The University of Arizona’s Pride of Arizona Marching Band is one of the top marching bands nationwide, and for seniors in the band, being a part of Pride changed their college experience for the better.
Becca Soto, a December 2021 graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in environmental studies, played with Pride on the cymbal line from 2019 to 2021.
Soto started her music journey when she was 5 years old by learning piano. In high school, she began playing percussion and it took off from there.
Soto explained that Pride changed her confidence and social level.
“Getting into it, I really broke out of my shell,” Soto said. “It gave me a better sense of community since, me being bisexual, I didn’t really have an outlet to share myself.”
Dimitri Pearson is graduating this year with a degree in marine biology. He has been in Pride since the 2017 to 2018 season.
Pearson has been playing music for ten years and five of those have been with Pride and the pep-band. He started off on clarinet and percussion and wound up on alto saxophone.
One of the deciding factors for Pearson was when he saw Pride perform their Daft Punk show at a UA Band Day while he was in high school.
“I remember the sole reason I chose this school was because my sophomore year, I came to UA Band Day and they did Daft Punk, and I don't even care about Daft Punk that much, but they did “Get Lucky” with Pharrell Williams and it was just so cool,” Pearson said.
Since organizations were not completely functioning over the pandemic, he and many of his friends came back for a fifth year.
“During the pandemic year, that year honestly took a hit on everybody. There was a lot of tension within the band while trying to figure out how it was going to move forward. Everyone had their own thoughts and opinions on it, so being able to come back this year full-fledged was an awesome way to send it off,” Pearson said.
Pearson was also the first Advocate of Peace and led the ZonaZoo chants this year.
“I like to be loud. I like to be really school-spirited. So, at basketball games, I wanted to run chants and do all this stuff that usually people in the band don’t get to do. They allowed me to do that,” Pearson said.
Pearson wants all Wildcats to enjoy their experience to the fullest, much like he did.
“That’s all I want is for the people at this school to truly embrace the time they have here. Tucson’s Tucson, but the UA is unique and it’s really cool. Being the best college in this state, 100 percent of the way, like AS-Who?” Pearson said.
Victoria Frank is graduating in May with a degree in rehabilitation studies and services and a minor in psychology. She has been on the Pomline for all four years and has been the captain for the past two years.
Frank did cheer when she was very little but decided at age six that she wanted to dedicate her time to dance.
Being in the Pomline overall had a very positive impact on her.
“Being on the Pomline and in Pride has been one of the most positive things in my life and my college experience because it gave me 250 instant friends when I first came to band camp, and that was something really comforting coming from out of state. Then just kind of building off of the relationships I made in my rookie season was really nice. Now the people I met in the Pride are some of my best friends,” Frank said.
Besides Pomline, Frank was a part of Project Focus with the College of Education. Project Focus is working with students between the ages of 18-21 years old that have developmental disabilities.
“I grew up with twin brothers that have a disability called partial trisomy 6q, so they have an extra part of the 21st chromosome. So it’s been something that’s been a huge part of my life and when I got to college, it was something that I had been missing within those first couple of weeks. I had run into some of the students on campus and then I interviewed and got the internship position,” Frank said.
Frank just got a job as a behavioral therapist starting in June in Dallas and plans on getting her registry and other certifications. Along with that, she is auditioning for the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders in May.
JJ Flowers graduated in December with a double major in physiology and family studies and human development and a minor in music. He was the baritone saxophone section leader for four years and also came back for a fifth year for the Pride.
Flowers has been playing music for about 12 years and started on alto saxophone in fifth grade. Shortly after, he switched to baritone saxophone and has been playing that since.
“The Pride especially kept me connected and motivated in school because it gave me a group of friends immediately. That’s something our director always says and it’s pretty cheesy but it’s really true,” Flowers said.
Being a part of a community of this size had beneficial effects on a lot of people, but especially Flowers.
“It really teaches you how to interact with a lot of different people from different backgrounds. I feel like that’s just music in general, but especially Pride because not everyone is a music major. And you’re together like 20 hours a week, so you really have to learn how to get along with people, let things go and keep your emotional composure,” Flowers said.
In addition, being a section leader taught him a lot about people as well.
“What I took pride in was showing people that you’re able to have fun and not always take things so seriously,” Flowers said.
Section leader is a much larger responsibility in college.
“In high school, you’re just helping people band-wise, but as a section leader in college, I’ve helped people with life stuff. I feel like that’s a big thing with Pride, is helping people adjust,” Flowers said.
Javier Aguilar is graduating this May with a Bachelor of Arts in music. He has been in the Pride since 2016, playing baritone for four years and being drum major for the past two years.
Time is always an issue in college, but especially being a part of the Pride. Lots of time goes into this activity to have it be as successful as it can be.
“Granted, being a part of the Pride you are limited on time. It makes it a little stressful sometimes, but overall, I could not have imagined my undergrad career without the band, without Pride,” Aguilar said.
Having those instant 250 friends was very impactful on his experience.
“Whatever you’re going through in your life, there’s at least one person who has gone through something like it so you’re able to connect with people and are able to get help if you need it,” Aguilar said.
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