Banding Together: UCC Opens Field to Smoked-Out High School

GPHS Marching Band IMG 7017x

Air quality in Southern Oregon drives Grants Pass High School's 200+ member marching band north to use UCC's field to practice.

ROSEBURG, Oregon – As fires and the smoke grip much of Southern Oregon, many outdoor school programs have found themselves seeking clearer skies in neighboring communities in order to properly prepare for the upcoming school year. One of those programs includes Grants Pass High School’s Marching Band. As the massive group prepares for its upcoming, competitive marching season, they are also preparing to appear on one of America’s grandest stages—the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Problem is... the air quality won't allow them to practice outside at home.

“In Grants Pass, we’ve been stuck in smoke for the last month and a half,” Jason Garcia, the band director at Grants Pass High School, said. “Even though we had hopes of it blowing out of our valley, it did not. So we had to find a facility that could accommodate 200 plus band kids, a football field, and the space to warm up in. We were so fortunate to find UCC.”

On Wednesday morning, Umpqua Community College’s (UCC) campus population grew by approximately 230 with the band’s arrival for the first outdoor marching practice of the school year. UCC’s field will be their temporary practice grounds for the next few weeks. The band will continue to commute to UCC’s campus daily for their practices.

“We’re just smoked out,” Jeremy Sutton, the high school’s assistant band director, said. “Our air quality is at a 160, (UCC) is at a 57 which is lightyears better. Our school district won’t let us go outside if air quality is at 100 or greater and that really gets in the way of the movement portion of the marching band rehearsal.”

“Early August, late July we saw this possibility coming and I just happened to get ahold of someone who said ‘talk to Craig Jackson at UCC,’ and he’s been phenomenal. He’s gone out of his way to be hospitable,” Sutton said.

For UCC Athletics Director Craig Jackson, answering the request was an easy choice to make, and he did it free of charge.

“They called and told us what their issue was and we were able to accommodate them,” Jackson said. “Anytime we can help someone out, and we’re not using (the field) right now, it makes a lot of sense for us to do it.”

Garcia said getting a practice space booked was important at this point in the season, “Our season starts now. We start competing in late September. We have an 8-minute marching band show that we do.”

The band’s routine includes memorized formation choreography as well as memorized music.

Beyond their competitive season the band will be traveling to New York City this November to bring their sound and showmanship to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Grants Pass is one of only eight high school band ensembles chosen to perform at the 91-year-old parade.

In addition to hosting the marching band, Grants Pass' cross country team is also practicing at UCC. To the north, Central Point's Crater High School band is utilizing facilities in Sutherlin.

About Umpqua Community College

Nestled in the beautiful North Umpqua River Valley, Umpqua Community College is the regional center for higher education in Douglas County, Oregon. UCC provides high quality college degree programs, workforce development, and community learning opportunities.

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