By: Maygan Beckers
Jake McGrew, a member of the Oregon Marching Band, scrambled in his room to find something to wear. The marching band always walks to different campus bars the Friday nights before home football games in Eugene, doing something known as “beergating.” McGrew, a senior, wanted to stand out. He searched his room for something “festive” that was green- for Oregon- and unique.
His eyes stopped as soon as they saw his green Nike Speedo. He thought it was a nice night. He could survive with the slight chill in the air.
This is how McGrew, a serious saxophonist and music major, ended up traipsing all over Eugene in his Speedo for three football seasons.
“That’s part of how outgoing, funny, and kind of crazy he is,” says Tyson Striley, who met McGrew in the Oregon Marching Band four years ago.
McGrew, who just finished his senior recital and is now preparing for his graduation, has a mischievous streak that he lets out when he plays with the beergating crew.
“This was my outlet to actually put my loudness out there,” McGrew says. “I’m the kind of person who doesn’t care what other people think about me.”
‘Beergating,’ which is not affiliated with the Oregon Marching Band, consists of band members playing songs around the campus bars on Friday nights before home football games. Members of the band participate in this event to get everyone “ready” for the next day’s game.
His favorite song to play in his speedo while beergating is “Crazy in Love” because McGrew does a ‘booty pop’ move that he says “works a lot better when I’m in less clothing.”
“It’s always fun to see how far you can get to like what is considered normal and see how people react when you get farther and farther away from normal,” McGrew says.
Striley says that no matter how stressful it is in the band, McGrew can still make it fun and entertaining while getting good work done.
McGrew started playing baritone saxophone in seventh grade. When he came to Eugene for school in 2008, he started playing the baritone horn for the Oregon Marching Band and has played for them ever since. He is serious about his performance in music. However, McGrew has a split personality with all of the humor built inside of him.
Striley says that over the years he has known McGrew, they have gotten close. He says McGrew has kept a really fun lightheartedness about everything, while also becoming a leader and being serious about his performance.
Because McGrew says he is “getting older” and about having a two majors, he says he has a lot more responsibilities than wearing his green Nike speedo.
Despite his speedo, McGrew’s had a full-ride scholarship for three years because of his membership in the elite Green Garter Band. Eric Wiltshire, UO assistant director of Oregon Athletic Bands, says he knows that McGrew has been a dedicated member of the band.
Wiltshire says McGrew is good at quiet leadership. McGrew has been a student leader within the marching band and was baritone section leader for a couple of years. “He’s walked this interesting life between a brass player and a woodwind player, between playing the baritone and the saxophone,” Wiltshire says.
Because the baritone is a brass instrument and the saxophone is woodwind, McGrew says it’s cool to see the differences and similarities while playing both instruments throughout the year.
All woodwind instruments have a ‘reed’ that a musician blows into. A reed is a mouthpiece that connects to the saxophone. The sound the saxophone makes comes from the vibration of the reed.
With brass instruments, there is usually a mouthpiece already connected to the instrument. The sound of McGrew’s baritone comes from his lips vibrating into the instrument.
“I wanted something new and it [the baritone horn] was completely different from saxophone. It’s in almost every kind of music,” McGrew says. “You see it in classical, jazz, and rock.”
He says that music is an outlet because he is so busy. He defines ‘letting go’ as losing himself in his music, not having to worry about anything, and clearing his mind of everything else.
“I just need to let stress out. It’s a good way for me to feel like I’m getting work done, but also being creative at the same time,” McGrew says.
McGrew says that he is getting to the point where people enjoy listening to him play and he likes that feeling. Along with the people that surround McGrew, he notices in each performance that he is playing better.
“When you actually see yourself get better, it’s really cool,” McGrew says. “Just this year even, I’ve been playing classical saxophone.” He says he likes the sound of it the most out of everything.
As Jake McGrew walks across the stage to receive his diploma, he will always remember being known for the one who started the trend of wearing a Speedo when beergating on Friday nights.
For more information on the Oregon Marching Band and Green Garter Band, please visit: http://bit.ly/Kos9qY.