The Oregon Ducks are headed for the biggest, most coveted bowl game of all — the Tournament of Roses on New Year’s Day — to face off against the Wisconsin Badgers.
And the band that cheered them on to victory will be there too.
Although band director Eric Wiltshire concedes it’s important to remember that the football team got them there, going to the Rose Bowl is an incredible opportunity for students in the Oregon Marching band as well.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience, a continuation of the work we’ve done all season, but now a chance to showcase that work on a much larger stage,” he said. “I tell the students that they will each have their TV moment, they just won’t know which moment it will be, so every moment of every performance has to be their best work, the work they want to broadcast to the world.”
When the bowl announcement came, Anna Frazer, administrative coordinator of athletic bands, sprang into action preparing for a Southern California adventure that includes a dizzying roster of back-to-back activities and events.
“We’ve been frantically putting things together, but bowl trips are always a fun puzzle to plan,” she said. “Although most bowl trips have scheduled band performances, the Rose Bowl highlights the bands the most, so we’ve prepped our students with what to expect from the very early morning for the parade, to the live coverage of the anthem and part of our halftime show.”
For many students, this will be their first trip to the Rose Bowl.
“Going to the Rose Bowl is something I’ve dreamed of doing since I started playing the trombone,” said senior Michelle Sanders. "It feels like an awesome reward for all of the hard work, commitment and dedication over the past four years to this ensemble and my Ducks.”
For others, the trip is the realization of a long-held dream.
“In January 2015 I watched the Oregon Marching Band in the Rose Parade from my living room,” said Lexi Milton, a senior who plays cymbals. “I decided at that moment that I was going to join my high school marching band because I wanted to join the OMB when I graduated. In many ways, seeing the band in the Rose Parade changed my whole life, and now five years later I get to march in their footsteps.”
The activities commence Dec. 27 when the band departs Eugene by bus, with a stopover at a Sacramento high school for a rehearsal and then on to Glendale College for a recruitment event. Next stop: Disneyland train station for a special performance. The next couple of days are booked solid with a flurry of nonstop performances at local venues, culminating with a New Year’s Eve Rose Bowl bash in downtown Los Angeles.
Kicking off the festivities New Year’s Day is the 131st Rose Parade at 8 a.m., when hundreds of thousands of spectators will line Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena to watch flower-covered floats, equestrian units and marching bands, including the UO Marching Band.
And although the band will conclude its whirlwind tour with performances at the alumni tailgate and the pregame and halftime shows, it’s something senior baritone player Cory Francis says he will likely never forget.
“As a future band director and lover of sports, I’ll have these memories of being a part of the Oregon Marching Band for the rest of my life,” he said. “Go Ducks!”
—By Sharleen Nelson, University Communications