Berry Tramel

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Oklahoma football: The band has become OU's biggest controversy

by Berry Tramel Modified: September 18, 2013 at 5:15 pm •  Published: September 18, 2013

The uproar over the OU marching band continues. Our man Silas Allen wrote a story for the Wednesday Oklahoman, detailing widespread displeasure with new Pride of Oklahoma director Justin Stolarik. You can read that here.
I received an email last week from Dr. Dustin Watterson, a former member of the Pride who is displeased with Stolarik. I pointed out after the OU-West Virginia game that the Mountaineer band seemed to steal the show from the OU band. Here’s what Watterson had to say:
“I am a proud alum of The Pride of Oklahoma … my primary reason for writing you is because of The Pride’s performances this season. I know your primary beat is sports, but I just wanted to say that I cannot agree with you more on your assessment of the Pride’s performance. I know you are probably aware by now, but there has been a controversy brewing all season regarding the hiring of The Pride’s new director, Dr. Justin Stolarik. While I have never met Dr. Stolarik personally, I and many other alums and current Pride members can attest to the fact that Dr. Stolarik was hired under less than ideal, and to be quite frank, underhanded circumstances. He did not even meet the minimum qualifications for a candidate that were set by the school. He does not hold a Master’s or Doctorate in wind conducting (his doctorate is in performance). He has never been the director of his own band program and has no secondary teaching and education experience.
“You will see that Dr. Stolarik does not have the experience or credentials to hold a position such as director of The Pride of Oklahoma. I can say for a fact that I, other alums, many current band members and even Dr. Gene Thrailkill, director emeritus, are very embarrassed and upset by the quality of performances we have seen on the field. We are especially embarrassed by the new pregame routine that has been implemented this year — a pregame routine that has many elements that are copied from the University of Wisconsin band’s pregame routine (where Stolarik worked as an assistant, prior to coming to OU). I assure you there is definitely a story here. I, and many of my friends and fellow alums and Dr. Thrailkill, are outraged and have been fighting desperately to correct the wrongs that have been taking place. This may not be a QB controversy, but there definitely is a scandal going on beyond the surface understanding that Dr. Stolarik is not qualified.”
I viewed the job requirements and Stolarik’s resume’, and they indicate that he indeed does not meet the qualifications. With that said, OU and all kinds of other organizations squeeze off specific requirements.
As for the hiring, it’s clear that the OU administration wanted new blood for the Pride. Wanted Brian Britt out after 12 years of directing the band and wanted a new direction. And it’s quite clear that band alums are upset by it.
Does that mean Stolarik can’t handle the job? I have no idea. I don’t know the difference between a French horn and bicycle horn. I’m so out of my element, it’s not even funny. But several things are apparent:
* The OU band should be making music, not news. If I’m David Boren, I’m outraged that this band flap has reached such a level.
* The OU band has not been stellar these first three games. Are all bands slow to adapt to a new director and style? I have no idea.
* The schedule didn’t help Stolarik at all. Three straight home games to open the season. Minimal time to put in a new show. That’s not easy.
* Some of this outrage was dirty pool. A video went viral in August, supposedly showing some of the planned changes, when it still was early in rehearsals. That probably wasn’t fair.
* Why anyone would come in and monkey immediately with long-standing traditions, like the pregame FanFare, I have no idea. Far better to make changes slowly and gradually. Just like a new pastor at a church, start changing things on your first Sunday is a sure path to trouble. The FanFare should have been off limits, even if any changes were subtle.
* And finally, time for my soapbox on bands. There is no reason – absolutely NO REASON – for a university to not have a top-notch band. If you want one, you can have one. This isn’t football, where every game has a loser. Doesn’t work that way in music. OU has had an historically great band. Maybe it was time for a change, I don’t know. But there is never a time to make the band as big a controversy as the quarterback derby, and that has happened at OU in these hot months of 2013.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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