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Bartner begins his 45th season as leader of the band

This year’s schedule of new halftime shows at home football games includes a tribute to Trojan great Louis Zamperini

by Brett Padelford
Arthur Bartner with Trojan Marching Band members
Arthur Bartner has the longest tenure of any USC leader. (Photo/Alyson Aliano)

When USC kicks off its football season at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, head coach Steve Sarkisian will lead the Trojans from the sidelines for the first time. The 40-year-old coach wasn’t even born when the Trojan Marching Band’s director, Arthur Bartner, made his Coliseum debut in 1970.

The game program for Bartner’s first game that year featured a short blurb about the band’s new director: 

“A crop of sophomores on coach John McKay’s USC football team won’t be the only rookies making their first appearance before a Coliseum crowd tonight. A new director of the Trojan Marching Band will make his debut tonight, too. He’s Arthur C. Bartner, a 30-year-old graduate of the University of Michigan.”

It’s been a very gratifying journey that started 45 years ago with 55 kids at band camp.

Arthur Bartner

Forty-four years later, Bartner can boast his tenure has been longer than any president, dean, trustee or football coach in the history of the university. Under his direction, the Trojan Marching Band has gained international prominence, performing at the Olympics, Super Bowls, the World Series, the Oscars, the Grammys and in numerous movies and television shows. The university’s largest organization has traveled to 17 countries on six continents.

For Bartner’s 45th season, the band will continue its tradition of traveling to every football game, a streak of 27 years that will reach 350 straight games if the Trojans advance to the National Playoff Semifinal. This fall, the band will trek to games in Palo Alto, Boston, Tucson, Salt Lake City, Pullman and across town to Pasadena for the game against UCLA.

At home in the Coliseum, the band will present a slate of all-new halftime shows, including a special salute to the late Louis Zamperini ’40 at the final home game against Notre Dame. Zamperini, a USC track and field star famous for his exploits at the 1936 Olympics and as a POW during World War II, is the subject of the upcoming movie Unbroken. His family will be honored during the presentation.

For Bartner, it’s his personal connection with band members and the football team’s coaches that brings him back to the Coliseum year after year.

“It’s been a very gratifying journey that started 45 years ago with 55 kids at band camp and now we have over 300. I’ve gotten to work and befriend all these great coaches: John McKay, Marv Goux, John Robinson, Pete Carroll. And now to be able to start a new era of USC football with Steve Sarkisian is very exciting.”

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