bowls.

One of the many unique aspects of Dr. Bartner’s leadership is his open mind to music of all genres. In this exclusive SBO interview, he indicates that he personally enjoys a wide variety of musical styles, including jazz, Broadway, classical, traditional band music, contemporary and even opera. It is this breadth of interest that has helped open many doors in Bartner’s personal career and has enabled him to lead the USC band in so many directions. Dr. Bartner is quoted on the Web site of USC’s football coach, Pete Carroll, as saying, “One of my visions was that this marching band should be all things to all people at USC. Now it becomes not only a football band, a basketball band, but all the sports. It’s the hub of spirit and tradition at the University of Southern California.”

Bartner is a celebrity in his own right, and next to Carroll, he is one of the most widely known faces on the USC campus. Carroll’s Web site even cites an occasion in which the NFL Hall of Fame football player and USC alumnus, Marcus Allen walked over to Bartner’s table at a restaurant to say hello. This is the sort of fame that is rarely, if ever seen in the marching band universe.

Bartner has enabled his band to transcend the boundaries of what normally defines a marching band and has turned it into not only a representative of USC, but a leading representative in the greater marching band community. Having been educated in the music world in a more traditional sense, under the tutelage of William Revelli at the University of Michigan, Bartner should be credited for expanding the image of marching band to reach across musical, cultural, and international boundaries. Read on…

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