OU has new band director for first time in 30 years

Friday, August 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ For the first time in 30 years, the Pride of Oklahoma band will have a new director when it marches onto the field Saturday _ the Sooners' 2001 season opener against North Carolina.

Brian Britt, who played drums for the university's band almost 20 years ago, is the fifth director in 100 years to lead the band. Renowned director Gene Thrailkill retired last year after becoming band director in 1971.

``This year's freshmen were born when I was a freshman in the Pride,'' Britt said Thursday. ``I remember coming down that tunnel and know what it's like for your jaw to hit the ground.

``Just like them, I'm going to experience it as a freshman director.''

Britt said he never thought Thrailkill would retire.

``But once he mentioned retirement and that I should apply, I was flattered,'' he said.

A year ago, Britt became band director at McNeil High School in Round Rock, Texas, and was planning on a long tenure. But he changed his mind when Thrailkill called.

Britt served in the Pride from 1983 to 1986 as snare drummer. He was sectional leader in 1985 and 1986 and a graduate assistant the following year.

Sitting next to his desk is a Thrailkill memento from a game Britt remembers well, a 1983 contest against Oklahoma State in Stillwater. OU trailed 20-3 in the fourth quarter, but the Sooners won the game 21-20 on a last-second field goal.

At band practice the next Monday, then-OU coach Barry Switzer presented the game ball to Thrailkill and the Pride. That ball remains enshrined in the band director's office.

``We must have played Boomer Sooner straight for an hour and half that game,'' Britt said. ``It was quite a shock to see Coach Switzer at our practice.''

Britt performed in three Orange Bowls and witnessed the Sooners' national championship in 1985.

``Being a part of this band was a life-changing experience. It gave me a sense of being part of something bigger than myself,'' he said. ``To maintain that for future students is the bedrock of this program. I need to get them to appreciate the fact that so many people think of us as their band.''

Britt has made some changes since taking over the Pride. He has retired the band's red coats, which had been in use since 1973. Players now will wear white coats over red pants _ an ensemble more suited to the Oklahoma heat.

Britt also is bringing back the tradition of the OU formation marching from the south end zone to the north.

A native of Durant, Britt earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from OU. He spent four years as associate director of bands at Stephen F. Austin State University and one year as interim associate director of bands at Texas Christian University.