Football has been the main focus of the Pac-12 realignment, in which all but Oregon State University and Washington State University have jumped ship for other conferences. But what about the bands, cheer squads and other student groups that support athletics? As reported in the Daily Barometer, members of OSU’s marching band are facing their fair share of distress and uncertainty over the Pac-12 collapse.
Mayri Ross is a fifth-year saxophonist in the OSU Marching Band and serves as the band’s recruitment officer. She joins us to talk more about what conference realignment could mean for members of the marching band.
Note: The following transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.
Dave Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB. I’m Dave Miller. As it stands now, only Oregon State University and Washington State University will be in the PAC-12 next year. Much of the talk about this has centered on football since the money football brings in through TV deals is the reason for the implosion of the conference. But what about the bands and cheer squads and other student groups that support athletics. As reported in the daily barometer, members of OSU’s marching band are facing their fair share of distress and uncertainty over the collapse of the PAC-12. Mayri Ross is a fifth year saxophone player in the band and serves as the band’s recruitment officer and she joins us now. Welcome to the show.
Mayri Ross: Hi. Thank you so much for having me. How’s it going?
Miller: Doing great. I’m thrilled to have you on. I should let you know that we let that music in the break play a little bit longer just so we could hear this one little part of the saxophone solo that I’m fond of.
Ross: Thank you.
Miller: You joined the marching band in your first year, five years ago. Why?
Ross: I did. I will say I came from a program in high school that was so, so small. We never had a marching band program. It was very much a hesitancy, kind of new leaf sort of thing. I remember sitting next to my laptop as a freshman and thinking, “Well, that’s a couple 100 friends. That’s fine.” And it really spiraled into something much more meaningful throughout those next five years. I don’t regret it. Honestly.
Miller: It doesn’t sound like it. What do you mean? What was a spiral to meaningfulness over the last five years?
Ross: Oh, boy. It was really falling in love with marching band or even just having some sort of spirited music group, at any sort of function, whether it be a sport function, dinner, just for fun on the side of the road, maybe at a farmers’ market. That kind of music and that kind of energy really brings other people to life in ways that you kind of don’t really expect it to until you start to kind of pay attention to it and kind of pick up on it and notice it and really look around the room and see what happens.
I was talking about this a little bit earlier with someone. The amount of euphoric energy that especially a member of the marching band gets when you’re sitting in the stands of Reser Stadium, [the] crowd is going wild. Corvallis really is, in my opinion, one of the best college towns in the PAC-12. And our student section, our alumni, our community just brings so much of that life that it’s really hard not to love.
Miller: I mean, I can’t help but think when you say it’s one of the best college towns in the PAC-12. Next year, obviously something has to change. There’s not going to be the “PAC-2.” That’s not a conference. But, what kinds of conversations have you had just with your fellow bandmates at OSU since this news broke?
Ross: You know, it’s funny because a lot of those conversations I would say happened even before the news broke. Lots of, “oh my gosh, they’re talking to UW, they’re talking to University of Oregon” for almost a little more than a year now. So I think sometimes there was like a little jolt of tension every single time someone would share an article in our kind of shared band group chats. Everyone would be like, “No, it’s fine. They wouldn’t do that. We’re going into a Power Five Conference.” When that news broke, I don’t wanna say it was frenzied, but it was definitely curious. It was definitely fearful and it was definitely angry. A lot of confusion on why these decisions are being made. What really brought those kind of upper heads who, of course [were] not really talking to the students. Of course. None of us were in the room where it happened. So I think there was a lot of frustration on the part of, what about the students? What about the athletes, both in football and all of these other athletic programs that are impacted? And no one’s talking about the basketball teams, the rowing teams, the soccer teams that all also contribute a lot to this conference. So I think there’s a lot of frustration there.
In terms of the band, I think there was a lot more of a bated breath, if you will, just in terms of, a lot of what happens with us depends on what happens with how things pan out in the next year. So not a lot to talk about besides, well, “RIP to the PAC-12, we’ll have a good time but, as always Go Beavers!”
