Robert Orlando Briggs
20 August 1927 - 17 September 2008
Robert O. Briggs, Director Emeritus of the University Of California Band, has passed away at the age of 81 after complications developed following gall bladder surgery.
Bob Briggs was director of the Cal Band from 1971 until his retirement in 1995. Bob’s association with the Cal Band extends much further than his time as director, however. Bob joined the Cal Band as an entering freshman in the Fall of 1947, and continued his association for the next 61 years. Even in retirement, Bob served as a resource for the current Cal Band, sharing his expertise and experience with successive generations of Cal Band members.
Because Bob’s years as an undergraduate coincided with the “Glory Years” of Cal Football under Pappy Waldorf, Bob was fortunate enough to march in three successive Rose Bowls. In late 1958, as Cal was preparing for yet another (and to date its last) Rose Bowl, Bob Briggs was invited to march with the Band in order to help fill out its ranks. He thus gained the unique distinction of being the only member of the Cal Band in its 117 year history to have marched in four Rose Bowls.
In 2004, Bob recalled, “I marched in some Rose Bowls - in fact 4 of them - ’49, ’50, ’51 as a student member and ’59 as an invited alumn. I am the only Cal Bandsman to have done that many. It was always my goal to conduct at one of them, and we almost did after the ’75 season. But Ucla went!!!”
Bob Briggs was born in Modesto, California, on 20 August 1927. He attended public schools in Modesto, graduated from Modesto High School, and briefly attended Modesto Junior College.
At Cal, Bob played cornet in the Band, and took up the study of the French horn. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music in 1951. Bob served in the U.S. Army for two years after his time at U.C. Berkeley. During his service in the Army, Bob played in the Army Band at Fort Ord in Monterey, California, and at other postings. Bob graduated from the U.S. Army Music School. He continued his musical studies, receiving a Master of Arts in Music at San Francisco State University.
Bob became band director at Armijo High School in Fairfield, California in 1955, and continued in that position until 1967 when he returned to the University of California in the capacity as assistant Band Director as he pursued doctoral studies. He served under James Berdahl until 1971 when Berdahl took an extended leave of absence to work in Japan. Bob served as acting director for two years until he was formally appointed director of the Cal Band in 1973.
During Bob’s time as director of the Cal Band, the Band made an extensive national tour in honor of the Bicentennial of the United States in the Summer of 1976. The Cal Band’s opportunities to perform at bowl games improved during his tenure as well, as the fortunes of Cal Football improved; in 1979 the Cal Band performed at its first bowl game since the 1959 Rose Bowl, the Garden State Bowl in New Jersey. During Bob’s time, the Cal Band would march in three more bowl games and make an appearance at a conference game in Tokyo.
Because of the unique organization of the Cal Band as a student-run University activity, Bob Briggs had to balance the dynamics of a vigorous and youthfully demanding student government with the requirements and politics of the larger university administration. In a position fraught with potential conflicts and burdened with competing and often contradictory demands, Bob’s non-confrontational style served the Cal Band and the University well.
In his earlier days as director, Bob was more formal and reserved in his relationship with band members. He was most often addressed as “Mr. Briggs.” In later years, Bob developed a more casual style and later generations of Cal Band members know him best as simply, “Bob.”
Upon his retirement in 1995, at the recommendation of Chancellor Tien, President of the University Peltason appointed Bob Director Emeritus of the University Of California Band. In retirement, Bob remained active in music, helping to organize the Solano Winds, a community musical ensemble, and serving as its conductor for the past 13 years. In 2005, Bob celebrated his fiftieth year as a director with a special Solano Winds concert.
On December 1, 2006, the Cal Band Alumni Association presented Bob with its Tony Martinez award in recognition of his many contributions to and accomplishments with the Cal Band during his long association.
Bob was an avid enthusiast of automobiles, both the classics and more modern creations. He often used one or another of his antique sedans to transport Cal Band brides and grooms to their wedding ceremonies, acting as chauffeur, a role he relished.
In his six decades of association with the Cal Band, Bob touched thousands of lives. He will be long remembered by generations of Cal Band members and Cal Band fans.
--written by Jamie Rawson, Bass ’77
Enjoy Joe Starkey's audio broadcast where we hear Al Locher's dedication and moment of silence for Bob, as well as Joe's personal feelings regarding Bob.KGO-TributeToBriggs-9-27-08
NORTH TUNNEL ECHO
The Fall 2008 issue of the NTE features a spread on Bob.