On Sept. 12, 1970, Arthur C. Bartner brought 80 musicians to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for his first football game as director of the USC Trojan Marching Band. On Saturday, Bartner will lead his band of 260 for the last home game of his 50th football season as USC takes on UCLA. Over the past five decades, he has revolutionized the program, turning a little-regarded group into one of the most prominent college marching bands in the country — twice ranked the best in college football by USA Today.
During Bartner’s tenure, the Trojan Marching Band has earned the nickname “the Spirit of Troy” for its support of USC Athletics. The band has not missed a USC football game, home or away, since 1987 — a streak that will reach 414 consecutive games tomorrow. Beyond the gridiron, Bartner has taken the band to the Olympics, Super Bowls, the Academy Awards, the GRAMMYs, the Coachella music festival and to 19 countries on six continents. They have also become “Hollywood’s Band,” with roles in 13 movies — including the Oscar-winning Forrest Gump — and over 150 appearances on television. The band will be long known for its collaboration with Fleetwood Mac on the album Tusk in 1979, which earned them a platinum album; a first for a collegiate marching band.
While Saturday’s game may be the last of his 50th season, Bartner is not retiring just yet. He will celebrate his golden anniversary on May 2, 2020, with a gala event on the USC campus. Titled The Golden Legacy, the all-star concert will feature guest performers, celebrity speakers and a video retrospective of Bartner’s career. Bartner will then return for the 2020 football season in a reduced role in order to ensure an orderly transition to the new director. Bartner will officially retire on Jan. 1, 2021.
“As I approach the end of my 50th football season, I want to thank everyone who has helped me grow throughout my career: the coaches, the athletes, the mentors, the administrators, and every member of the Trojan Family who has supported this program,” Bartner said. “I’m most grateful to the thousands of loyal USC band members who have truly made this the Spirit of Troy. It is through their dedication and passion that I have been able to thrive these past five decades.”
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