Ducks march onto GCC campus

The University of Oregon marching band is no stranger to prime-time shows — its student musicians have accompanied their football team to a series of back-to-back bowl appearances, including the Bowl Championship Series title game last year.

But the excitement was still palpable Friday at Glendale Community College, where the Ducks rehearsed this week in preparation for their Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game appearances.

“For the bands, I think this is bigger than the national championship, which we got to experience last year,” said director Eric Wiltshire. “From a band standpoint, this is the most exciting bowl game to go to. We are excited to be here.”

This is the fifth consecutive year that Glendale Community College as served as a home away from home for a visiting band. Last December, the campus was filled with the echoes of “On Wisconsin.” The year before that, the college hosted the marching bands from Ohio State University, a Rose Bowl contender, and the University of Alabama, which competed in the national championship game played at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 7, 2010.

The band practices are free and open to the public, and offer guests an in-person preview of the halftime show, said Jon Gold, division chairman for physical education, health and athletics.

The Oregon contingent that took to the college’s Sartoris Field this week included 220 band members, as well as 40 cheerleaders.

“The exposure is pretty crazy,” said 22-year-old drum major Eli Johnson. “It is good for us because it makes us work harder — we know there are going to be tons and tons of people watching us.”

Saxophone player Nick Hiatt, 24, performed with the band at the Rose Bowl two years ago and said that it was great to be back.

“The energy this time is much, much bigger. We are just so much more amped up for this, we are ready to go,” Hiatt said. “It has been a long year, but we worked all year for this.”

The band is maintaining a tight schedule while in Southern California, including performances at Disneyland, Band Fest and multiple rehearsals, Wiltshire said.

“They come in real focused and they are excited by the opportunity,” Wiltshire said. “The students who were here two years ago are helping the other ones understand what is going on and what a big deal it is.”

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