NORMAN — About half the members of the University of Oklahoma band will have new instruments when they march on Owen Field during Saturday's football game, thanks to a new program that also will benefit high school bands in the years to come.
Under a special arrangement with Yamaha, the Pride of Oklahoma has bought new mellophones, marching baritones, sousaphones, trombones and red marching drums at a reduced rate, Pride Director Brian Britt said. In three years or so, Oklahoma high school bands will get a chance to buy those instruments, used only on game days, at a special price.
The OU band, which has about 300 members, will then use that money to buy new instruments from Yamaha, again at a reduced rate.
“Our main intent is to try to make a positive impact for band programs across the state,” Britt said. “Yamaha is helping us make that affordable on our end, and then we're able to pass that savings on to the other schools.”
The Pride of Oklahoma practiced with the instruments Friday and planned to debut them at the Sooners' game against Notre Dame.
OU's unique effort to help out high schools appealed to Yamaha in making the arrangement, said Roger Eaton, the company's director of marketing.
“Yamaha very much believes in music. It's the foundation of why our company exists. It's the joy and benefit of having music in our lives,” Eaton said, calling the arrangement “more than just a transaction.”
Britt said the oldest instruments OU was able to replace this year under the new arrangement were 27-year-old sousaphones, “five years older than our oldest player.”
OU President David Boren worked with the regents to allocate about $350,000 to pay for the new instruments, Britt said, adding that Yamaha made “an amazing offer for us to be able to do this.”
The instruments that Yamaha helped replace were the ones schools typically provide for band members because they are specific to marching bands, Britt said. Other students use their own instruments — often an older one because marching band instruments can take a beating on the field in heat, rain, snow or sleet.
Purcell High School was among the first to take advantage of the older instruments OU offered for sale to make room for the new ones.
This effort “is bigger than just selling instruments because of what the university is doing by giving back to the community,” Eaton said.