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Ducks in the Desert: UO Marching Band

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Underneath the bright lights at Saguaro High School, the Oregon Marching Band worked out some of the kinks after a weeks-long hiatus.

“We are not ready for Thursday, but it’s been a month since we’ve seen them,” said Eric Wiltshire, the band’s director. “It’s been a month since we’ve been together, so this was a good starting point.”

The students worked the steps out, making sure they know them forward and backward.

“It can be a little difficult to jump back in, but I feel like we work so hard in the fall that it’s easy to get it back,” said UO senior and alto saxophone player Haley Ellis.

Alan Sylvestre, a fellow alto sax player, agrees: “It’s not too hard. It’s kind of muscle memory, so it should still be there.”

Wiltshire watched the band from the stands, making sure everyone made it to their mark. When they didn’t, they got stern words from the man who might be the band’s toughest critic. Wiltshire knows there will be millions — some even tougher than he is — critiquing the Fiesta Bowl performance. After all, the group knows the BCS drill.

“The seniors this year, they’ve done Rose Bowl, BCS, Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl,” Wiltshire said. “It’s a pretty good run for them.”

With four consecutive bowl appearances, just like with the football team, there’s pressure on the marching band too.

“There are always stressful moments,” admitted Ellis. “But I think the payoff is way more than any stress that we have.”

There is a definite payoff for students, who get to travel and perform for a national TV audience. The band itself also gets a boost.

“It’s good for recruiting,” Wiltshire said.  “It’s great for the program. We’ve grown every year since 2005.”

As the band has grown, so has its repertoire.

“I’m excited about the music we’re doing, the ‘Rock of Ages’ stuff,” said Wiltshire. “That show we started earlier in the year, put it away and now we’re coming back to it. It’s fun to relive the beginning of the season.”

The marching band isn’t all fun. In the days leading up to the Fiesta Bowl performance, the musicians will put in a lot of hard work, work that needs to get done by Thursday.

Said Wiltshire: “By game day, we’ll have everything clicking again.”

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