It’s that time of the year again where we face one of our biggest rival in our football schedule: the University of Virginia. This competition between UVA and Virginia Tech is well over a century old, so it’s no wonder why everyone is so invested in the competition between these two schools. However, not many people mention the marching bands in these discussions and debates.
In our regular season games, Virginia Tech’s marching band, the Marching Virginians, is a key component of the electric atmosphere in Lane Stadium. The same can be said for UVA’s Cavalier Marching Band, which was founded in 2003 as a result of multiple donations to the school, according to the band’s website. Both bands perform different halftime shows at every home game, providing new experiences to fans in Lane and Scott Stadium.
Being a member of the Marching Virginians isn’t as easy as one might think. The time commitment alone — 90 minutes every single day — is what keeps the band at peak performance; it also allows them to put together shows in just four rehearsals, which is what they did for this year’s homecoming halftime show.
“Being a part of an organization that embodies the Hokie spirit is an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Andrew Hermansen, student manager for the Marching Virginians. “As a manager for the band, I’m ecstatic to see how the band will perform and how The Spirit of Tech will rock UVA’s stands!”
The mastermind behind the Marching Virginians’ amazing talent is Polly Middleton, the marching band director of four years who holds a doctorate in music education. Middleton has directed countless other marching, symphony and concert bands throughout her career. She started teaching classes at Virginia Tech in 2011 and was the associate director of the Marching Virginians until 2016.
“I always loved marching band. I think it was where I found all my friends and I think I just always liked that atmosphere,” Middleton said. “It’s really special to get to be a part of the unique traditions that are involved with the Virginia Tech Marching Virginians.”
According to The Marching Virginians’ website, the band holds over 350 students, but each student is able to develop a sense of community within the marching band that lasts a lifetime. The day-to-day operations of the band are generally run by the student leadership staff, who work closely with Middleton and the other staff members to ensure that the band performs to the best of its ability.
“I love directing students,” Middleton said. “I love everything about that part of the job. I think I am always so excited when I hear about the things that they’re doing and the internships that they get and the things they go on to do.”
The Cavalier Marching Band also prides itself on the dedication of its student musicians.
According to the Cavalier Marching Band’s website, its director created a “1% better” motto to motivate students to work hard and make their contribution to rehearsals and performances one percent better each day. The director is Elliott Tackitt, who previously worked at the University of Michigan and Arizona State University and is now making his debut as director of bands at UVA this year. Although Tackitt didn’t respond to requests for an interview, Middleton praised the Cavalier Marching Band and it’s leadership staff.
“I always enjoy being there (UVA) and hearing them, but I think that’s because I love watching any band — especially a college band,” Middleton said. “I always think it’s so neat to see what their traditions are and what their style is and what they do.”
Without these marching bands, sporting events and games would never be the same. The Marching Virginians are the very core of Hokie traditions, and the Cavalier Marching Band has also created numerous school spirit traditions. Regardless of this century-long rivalry, all Hokie and Cavalier fans can agree on one thing: The marching bands complete the college football game experience.