In 1902, long before performing the music of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and The Who, the University of Arizona marching band was a 12-member military unit.
The UA established a non-military band in 1907. The original ROTC Band dissolved in 1920 when the UA band began offering one unit credit and saw its ranks swell to 40 musicians.
In 1922 the band performed at its first football game and, in 1936, adopted the motto “The Best Band in the West” at a California music conference.
Jack K. Lee applied for the band director position in 1952. While traveling out of Tucson, his plane flew over the UA gymnasium and Lee observed the words “Bear Down” painted on the roof. By the time his plane landed, Lee had virtually completed the music and lyrics to what would become the University’s fight song.
Lee was named band director weeks later and the band performed “Bear Down, Arizona” for the first time that same year.
The Arizona marching band has performed at some of the biggest events in the country. In 1967, the band was part of the halftime show at the first ever Super Bowl at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Ten years later, it played at the inauguration parade of President Jimmy Carter.
In 1995, Jay C. Rees became the Pride of Arizona band director and the band adopted the motto “The World’s First Alternative Music Marching Band.” It has since performed the music of Radiohead, Tears for Fears, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, No Doubt, the Smashing Pumpkins, and Muse.
The Pride of Arizona was named one of the top five college marching bands in the country in 2009 by the College Band Directors National Association.
Today, the Pride of Arizona has over 250 members, including a battery-unit drum line, baton twirlers, pom pom dancers, and color guard.