Garter Bands provide scholarships and musical outlets for UO students

The Oregon Marching Band rallied the crowd, playing the fight song as the crowd clapped along. (Emerald Archives)

The Yellow and Green Garter Bands are the only ones of their kind in the country. Consisting of two different groups with 12 musicians, each contain some of the most elite musicians that the Oregon Marching Band has to offer.

Unlike the Oregon Marching Band, the Garter Bands are both completely student-led, which has provided many students a head start in music education and direction. The band’s main purpose is to perform at special events such as football and basketball games, but the scholarship-based band has also served as a platform for members to dive into music education. It also strives to show prospective college students that they still have musical opportunities in college and beyond.

According to Christopher McCurdy, a Garter Band alumnus and a graduate teaching fellow in the school of music, members need to perform at a higher caliber than required for the Oregon Marching Band. Members are required to be in the Oregon Marching Band concurrently with the Garter Band, which may total over 28 hours of rehearsals and performances per week.

There is only one person per instrument in the group. Members are expected to memorize upwards of 100 songs, and be able to improvise solos, leaving little margin for error.

“It requires an elite level of talent to play. There is no one to rely on, no laying out, no playing wrong notes,” McCurdy said.

However, the Garter Band is more than just a skilled group that plays music for special events. The group also tries to inspire prospective students to pursue music after high school.

During spring term, the Garter Band travels across the state holding music clinics and performing concerts at high schools to show students that they do not have to put down their instruments after they graduate — and it works. Logistics Director Ted Schera said some of the high school students he taught at the schools have joined both the Oregon Marching Band and the Garter Band.

“It’s really cool to see the next generation come in,” Schera said.

The Garter Band has helped some of its own members pursue music as a lifelong experience.

McCurdy, a music education major, credits much of his success in school to organizing all the rehearsals and directing gigs last year. For Schera, his scholarship has made it possible for him to remain in school and be part of the band. Raiko Green, the musical director of the Yellow Garter Band, wants to become a band director and sees the group as a perfect opportunity to lead a group of passionate individuals and to get involved with music.

“[Joining Garter Band] is hands down the best decision I have ever made,” Green said.

Although pumping up a crowd and contributing to the electric atmosphere in Matthew Knight Arena may be an exciting perk for these musicians, being part of the Garter Band is ultimately more than that.

“It’s not just playing for athletic teams, it’s about students pursuing music as a lifelong experience,” McCurdy said.

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