Home After 40 years, the voice of the Marching Virginians is signing off

After 40 years, the voice of the Marching Virginians is signing off


vtech-logoIf you’ve been to a Virginia Tech football game in the last 40 years, you’ve heard Paul A. “Tony” Distler’s distinctive and clear baritone boom over the public address system during the Marching Virginians’ halftime show.

This Friday, Nov. 28, will be your last chance. “The Voice” is turning off the microphone after the last home game of the season against Virginia.

“Tony has been tireless and selfless in his support of the Marching Virginians. His role as ‘The Voice’ doesn’t begin to define his contributions since 1974,” said David McKee, director of the Marching Virginians.

Distler’s advice to band members has been invaluable over the years, McKee said. “Whether learning to really sell a dance or enunciating the signature audible of ‘H-O-K-I-E-S … Hokies,’ Tony’s words of wisdom on topics like showmanship, embracing the audience, and professionalism have shaped the band for years to come,” he said.

Distler, an Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus, is the creator of the university’s performing arts program. He came to Virginia Tech in 1967 to a 6 1/2-faculty position program and built it into a division with 10 times as many members.

He retired from the university in 2004, but he remains active as a teacher, performer, director, scholar, television host, producer, and nonprofit consultant. Most recently, he supplied the voiceover during the Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands’ installation ceremony.

“Tony’s contributions to the university have created a legacy for years to come,” said Elizabeth Spiller, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “The prominence of the performing arts across campus – whether in the Marching Virginians practice field currently under construction or in arts initiatives within the School of Performing Arts(http://www.performingarts.vt.edu) itself – are not new things but emerged out and were made possible by the distinguished tradition of leadership provided by faculty members like Tony.”

Distler has been an ardent advocate for the arts at Virginia Tech, as well as the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. He has spoken to dozens of alumni groups about the importance of the arts in educating the whole person as a rational, moral thinker.

Distler also advocates for quality of life for the elderly. In 2013, he served as president of the Warm Hearth Village Foundation’s Board of Trustees and spent a decade as chairman of a major capital campaign for the its new Village Center, which boasts a theatre, as well as a pool and fitness center.

He served on the Virginians for the Arts’ board of directors and chaired both the Blacksburg Partnership Collaborative for the Arts and the artisan network ‘Round the Mountain. He also was a consultant on the historic Lincoln Theatre in Marion, Virginia.

A popular professor who could stir a 550-student arts foundation class into intense activity, Distler received the university’s W.E. Wine Award for Teaching Excellence. He wrote about arts administration and vaudeville in a variety of journals and books  and hosted the 13-part television series “A Better Mousetrap” that pbs syndicated regionally. His most recent television work was producer and host of “Dimensions,” a 44-part series of one-hour enrichment programs beamed by satellite to Virginia high schools.

During a special ceremony in September 2007, the Marching Virginians honored him by naming the Tony Distler Marching Band Tower. Approved by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, the honor celebrated his integral role in the creation and success of the Marching Virginians.

Distler is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Williams College with a bachelor’s degree in English. He received a master’s degree and doctorate in theatre from Tulane University.



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