USC band director Arthur C. Bartner set to retire after 50 years at the helm

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- After leading the USC Trojan Marching Band for half a century, Dr. Arthur C. Bartner will soon be retiring.

The season finale against UCLA is expected to be his final home game as its director, a role he's held for 50 years.

"I've gone through the whole season, not thinking it's my last game," Bartner said in an interview with ABC7. "But all of a sudden you start getting a little choked up that it's coming to an end."

Bartner came to USC in 1970 from Michigan. He describes the band he inherited as being in a state of disrepair.

"First of all, it was only 80 strong. Second of all, it was all male," he recalled. "There were a lot of guys out of the '60s who were not interested in discipline at all."

Fifty years later, Bartner said, the Trojan Marching Band is bigger, better and more diverse.

"Now we're close to 300 members," he noted. "Now we're 50% female, 50% male. And we have every major on campus in this band."

Bartner admits to being somewhat of a tyrant as the leader of the band, although not as much as decades ago. He gained much of his inspiration from Marv Goux, a former USC football coach.

"He said it should be run like a football team. It should be physical; you yell all the time," Bartner said. "Nobody walks, everybody runs.

"Am I still a tyrant? Probably. It was about changing the culture to make it really challenging to become a member of the Trojan Marching Band."

Bartner has transformed the band into an organization known internally as "Hollywood's Band." They gained nationwide fame in the 1970s after performing with Diana Ross, and later Fleetwood Mac. One of Bartner's proudest moments was leading the All American Marching Band during the 1984 Olympic games.

But what he says he'll miss most are the kids. He says there are four pillars he hopes all of his students take with them during their careers after leaving the Trojan Marching Band.

"The number one thing is time management," he said. "Number two: leadership. The third one is to embrace leadership.

"The last thing is the Trojan family. I run this band as a family."

And runs the band with as much discipline as he did 50 years ago.

"I wish I could say I've mellowed out," he said, "but I don't think so."

Watch the UCLA-USC football game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on ABC7.
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