Marching as one: Virginia Tech’s Marching Virginians connect virtually

By Andrew Adkins

virginia techTogether with spirit true and faithful, the Virginia Tech community can overcome any hardship. The Marching Virginians delivered that message in sensational fashion.

Band members performed the university’s most popular fight song, “Tech Triumph,” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, uniting Hokies around the world with the force of music.

From bedrooms, apartments, and backyards, members of The Marching Virginians recorded themselves performing individual parts of the song. Some students choreographed their outfits with Hokie gear. The drum line wore sunglasses and baseball caps. One student even offered comic relief by wearing an alien-abduction costume.

Trombones, clarinets, saxophones, piccolos, trumpets, mellophones, and one tuba accompanied a measured drumbeat as color guard members spun Hokie flags.

The effort resulted in a harmonious rendition of an iconic ballad.

“As Marching Virginians, we’re known as ‘The Spirit of Tech,’” said cymbals player Alana Hassett, a senior majoring in professional and technical writing. “We specialize in creating excitement.”

Hassett serves as online content officer for The Marching Virginians. She organized the video project with help from Marching Virginians Director Polly Middleton.

“We wanted to do something to let the Virginia Tech community know the Spirit of Tech is still going strong,” said Middleton. “This is an enormous project, but the MVs are service oriented, so it’s right up our alley. I am so proud of these students, their accomplishments, and how much joy they take in what we do.”

Traditionally, Middleton would stand in a field with the band of 330, directing their movements and instruments. Synchronizing the music remotely meant developing a new strategy.

Hassett sent members a click track with a metronome to ensure the band members played in rhythm.

“I’m used to playing ‘Tech Triumph’ with 329 other people around me,” said junior Karen Small, who plays saxophone. “But we have some amazing and talented people, and I knew we could pull it all together.”

This year Small has juggled a civil and environmental engineering major with serving as executive officer of The Marching Virginians. She started playing saxophone in fifth grade and earned a spot in the band as a first-year student.

Small said she’s kept in contact with fellow band members since Virginia Tech transitioned from in-person to online classes in March in response to the pandemic.

“Almost all of my best friends are in the band. It’s always been a family to me,” said Small. “Everyone says that, but it really is a family. I love the MVs and I can say that forever.”

The storied history of The Marching Virginians began in 1974. Along with the Highty-Tighties, the regimental band of the Corps of Cadets, The Marching Virginians has served as a staple of Hokie football games and parades.

Fourth-year student Ashlyn McDonald is a drum major in The Marching Virginians. For McDonald, playing in front of 66,000 fans at Lane Stadium is more than a thrill. It’s an example of unifying through song.

“That was one the best things about making this video, bringing people together,” said McDonald, who is majoring in computer science and math.

Like Small, McDonald said she’s forged everlasting bonds. “I found so many friends I know will be with me for my lifetime, who will be in my wedding,” she said.

After receiving all of the footage from band members, Hassett edited the video. The passion of her fellow students shows through in each clip, she said.

“Moving to online classes and not being able to see people from the band made me worried I’d feel disconnected from my school,” Hassett said. “But this project reconnected me with my favorite organization, and reminded me of my favorite thing about Virginia Tech. It also reminded me of one of my favorite things about The Marching Virginians: Our spirit is visible.”


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