College Band Controversies

This fall has been a particularly tumultuous season for collegiate marching bands.

Dr. Justin Stolarik, the new band director at Oklahoma University, has been the subject of a fervent crusade to have him terminated. His critics claim that his changes to the Pride of Oklahoma’s pregame and halftime routines too closely resemble those of his previous employer, the University of Wisconsin. Other complaints include his qualifications for the position, his teaching and drill-writing styles, and accusations of unfairness in his hiring.

“The end goal is to restore the Pride’s superior reputation, to help ensure the students receive the education they deserve and to help ensure the Sooner Nation can again be proud of the organization,” says Lyndsea Ponder, creator of the “Restore the Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band” Facebook Page with nearly 7,000 likes.

Fans, students and alumni have petitioned University President David Boren. In September, the tuba section staged a rehearsal boycott. Members of “Restore the Pride” have crowdfunded billboards near campus and away game stadiums.

Stolarik declined comment on the specific actions, saying, “Right now we’re trying to concentrate on the positivity with the students and program, and I think it’s important to continue along those lines.”

Meanwhile, at the University of Tennessee, band director Dr. Gary Sousa was placed on administrative leave for insubordination. Sousa issued a public statement saying that he and the band were engaged in a “bitter battle” with their athletic department regarding travel budget cuts and playing time in the stadium.

In addition a theft investigation has prompted the resignation of Dr. Robert Rumbelow, director of bands at the University of Illinois. Rumbelow sold old university-owned instruments and deposited the money into his personal bank account.

Also recently, members of the University of Wisconsin Marching Band were verbally assaulted by Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola during their performance at a Green Bay Packers game. When the students’ complaints made headlines, the team administration issued an apology, and Raiola made a monetary contribution to the band.

Learn more about these stories and others in the Web Exclusives section of our website at

About author

Elizabeth Geli

Elizabeth Geli is the assistant editor of Halftime Magazine and a journalist/communications professional in Southern California. Her 11 years at the University of Southern California (USC) Trojan Marching Band included time as a flute player, graduate teaching assistant, and student advocate. She holds a bachelor's degree in Print Journalism and master's degree in Specialized Journalism (The Arts) from USC.