WOW Tales: UO Garter Band

University of Oregon Garter Band (Green & Yellow)

Sunday, June 9, 2024


It was an early stage call, with doors at 6 and the performance at 6:30 p.m., for tonight’s annual sentimental send-off of University of Oregon music students who collectively have spent the past school year performing side-by-side at athletic events as the Green Garter Band and Yellow Garter Band. A personal favorite for some of our staff who have been with the WOW Hall for years, this annual event welcomes students and families for an evening of jazz, funk, and groove covers and original arrangements matched alongside heartfelt tributes for seniors moving on. The show was free for UO students, and a cheap $10 for everyone else, with much of the crowd comprised of family and close friends.

It being June, graduations are happening across the country, and for music majors at the UO this event serves as a second ceremony, one filled with laughs, tears, and plenty of musical chops. During the year these students have entertained the masses at football tailgate parties at Autzen, and volleyball and basketball games at Matthew Knight Arena; but the end of year concert takes on a more formal affair…Don’t worry there was still plenty of choreographed silliness and going full ham for the crowd.

The two bands broke out numerous props appropriate for the theme of each song being performed. There were umbrellas, a snorkel mask, a tortilla blanket, and more; and plenty of alternate uses of brass instruments. Amidst playful heckles from fellow students in-between and sometimes during songs, breaks were added to the performance for select band members to provide sincere speeches of gratitude for several departing seniors and band directors. Each senior also provided either an original composition or arrangement of a popular song that they compiled — their senior thesis of sorts performed alongside their friends.

To be a member of the garter bands students must audition — earning a two-year spot in one of the groups if they have the chops. Some of the participants have been performing in school bands together since middle school, making for a very tight musical troupe. While they are official bands under UO guidance and policy, both the green and yellow garter bands are student-led passions first and foremost. Designated student directors organize all rehearsals, performances, and song selections; giving the collectives a bit more of an organic feel and unhindered college student flair than a traditional school marching band.

Yellow Garter Band took the stage first, pausing several times to award departing senior directors with framed photos memorializing their garter band experiences. Among the song selections were arrangements of songs by The Eagles, Doobie Brothers, and Earth Wind & Fire. On multiple occasions members of the Green Garter Band, when not playfully shouting at friends on stage, formed conga lines or otherwise danced in the aisles and encouraged audience members to join in.

The Green Garter Band followed suit, opening with a rendition of Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” followed by more arrangements of popular songs like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Rush’s “YYZ,” and Chappell Roan’s “Red Wine Supernova.” Like the Yellow Garter Band, they too took time between songs to introduce and honor the respective seniors and band directors who had guided the group for the past year and beyond. There were plenty of onstage hugs and silly antics, making for a very proper send-off for these departing students.

With the school year a wrap, the concert was a farewell until the fall for underclassmen, and a final goodbye for graduates who now head off to careers in music. Several already have a head start in that path, as it was announced that several had spent the past year as student music teachers. It was a grand self-celebration of their difficult but fun efforts as students, and surrounded by friends and family a chance to revel in their collective accomplishments.

From a facilities perspective there was a fair amount of spit valves being emptied on our stage than most shows…but then again I suppose in our many years of operations we’ve had far worse liquids get spilled on our stage, so we’ll allow it.

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