Miller: One of the big issues that we’ve talked about and others is travel and before that’s been in the context of student athletes. But what does regular travel look like for the band and for you in the last five years?
Ross: Yeah, I think that’s an awesome question. Travel, historically, has honestly been one of our strongest points of accessibility and accommodation. Just like being able to accommodate everyone in the band. It’s always a pleasure and honestly, such a privilege to be able to say, you went to Vegas, you went to Seattle, California, sometimes for the first time. Sometimes the only time that people have in their lives, without having to worry so much about financials. I remember my first ever trip was to California Berkeley in 2019. We shoved the whole band onto a couple of charter buses. You get certain per diems paid out by the university unless you are provided a breakfast, lunch or dinner. We get those per diems to just make sure we’re well fed - one of the best fed bands in the PAC-12, in my opinion. But that’s pretty much what simple travel looks like.
It all depends on where we’re going. It all depends on conference things, available schools to us that’ll dictate how many people we can either fund to get on a bus or on a plane.
Miller: It’s possible that when all the dust settles that you could be in a conference that has teams that are much further away. We don’t know yet. What would that mean?
Ross: I honestly wish I could tell you. There’s so much speculation and it’s somewhat hard to really draw a lot of conclusions. Because of course you can speculate, just using California again and Stanford as an example here. Two Pacific coast schools have just joined the Atlantic Coast Conference, which is notably 3,000 miles away, which is great. That’s awesome. But that kind of makes buses harder, it makes driving, taking a train…it definitely complicates a lot of things.
But also at the same time, you never really know. Oregon State and Washington State have been doing a really awesome job trying to keep the students in mind. So I guess it’s really just, well, besides what the band kids can conjure up, it’s kind of really hard to say right now. Honestly, Dave, I apologize.
Miller: That’s all right. I mean, I don’t think we’d be talking if there were 100% certainty, but I’m curious, one thing that you do as the recruitment officer is to try to get people to join the band. Do you think that that job is going to change in the coming years when you’re not in the PAC-12?
Ross: Yes and no. I don’t know if much of the certain physical substance of, we go out, we’re gonna table at a lot of these high school marching band competitions, a lot of locality in Oregon that we’re really targeting…I just think there’s a different kind of language to be used now that a lot of our community and a lot of the things that we call tradition, the typical bonds and connections that we’ve made with other programs in the conference. Of course, a lot of those naturally will change as our conference is changing. And I know that for a lot of folks coming in, honestly, I feel really awesome that a lot of these folks get one more year of kind of knowing a little bit of that experience. But I always do kind of question, especially in my position, how the draw will change as those connections and community cultures change.
But I also believe, and I was talking about this a little bit the other day as well. These are kind of everyday conversations as you can kind of tell. I’m hoping and I believe in our university atmosphere enough and honestly, our atmosphere as an organization as a band to really foster a lot of that, still have a lot of fun. We’re still your goofy, local favorite band. And I think that energy honestly should be enough to keep our numbers going. This year, we had a historic [number]. 305 people signed up as of July 31st with intent to march in the band this year. And obviously, those numbers change as the year comes closer, people realize scheduling things. So of course, people sometimes have to drop. But, I don’t see that energy and that excitement for our craft and our school and kind of that energy that I was talking about that we bring to the university into those game days, I don’t see any of that stopping. And honestly, I’m thinking that that’ll be our strong point for recruiting for this year.
Miller: Meanwhile, just with 30 seconds left, this is your last year. What are you most looking forward to?
Ross: Oh boy. A little bit of everything. You know, the beaver spirit is real and honestly, I love everyone who I do all my work with. It’s been honestly such an amazing time. I’ve met lifelong friends through this program. And I’m just ready to wrap it all up in a really nice way.
Miller: Mayri, congratulations and thanks for your time today.
Ross: Thank you so, so much.
Miller: Mayri Ross is a fifth year student, plays tenor sax in the Oregon State University marching band and is also the recruitment officer for the band.
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