Marching bands meet, compete.
In order to run with the big dogs, you have to venture from the porch.
For Michele Wofford, a freshman who plays clarinet with the Thurston High School Marching Band, that meant waiting hours after performing Saturday to catch some of the premier Northwest marching ensembles during the 26th annual University of Oregon Festival of Bands competition.
"Evergreen, they're the band I want to see," Wofford said, referring to the 200-plus members of the Vancouver, Wash., band.
The high school band competition held at Autzen Stadium drew musicians from 27 schools from across the West.
The event had entries from 22 schools in Western Oregon, two each from Spokane and Vancouver, and an entry from Carson City, Nev.
Bands competed in three different categories based on size: 90 and fewer members, 91 to 130 members, and those with more than 131 members, organizers said.
Thurston, Willamette and Sheldon high schools were the only entries from Lane County and each competed in the small band category.
During a lunch break, Wofford and about a half-dozen fellow band members huddled near their equipment truck in the parking lot to enjoy homemade chili out of plastic foam cups.
Band members said they pick up tips on precision and band cohesiveness from watching Evergreen, North Salem High School and Grants Pass High School, which has captured the grand championship trophy 11 times since the Festival of Bands competition began in 1978.
At 44 members, Thurston's band was one of the smallest in Saturday's competition. And size does matter.
"With fewer members, judges can hear every mistake," Wofford said.
Band members begin practicing two weeks before the first day of classes and drill 2 1/2 hours, twice a week, she said.
Fellow band member, Caitlin Howe, a sophomore trombone player, said the long hours and constant drilling are worth it.
"It's such an adrenaline rush to go through the tunnel and come out on the floor of Autzen Stadium to compete," Howe said.
The festival draws 6,000 to 8,000 spectators and is the University of Oregon band's main fund-raising activity of the year, said Jeremy Zander, festival coordinator.
Judges use a point system to focus on various performance areas, such as individual and ensemble visual, individual and ensemble musical presentation, auxiliary (flag twirlers), percussion and overall effect, Zander said.
"Passion, hard work, energy ... so that your performance is communicated to the audience is key to winning," he said.
Results of the competition were not available Saturday night.
During the daylong event, the UO band offered a matinee performance of George Gershwin songs. Later in the evening, the band performed a medley of music from all three Harry Potter films.
"Harry Potter has a lot of contrasting music and a real cool swing section, too," Zander said.
A soloist for the Skyview High School Band from Vancouver, Wash., plays at Autzen Stadium. Paul Hinman of New York was one of the judges at the festival on Saturday. Judges use a point system to focus on various performance areas, such as individual and ensemble musical presentation, auxiliary (flag twirlers), percussion and overall effect. Wayne Eastburn / The Register-Guard