Festival of Bands makes its return to Autzen Stadium

The Festival of Bands, on a COVID-19 hiatus since 2019, returns to Autzen Stadium with a full day of competition featuring more than two dozen high school marching bands from Oregon, Washington and California.

The event takes place Nov. 5 and is expected to draw more than 5,000 people to the UO football stadium. A $15 admission fee covers the entire day and includes in-and-out privileges from the stadium. Seats are located on the south side of Autzen. See the festival website for tickets and more information.

The Festival of Bands is a highlight of the year for high school bands up and down the West Coast.

“It’s the apex moment of the high school marching band season,” said Anna Frazer, administrative coordinator of UO athletic bands. “Twenty-nine schools from the Pacific Northwest and beyond come to Eugene to compete. It’s an absolutely incredible day of fun, education and UO recruitment.”

High schools compete based on the size of their marching band. With many high schools still recovering from COVID-19, this year’s participating schools range in size from Tigard High School’s 26 musicians to Grants Pass High School’s 176. The local community is represented by Sheldon High School and its 89 students.

Frazer, who is celebrating her 10th year coordinating the festival, emphasizes the professionalism and rigor of the event.

“Trained, national marching professionals serve as judges for the competition,” she said. “Judges sit at the field level and in the higher stands, monitoring for technique, formations and quality of performance. They offer written and verbal feedback after the competition.”

Three top winners are named, but honors are also earned in the categories of high music, high visual, high general effect, high percussion and color guard.

Performances last about 10 minutes and feature a variety of music from classically influenced work to modern pop culture. In a deviation from college bands, high schools use costumes and props to fit a theme.

Members of the Oregon Marching Band manage the entire competition.

“Selling programs, scanning tickets, running recruitment booths, and acting as ushers are just a few of the tasks OMB members tackle during the day,” Frazer said.

She also noted that each high school is assigned three Oregon Marching Band members to act as guides and mentors for the day, establishing personal connections and creating relationships between current and future Ducks.

The Oregon Marching Band will perform twice during the day, once at the end of the preliminary round and once at the end of the finals.

Parking is $5, cash only, but also includes in-and-out privileges. Seating and parking are both general admission on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets for seniors, students and military are $10 . All proceeds from the day go to support Oregon Marching Band efforts to raise money for a custom equipment truck and new instruments.