In the midst of rehearsals on the afternoon of Sept. 30 on the Bartlesville High School campus, Alex Claussen called the Bruin Brigade Marching Band to an abrupt halt.
As the Bruin Brigade Marching Band rolls toward some big accomplishments in the future, it is sure to arrive on the scene in style in its new custom-designed semi-trailer.
Honing their skills at Custer Stadium, the Bruin Brigade was preparing to perform at the prestigious Renegade Review marching band contest on the Union campus in Tulsa the next day. But something had caught the eye of Claussen, who leads the Bruin Brigade as the supervisor of instrumental music for the Bartlesville Public School District.
Driving up the road toward the group was the newest member of the program, a sparkling and reconditioned semi-trailer. For the students who comprise the Bruin Brigade Marching Band – which features 130 students from grades nine through 12 – it represented something of a mobile milestone. Though it was still heading toward them, the semi-trailer signaled that the Bruin Brigade had indeed arrived.
The students who had stopped briefly to stare at the semi-trailer soon erupted into cheers.
“We went from having one of the worst looking equipment caravans,” says Claussen, “to one of the best looking rigs in the state. We couldn’t be happier.
“When I first saw it, I had goose bumps from head to toe.”
For years, the Bruin Brigade used to travel to away contests and games in a pair of box trucks as well as a rented U-haul. Sometimes, a school bus might be necessary as well. The vehicles weren’t meant to transport large marching bands and their accompanying instruments and uniforms, but it was all the program had.
Now in his fourth year with the district, Claussen would sometimes be asked by members of the Bartlesville Band and Orchestra Boosters – the parent organization which helps to support the programs – about how other marching bands travel. Claussen noted that many of them use semi-trailers, including his previous program at Sapulpa.
“Several of the band parents wanted to move in a similar direction,” says Claussen. “So, they began looking into the possibilities.”
In April of this year, some members of the BBOB formed a trailer committee and then began a fundraising effort to go toward the purchase of a semi-trailer for the Bruin Brigade later that month. The volunteer grants and gift matching program through ConocoPhillips was utilized as was a community sponsorship letter campaign. Special fundraising events were hosted by Chili’s and Cherry Berry, and the Lyon Foundation provided a grant.
As funds were being lined up, a search began for a semi-trailer which would meet the Bruin Brigade’s needs. In May, a 1997 model Kentucky low-rider, drop-deck trailer was discovered through an online search in the outskirts of St. Louis. A group of representatives from the BBOB, the BPSD’s transportation department and the Bruin Brigade drove up to inspect it on Memorial Day weekend.
In good condition and measuring around 53 feet long, the semi-trailer met the program’s needs. The BBOB purchased the semi-trailer with the funds it had raised as well as the grant from the Lyon Foundation and donated it to the Bartlesville School District for use by the Bruin Brigade.
Once the semi-trailer was purchased and back in Bartlesville, the project was hardly completed. Spanning around eight-and-a-half feet wide, the semi-trailer was basically an empty box inside and had old vinyl lettering on the outside as evidence of its former life. During the summer, parents, students and other volunteers began whipping it into shape for its new line of work. The semi-trailer’s interior walls were covered with paint donated by the Bartlesville-based Sherwin Williams store. A second floor was added as was plenty of shelving and hanging racks for the uniforms. Stairs and ramps were installed to make loading and unloading activities safer and more convenient.
Helping to outfit the interior of the semi-trailer was the Edmond-based Clubhouse Trailers. The semi-trailer now includes an upper deck for instrument storage as well as a lower deck for percussion pit equipment. A new belly box was installed to haul equipment for the Bruin Color Guard, drum major stands and other items. The bumper was replaced as was the unit’s lighting.
“When you look at the semi-trailer now, it looks brand new,” says Claussen. “It looks amazing.”
The fresh look of the semi-trailer comes courtesy of the parents, students and volunteers as well as the uncle of one of the Bruin Brigade members – Charley Garrett. With his company, Charley’s Customs based in Alma, Ark., Garrett led the effort to prepare and paint the exterior of the semi-trailer. It now features a Bruin logo on the back as well as a music symbol and the wording “Bruin Brigade” and “Bartlesville, Oklahoma.” The semi-trailer is painted a classic dark Bruin blue.
When the semi-trailer was being prepared and then painted in September, Dr. Bill Fesler allowed it to be stored in his barn. The Bartlesville-based Sign and Banner Express cut the stencils that were used for the lettering and designs. As part of the preparation process for the exterior painting, parents, students and volunteers sanded down around 10,400 rivets, allowing Garrett, who offered a special discounted rate for his expertise, to work more quickly and efficiently.
Using a rented tractor from Black Dog Trucking in Bartlesville to tow it, the semi-trailer made its debut at the Renegade Review. The members of the Bruin Brigade were proud to pull into the parking area on the Tulsa Union High School campus and show off the new addition to the program.
“The Renegade Review is always a tough contest, but we made the finals,” notes Claussen. “I’m not saying that the new semi-trailer had anything to do with our performance, but it certainly didn’t hurt.
“There’s so much pride in this program right now.”
The Bruin Brigade Marching Band, which features 130 students from grades nine through 12, now transports its instruments and uniforms with a 53-foot long semi-trailer.