Music ensemble revs up the team and fans with music, antics
Reese Court got a physical remake in 2012 with new seats and a video display.
Those improvements at the home of Eastern Washington University’s basketball and volleyball programs have now been augmented with an entirely new atmosphere and vibe with the introduction of Code Red.
The music ensemble that is the product of a collaboration of a variety of EWU entities has drawn rave reviews from fans, school officials, players and coaches.
“Code Red is definitely first team all Big Sky,” Eagle men’s coach Jim Hayford said. “The fans love them, the players love them, they are a difference maker.”
Hayford will take all the help he can get as his Eagles are home for a pair of games critical to his team’s hopes to reach the Big Sky Conference Tournament for a second year in a row. Eastern hosts Northern Colorado tonight (Thursday, Feb. 28) at 6:05 p.m. and North Dakota Saturday at 2:05 p.m.
“Their impact is huge,” women’s coach Wendy Schuller said. “They’ve made a huge difference this year in terms of giving us that home court advantage that as a home team you want to have and hope to have.”
Eastern athletics director Bill Chaves calls the 17-member group, “an environmental game changer.”
“It’s really been fun hasn’t it,” Patrick Winters, Eastern Washington University’s director of bands said. Our students have really enjoyed it, he said, “So it’s been win, win.” EWU’s music faculty has been fully behind the effort, Winters said.
Winters, who is in his 24th year at Eastern, said in recent years there hasn’t been much student interest in playing at basketball games at Eastern. “You can’t force them to have school spirit,” he said. “It should come form the heart.”
“When Patrick and I met last year and we kind of got to a point, what are your reasons and what are our reasons and can we communicate what we’re trying to do to the other side of campus,” Chaves said, using code for the administration.
The idea was thoroughly embraced across Washington Street a line of sorts of campus demarcation.
“I will say this, (EWU President) Dr. Arevalo saw the greater good with this and he used some of his initiative funds to be able to help us through this whole thing,” Chaves said.
For his part, Winters said they looked at music programs around the nation and ended up liking what the University of Oregon does.
“They have a group called the Green Garter Band,” Winters explained. “It’s been around for 20 to 30 years and it’s been really successful.”
The Green Garter Band is what Winters calls a service ensemble when they need “hit and run entertainment.”
“When they need basketball music, they need a presidential luncheon, that sort of thing, so as a result they’ve created this high-powered group,” Winters said. “What they do at the University of Oregon is they waive the student’s tuition.”
The group’s job and source of income is to perform in what Winters called a win-win situation where the students are rewarded and the university gets what they need.
“We put that proposal together, brought it to our dean and the president,” Winters said. “They weren’t able to waive tuition but they do get scholarship.”
Code Red has been assembled through blind auditions. “I said we only want to do this if we can do it right,” Winters said. “We don’t want to limp along like we have the past few years.”
Prior to the formation of Code Red Winters said it was a real challenge, wandering the halls looking for volunteers to play at games. “It was very hit and miss.”
“So athletics behind it, the president got behind it and the result is we have 17 members and a couple of different directors,” Winters said. Custom music is written for the group by a staff arranger and uniforms – a red T-shirt – are supplied through EWU athletics and Adidas. “It’s just been a riot.”
It’s been very competitive and the group features the strongest players in the program. “There are a lot of music majors in that group; not all of them but most are music majors,” Winters said.
Along with playing high-energy music, the group also hoists and waves giant cutouts of many familiar faces when the opposing team is shooting free throws they attempt to pose a distraction. Those faces include EWU head coaches Jim Hayford and Wendy Schuller, players like Collin Chiverton and Venky Jois, plus celebrities such as Betty White, the Hulk, Shrek, and more.
“If your team is successful or competitive it obviously makes a huge difference, that’s probably the biggest piece of the puzzle,” Chaves said. “But, from the chair where I sit it’s always important when you have fellow students urging other students.”
Chaves just looks down the road to Spokane. “Holy cow, you can’t tell me the Kennel Club doesn’t make a difference (at Gonzaga University).”
“All said and done if we drew it up this has probably far exceeded my expectations,” Chaves said.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.