WOU brings home the music with marching band

MONMOUTH — Western Oregon University received a blast from the past last year when drumline director Ben Protheroe brought back its marching band.

There hasn’t been one since the early ’80s.

“I took over for the drumline director two years ago, and it was an ensemble that I started when in my undergrad, and it was liked well enough that the administration wanted to keep it around,” Protheroe said. “… Well this last year, I also threw my hat in the ring to take over the pep band. At that point, all WOU had was drumline and a pep band. There was such a huge interest from the students (for marching band) and they wanted to make this happen, so it was just something that came all by itself.”

Since its establishment in spring term of last year, the marching band has grown from 10 members to nearly 50, Protheroe said.

“So now, next year, the pep band is being marketed as a marching band for fall football season,” he said. “So we’ll see how it goes. It may go really, really well. We’re just giving it a shot and doing the best we can to make it happen.”

The marching band’s first official event was last May.

“We went to our first official parade as the WOU marching band in Florence,” Protheroe said.

He has more events planned for the 2019-20 school year. 

“Right now we have it lined up that we will be performing at all of our home football games. We are working on planning a field show and a pre-game, like you’d see at some of your bigger schools, OSU, U of O,” he said. “We’re going to try to work into it, so I’m looking at performing at one game, not trying to be at all of the games. We’ll be at the stands for all the games but down in the field for one. We’ll be at the homecoming bonfire, we’ve been doing that for a while, the tree lighting parade in Monmouth, and then if we can hack it, we’re also looking at potentially doing the Albany Veteran’s Day Parade. The drumline did it last year, but I’d love to see the full band go. But as the band grows, it gets tough logistically to have everyone there.”

Protheroe also plans on having the band perform at halftime for a few of the basketball games.

“We’re also looking at doing at a springtime parade.”

Protheroe said that without the students’ enthusiasm, this marching band wouldn’t exist.

“Our marching band, like a lot of school marching bands, is completely volunteer,” he said. “We reached out and said, ‘hey we’re starting this up, would you like to be a part of it? We’re starting to reinvest the pep band with a goal of being a marching band in the future.’ It’s been really good. There have been a lot of dedicated students volunteering their time to be a part of this.”

The instruments you’ll see in the marching band are “just your typical marching band instruments,” Protheroe said. “You’ve got your drums for the drumline, clarinet, saxophones, trumpet, tubas.”

The idea to recreate a marching band at WOU was personal for Protheroe.

“I came from a high school that had a marching band, and I really, really wanted to do Drum and Bugle Corps,” he said. “Drum and Bugle Corps is competition marching band, and there’s a bunch of groups around and you audition for them, and you go on this big tour to a bunch of judged competitions.”

“Unfortunately I couldn’t, because I had to pay my way to go to college. So I had to get a job. So this is my way of giving back to WOU for the people who go to WOU who maybe wanted to be a part of the drum corps but couldn’t, or wanted to go to a school that had a drumline but couldn’t afford it. And I was like, hey I have skills in this and some marketing ability and I’ve got a real passion for this marching band stuff. ...Maybe we can really make something of the marching band program and really develop a marching band program for little old Western. So, that’s why I do it.”

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