The Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band is putting old uniforms to good use, donating them to the Sheema Pride Band in Uganda. “I really hope it’ll inspire them and help unify them as a group with what they’re doing,” says Brian Britt, University of Oklahoma (OU) band director. “One of the things that really touched me in the video that I saw of them was not just the joy the individual kids have but how much they seem to really value the interactive nature of what they were doing with their instruments. Having uniforms hopefully would be something that they are really proud of.”
OU chemical engineering student Darius Aruho reached out to Britt to secure the uniform donation. Aruho, a Sheema native, founded the youth community band with a $10,000 award from the Thatcher Hoffman Smith Creativity in Motion Prize.
“When I came to the United States, I was surrounded by music, and there’s so much opportunity to be creative,” Aruho says. “In Uganda you don’t have the capacity to do it because you don’t have an instrument. So I thought that it would be great to share with schoolchildren in rural Uganda, to be able to make music.”
Aruho purchased 20 brass and percussion instruments and secured an instructor for the band. “They’ve had the instruments for about six month now, and they are playing wonderfully,” Aruho says. “But a band is not complete until they have matching uniforms.”
The Pride of Oklahoma debuted new uniforms this season and is happy to help others with the used ones. The band also sent music for its fight song, “Boomer Sooner.”
“Everyone was so excited to know that the uniforms that had meant so much to us during the time that we were using them would continue to be used rather than just sitting on a shelf somewhere,” Britt says. “I’m a real big believer that we’re in a unique position as collegiate bands to bring people together through what we do, and I saw this as an opportunity to expand that circle of influence.”
OU’s band attracted attention over the past few years when students and alumni publicly rallied against the university’s choice of Britt’s successor, Justin Stolarik, and the changes he had made to the pregame routine and band program. Stolarik resigned in October 2014, and Britt returned to the position.
“The first thing we did is we returned to the pregame show that had been in place from 1971 to 2012 because that’s such an essential part of the game day experience,” Britt says. “I think that helped heal a lot of what had been going on. My plan is to be here in this position until I no longer have the energy to do it justice.”