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Marching band at Vienna high school is finalist in national competition judged by Metallica

Rebecca Barnabi
(© fotografiecor – stock.adobe.com)

Oakton High School Marching Band in Vienna is a finalist in a national high school and college marching band competition judged by heavy metal band Metallica.

Metallica sponsored the competition, called “For Whom the Band Tolls,” for the first time this year in honor of their song “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” from the band’s second album released in 1984. Inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel, the song is ranked at No. 39 on Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Heavy Metal Songs of All Time” list for 2023.

The Oakton Marching Cougars are one of five finalists in the small high school category.

“It’s just surreal to me that one of my all-time favorite bands is going to watch my band,” Oakton’s marching band director Jamie VanValkenburg told WTOP News. “I’m so proud that we made it this far and that our band is going to get this kind of visibility.”

The Cougars orchestrated a Metallica-themed show titled “Parade to Black” for the competition.

The band who wins the competition will receive $15,000 in band equipment. Voting is open until December 31 and a decision is expected in January 2024.

“I’m thrilled,” Cougars trumpet player Jayden told WTOP News. “This means a lot to me, and I’m sure it means a lot to everyone else in band and Color Guard. Additionally, this proves that even small bands can do big things.”

Colonial Heights High School Marching Band in Colonial Heights is also a finalist in the competition.

Voters can show support for any band in the audience favorite competition by voting online.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.