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With Spring Sports Cancelled, a College Senior Talks About Missing Their Final Season in Band

Elizabeth Gabriel

The COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns have been especially hard on seniors who were expecting to celebrate major milestones this season, including graduation. Now, a University of Oregon student talks about missing out on their final season in band.

21-year-old Karen Steele has graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in a popular music and minors in business administration and audio production.

“Having my last term of college online has had a lot of the challenges as a music major,” said Steele. “I need access to like the practice rooms to be able to play my instrument. So now I'm playing it in my apartment and I'm worried I'm like annoying roommates and other people in the nearby apartment.”

Originally, Steele was a computer science major for their first two years at UO. But Steele changed their major after they realized STEM wasn't for them.

“I didn't know the kinds of music program that UO had until I talked to someone else,” said Steele. “And it was just like the light bulb went off—like it just clicked. And I was like, ‘Yes, that's what I want to do.’”

But with school buildings closed, Steele said they missed out on a lot of events, such as guest speakers talking about the music industry.

“The guest speaker I was super excited about—he composed the Shrek films and he's done the composition for video games and stuff like that,” said Steele. “So I thought it'd just be really interesting to hear the thought process behind that. And he was going to show us a clip of Mulan that he had composed. But he wasn't allowed to do that because people might've been recording the screen.”

This year was also Steele’s first year in the UO marching band. But the season was cut short due to the pandemic. As a basketball band member, they were supposed to travel with the team to the NCAA tournaments.

“The women's basketball team won the Pac-12 and the men's won the Pac-12, and we were just really excited to keep the ball rolling and being able to support our team,” said Steele. “And then to have the final championships canceled is not the ideal way.”

Before the games were cancelled, Steele even wrote and produced a song, 'Only Winners Stay,' about the women's basketball team.

Now that Steele has graduated, they want to work with a recording and music production company. Steele hopes to move to Portland in August.

This story is part of a series of audio postcards documenting the missed milestones of graduating high school and college seniors.

Elizabeth Gabriel is a former KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She is an education reporter at WFYI in Indianapolis.
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