Our first featured twirler and coach, Shirlee Bertolini, is affectionately known as the “Grande Dame” of the Arizona Band, having been associated with the program for 64 years.

Shirlee came to the University of Arizona from Detroit , Michigan in 1954 to become the first featured twirler at Arizona under the late Jack Lee, director, music professor, and composer of “Bear Down, Arizona.” Before coming to Arizona, she was Michigan State and National Twirling Champion from 1953-54.

After her reign as featured twirler at Arizona, Shirlee became the Twirling Coach and increased the number of twirlers to seven, each girl wearing a breast plate spelling A-R-I-Z-O-N-A. The team consisted of state and national champions recruited by Shirlee. She traveled thousands of miles each year looking for twirlers, and her National Baton Twirling Judging assignments allow her the opportunity to choose the “cream of the crop” both nationally and abroad.

Her career has produced many state and national champions, plus the Equestrian Twirlers who for ten years performed in the famous La Fiesta de los Vaqueros parade on horseback. Shirlee Bertolini has taught twirling throughout the 50 states and 17 foreign countries.

Shirlee retired from coaching in 2018, though she continues to be a valued adviser to the Pride of Arizona Marching Band and Twirling Team. A scholarship has been set up in her name to assist future featured twirlers at the University of Arizona. Please follow the link below if you would like to donate to the Shirlee Bertolini Scholarship Fund.