On game days the low rumble of the Cavalier Marching Band’s drumline can be heard throughout Charlottesville’s hilly landscape, resonating against the brick facades of the University's academic buildings.
No football game is complete without the crisp, percussive soundscape radiating from the marching band. The Cavalier Marching Band’s wind section was benched from playing in the stands due to mask requirements until Oct. 23 when restrictions were lifted. With the CMB unable to play stand tunes as a full unit for the majority of their season, energy fellflat in the stadium.
It is for this very reason that CMB members are particularly excited about the upcoming football game against Virginia Tech.
“The energy is so electric during Tech games compared to every other game,” said Rob Siebers, a fourth-year College baritone player and CMB section leader. “It just gets super loud, especially during Tech games ‘cause the stadium is absolutely packed.”
The Virginia versus Virginia Tech rivalry reaches far beyond the football field. The marching band and the football team share a similar sense of pride, family connectedness and competitive spirit.
“I think it’s always kind of like the battle of the bands — who can play louder,” Siebers said. “It’s kind of like a personal pride thing. But I don‘t think it’s anything like a football rivalry, you know like, ‘We absolutely need to beat them because I think the marching band is unique in that it’s very, very cooperative.”
The sense of camaraderie in the marching band community overrides any rivalry, no matter how deep-rooted.
“I’ve known since I was a first year that my last ever game in Scott Stadium was going to be the Tech game,” Siebers said.
Not only is the Virginia versus Virginia Tech game the pinnacle of the football season for many Virginia fans, but it also serves as the culmination of the Class of 2022’s marching band career.
Siebers reflected on a time when he was unaware that masking restrictions would be lifted in time for the Tech game, saying “I actually had texted my other fourth-year baritone friends and I was like, ‘I love you all, I’m so glad that we got to have this time together. I’m sorry that it’s ending like this.’”
The game will be a bittersweet moment for the Class of 2022 as they line up alongside each other for their last halftime show at Scott Stadium.
Fourth years in the CMB had the opportunity to provide input on which songs to play for the halftime show. Siebers himself pitched the song “22” by Taylor Swift to celebrate the class of ‘22, which ended up making the cut. The CMB will also be playing a rendition of “INDUSTRY BABY” by Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow and a mashup of “The Gambler / Will the Circle be Broken” as a “thank you” to Hunter Smith who donated money to start the CMB.
“We play a lot of songs that students recognize, and it brings a lot of school spirit to the game,” Siebers said. “It kind of reminds us who we are as a community and why we are so excited about this game.”
The CMB often has three rehearsals on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays before games to memorize sheet music and intricate drills — the steps and positioning that make up the fluent formations performed at halftime shows. In preparation for the Tech game, however, section leaders are instructed to familiarize themselves with the music weeks in advance.
On game days, the band meets four and a half hours before kickoff at Carr’s Hill Field where they rehearse for an hour and a half. After dropping off instrument cases and hat boxes, and assembling their uniforms at Slaughter, the CMB snakes around the stadium singing chants and songs to hype up fans as they approach the game.
Twenty minutes before kickoff, the band gathers in the tunnel and prepares to run out onto the field for the pregame show.
“I think everybody’s really looking forward to hearing the roar of the crowd when we run out the tunnel and having it be, like, 60,000 people and engaging with them,”said Campbell Johnston, first-year College student and trombonist. "It’s rewarding. It feels good to know that the effort that we put in is recognized and appreciated by the crowd — we’re making them happy which is a very good feeling. Just getting people fired up is a lot of fun.”
The CMB treasures its role of serving as the audible spirit of University pride, narrating the sonic energy of the stadium for such a historical rivalry. Banging drums, crashing cymbals and blaring trumpets fuel fans with anticipation and school spirit as they enter Scott Stadium.
“That’s like the best part of marching band and why playing in the stands is so important to us,” said Siebers. “I think music really brings people together.”