On the last day of student orientation, Lee Barnhart found himself in Reid Poole’s office for an impromptu Gator Band audition. Earlier that day, Barnhart was summoned by a note that said he was to meet with the prominent band director that afternoon to chat.
During his studies at UF, Barnhart found his release by being a baritone player for the Gator Marching Band. By joining the band, Barnhart gained a community of support and two mentors that kept him marching forward.
“I had a cheerleader in Reid Poole who said to get in his office and try out, he said. “I had Dick Bowles, who said, ‘Yes I know you are taking a rough load, but keep going and don’t give up. You have to go to practice, because you’ll be better, the band will be better.”
On top of a busy school schedule, Barnhart faced financial hardships, which kept him working odd jobs all year round. He worked to pay off his student expenses and, most importantly, to remain in the Gator Band.
Barnhart decided he did not want students having to go through the same struggles he did. He and his wife, Sara, started the William and Sara Barnhart Band Scholarship in hopes to reward a student who exhibits hard work and endless love for the Gator Band, just as Lee Barnhart did.
“Maybe it will give a student a little sense of security and help put them at ease,” he said. “Instead of worrying about money, they’ll be worrying about what they can learn. I am hoping this gives a student extra perseverance in knowing that they can do it.”
Nowadays, Barnhart can be spotted at every home football game and during every annual Gator Band Alumni Reunion. He plans to visit every SEC stadium for at least one away game. This year he checked off Mississippi State, and he plans to visit Ole’ Miss in two years.
His passion for the Gator Band community remains unwavering, and his scholarship is an example of the commitment Gator Band alumni demonstrate to support future generations of band members.
To learn more about or give to the fund, please visit here.