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Cavalier Marching Band helps students find their place

CMB fosters student leadership, community in its 12th year at U.Va.

<p>Members of the Cavalier Marching Band, which was established 12 years ago, prepare musical selections and perform for each home football game. The band emphasizes student leadership and community among its members.</p>

Members of the Cavalier Marching Band, which was established 12 years ago, prepare musical selections and perform for each home football game. The band emphasizes student leadership and community among its members.

The Cavalier Marching Band has become a major presence on and off the football field since its founding 12 years ago, performing at every home game during this period and even the 2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The band, which was started by Dr. William E. Pease in 2004, includes a head director, three assistant directors, four drum majors, 10 sections, 46 section leaders and about 300 members overall.

Leading up to football season

By the time CMB takes the field for the halftime show of the first home football game, it’s spent hours preparing its musical numbers. Leading up to the start of the season, the members have gone to Band Camp, weekly practices and additional practices before the game.

Practices are twice a week for about two hours, and for two hours Friday nights before game days, Joanna Hsu, third-year Curry student and mellophone section leader, said. Game days see another two hour practice before the game starts.

Another important part of preparing for a show is music selection. The band directors choose the music for each game and plan out selections for the season. Recent selections have included “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Rocky, Batman, Robin Hood and a James Bond medley.

“The directors choose the music for each season — they always poll the band asking for opinions on the music for the upcoming season, but they decide,” Ilana Brody, fourth-year College student and drum major, said. “[The other members] actually don’t know what music we will be playing before the game. After every game, all the leadership comes together and looks at the music and that is when we find out what we will play for the week’s game.”

Despite the large amount of time spent preparing and practicing music, Marching Band is not just for music majors. This year, there are more than 300 students with 80 different majors from each of University’s undergraduate schools who are in the group.

Student leadership is also a key part of the band, as many of its returning members move into advisory roles at the end of the season. These roles include drum major, section leaders, drill instructors and recruiters.

“One really neat thing about the band is the amount of student leadership,” Taylor Fisher, fourth-year College student and saxophone section leader, said. “About two-thirds of the entire band is part of the leadership team. There are students who serve as section leaders that help with the instruction of music and drill instructors who help design and teach visual moves on the field. There are also student leaders that assist with our uniforms, the setup and teardown of the practice field, recruiting and preparing Scott Stadium for football games — just to name a few.”

Perks of being in CMB

Right before each football game, the band has a tradition that not only prepares them for their performance, but also helps get the spectators excited for the game.

“Each section gets their own bus, so we will all sing and cheer on the way to the game, and it is really exciting,” Brody said.

However, perks that come with being part of the the band go beyond learning music and playing for an enthusiastic audience every home game. Members said they felt like they found their niche at the University when they joined the marching band.

“I have been playing the trumpet since fifth grade [and] did marching band in high school, [but] was not planning on doing it in college,” Naomi Gaba, third-year College student and trumpet section leader, said. “Then I met someone who plays the clarinet and they helped me decide to join. But from day one, I felt like I had some sense of purpose.”

In addition, the band has its own building by the Carr’s Hill Field, named the Hunter Smith Band Building, which houses a rehearsal room, a few smaller rooms for equipment and offices for the directors. The building was donated by a friend of the University who wanted to contribute to the school’s football experience.

“We are really lucky to have [the Hunter Smith] building,” Brody said. “[Smith] donated 13 million dollars for this building very recently. She wanted to contribute to the football experience and we inherited the building that includes the equipment, uniforms, the offices for the directors and a space where we practice during the season as well.”

More than an extracurricular

Members of CMB consider the band family, rather than just another extracurricular activity. For many, the band has become the defining feature of their time at the University.

“My favorite part about the band is the sense of community,” Fisher said. “Ever since joining the band my first year, I have always felt like a part of a big family. I love spending time with other band members on and off the field and I have built some of my best relationships in college during my time in the CMB.”

In addition, band members said people in the program are focused on helping one another and helping the band become better. CMB emphasizes student leadership, utilizing a structure in which instrument players report to section leaders, section leaders report to drum majors and drum majors report to the directors.

“[For section leaders] our main job is to teach the music to the section — we meet, get warmed up, practice, but we also do a lot of behind-the-scenes coordinations,” Gaba said. “We are kind of everyone's parents with making sure they are there, have what they need and are doing the right thing for that practice. We also serve as the main form of communication for the directors to the section or the drum majors to the section and vice versa.”

Many students who join also develop a strong sense of pride in the band and in the University as a whole, which makes becoming a band member a worthwhile commitment.

“I think my favorite part [of being in band] is, after every game, [waiting] for the Youtube video of our show to come out and watching that,” Gaba said. “You feel some sense of accomplishment and it's is such a great feeling when we get to watch that afterwards.”

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