New Pride of Oklahoma Director Embroiled in Controversy

Photo courtesy of the Pride of Oklahoma in 2010

Dr. Justin Stolarik, new band director of the Pride of Oklahoma, has drawn major criticism from students, parents, alumni and fans regarding the band’s changes to policies and performance.

The primary criticisms cited by detractors include the band’s revised pregame show, policies regarding freshmen and alternates being excluded from shows, and the themes and drill style of halftime shows. Vocal alumni and current band students insist that the new shows and drills are old-fashioned and too similar to shows performed by Stolarik’s previous marching band, the University of Wisconsin.

Displeased alumni have started a Facebook group, “Restore the Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band,” garnering more than 6,000 likes. On Saturday, people chalked messages on the concrete and distributed flyers outside Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, asking fans to stay silent and not cheer after the band’s performances in protest. A website has also surfaced.

More than 100 band members confronted Stolarik after the band’s first football game with their concerns; they were later called to the office of the university president. The majority of the Pride’s tuba section staged a boycott and skipped rehearsal on Monday to protest the changes.

Stolarik responded to the criticism in The Oklahoman:

Stolarik said he disagreed that the shows were outmoded. In an email, Stolarik said the shows were “designed to feature a wide variety of musical styles, with clean lines and full-field visual appeal.”

“It’s about entertainment value,” said Stolarik, who declined to be interviewed in person.

Stolarik said he recognized that changes are difficult for an organization like the Pride. Some of the students in the band have been willing to cooperate with him and have worked hard in rehearsals this year.

For more information on this story, view The Oklahoman’s full article and continuing coverage from the university newspaper, OU Daily.

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