Whether seen on the field or heard from the stands, the Cavalier Marching Band has been an integral part of Virginia athletics since its initial founding in 2003. With about 240 members today, the band has a significant role across a number of sports at the University — particularly in football.
On the football field, many associate the Cavalier Marching Band with traditions Virginia football fans have come to know over the past decades including pregame hype shows, halftime performances and countless renditions of “The Good Ol’ Song” every time the Cavaliers score. However, not known to most is the intense and rigorous preparation the Cavalier Marching Band undertakes each week.
“Preparation isn’t brief – it’s hours long,” fourth-year College student and drum major Evan Denison said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “So the excitement for me is simply knowing that preparing is a journey, one that we all get to experience together.”
Every week the band has its standard practices each Tuesday and Thursday that last over two hours. During weeks in which the Virginia football team has a home game on its schedule, the band’s drumline will have an extra sectional rehearsal on Wednesday with the color guard having an extra sectional on Monday in addition to an extra full-band rehearsal on Friday.
“[The extra] rehearsal is so that we have extra time to polish up our halftime show for the coming game week and revisit the pregame performance,” Leah Baetcke, fourth-year College student and cymbal and mallet section leader, said in an email to The Cavalier Daily..
One of two section leaders for both cymbals and mallets, Baetcke takes on a number of additional responsibilities for the Cavalier Marching Band from week to week. These tasks include assigning and delegating aspects of a given performance to other section members and annotating music.
“Every Sunday or Monday before we start practicing a new halftime show myself and my co-section leader for mallets will get together and assign the different mallet parts for the show and we’ll annotate our music to send to our section members,” Baetcke said. “I will annotate drill moves to be sent to the mallets and cymbals, as well as assign drill numbers to the mallets for the next show.”
Additional responsibilities for section leaders include ensuring that all section members are prepared for their performances. As game day approaches, all aspects of the intricate performances put on by the Cavalier Marching Band need to be memorized.
“Our job is also to hold everyone to the rehearsal expectations set forth by the Drum Captain, which include having different portions of the show memorized by certain dates, following rehearsal etiquette and working on fundamentals when possible,” Baetcke said.
The culmination of the week’s preparation comes on game day. Prior to kickoff, the band has a full rehearsal over four hours before the game begins. Game day rehearsal for the Cavalier Marching Band includes repetitions of the halftime show followed by rehearsing the pregame performance in order to bring it back to the forefront of the memory of band members.
As kickoff time approaches, the drumline loads into the homeside of the tunnel and then marches onto the field to play the Hype Show and pregame performance. After the team takes the field, the Cavalier Marching Band takes to the stands where they are heard playing stand tunes in between plays. Halftime preparation also takes significant diligence from band members — ensuring instruments and equipment are prepared beforehand.
“We roll the [equipment] out onto the field with about eight to 10 minutes left in the quarter and then wait on the sideline for the rest of the quarter prepared to set them up as soon as the clock hits zero and halftime starts,” Baetcke said.
Aside from home games, the Cavalier Marching Band goes on the road — often once per season. For away games, usually only a subset of the band has traveled in the past, although almost all of the CMB will be traveling to Virginia Tech this year. The away match-ups the band attends vary from year to year, but are typically games against either the Hokies or North Carolina.
An extension of the Cavalier Marching Band, the CMB Media Committee also plays a significant role in weekly preparations for home games.
The committee is comprised of 10 general body members and leadership chairs and assigns GoPro cameras to volunteer members of the band to collect footage of the Cavalier Marching Band gameday experience. This often includes footage of the pregame show and the Wahoo Walk performance — where the football team walks off of the bus and into the stadium with the band playing stand tunes and cheerleaders performing nearby.
“The media committee is largely focused on recruitment and engagement,” Abby Kupstas, second-year College student and Media Committee chair said in an email to The Cavalier Daily.
Kupstas, along with other committee members who lead different aspects of the group depending on social media platform or type of content, aim to produce content to not only attract new members, but also up the engagement of current members.
“On social media, we advertise our annual Band Day event, a CMB student-led event that invites high schoolers to participate in our college band for a day,” Kupstas said. “The committee is also focused on the engagement of current members … We post student features on our Instagram and Facebook pages so the CMB community can learn about our members.”
All things considered, it requires a tremendous amount of time and effort to sustain the well-oiled machine that is the Cavalier Marching Band. Without the directors, drum majors, section leaders, committees and general members of the band, Scott Stadium would be significantly less energetic on game day — especially during “The Good Ol’ Song.”
Correction: This article previously misstated that there are over 320 members of the Cavalier Marching Band. There are actually about 240 members this year, and the article has been updated with that figure.