This weekend, roughly 100 MV alumni will return to campus to participate in our annual Alumni Day event. Most of these alumni will take the field at halftime alongside the current MVs. Some of these folks have been coming back year after year since they graduated. For others, this will be the first time they’ve picked up an instrument in years.
These alumni represent every decade since the MVs began: the 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, and the 2010s. But what makes our alumni come back? Is it the chance to see old friends? Telling stories about their time in the MVs? A burning desire to see if their muscle memory STILL allows them to play Tech Triumph and the Hokie Pokie all the way through without thinking about it?
I’d like to think at least part of the desire to return is tied up in those memories that define The Spirit of Tech for each of us – a crazy prank pulled on friends at practice, the thrill of the first performance in front of thousands of screaming fans, pulling together like a family after a tragedy, or realizing that a simple act like performing at a high school football game or pouring a bucket of ice water over someone’s head meant more to others than we ever could have thought.
As our alumni prepare for their return this week, I’d like to share one video from each MV decade that could represent a “defining moment” for The Marching Virginians and its alumni. I hope you’ll enjoy these moments – even if you weren’t there to experience them yourself!
1970s: The Disco Show
In the 1970s, the MVs were still a very new and mostly unwelcome addition to the football scene. The Highty-Tighties were the premier band in Lane Stadium, and VT fans didn’t appreciate these crazy Marching Virginians taking up valuable halftime real estate with their shenanigans!
That’s right about the time the MVs put on a halftime production known as “Disco 1976”:
It’s a very grainy video, but hopefully you can see the band dancing as a group to disco tunes, the words “Disco” and “Duck” spelled out in cursive, and the 1970’s long-neck version of the Hokie Bird mascot dancing with a student in a duck suit!
The show was NOT well-received by Hokie fans (there are rumors about a school newspaper article telling the band to get better or get out!), but this show became infamous in MV lore - mostly due to students creatively altering the spell-outs at practice.
The “Disco” & “Duck” spell-outs even appeared in the 1977-78 MV freshman info packet:
Despite its poor reception back then, many of the elements that made this show what it is stayed with the MVs for the next 40+ years, including choreographed dance breaks and a great sense of humor.
1980s: The Olympic Show at Clemson
In 1984, the MVs traveled to Death Valley and took the field at halftime with the perfect show to honor the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles:
Even with most of the dance missing, you can see there was some great music and great drill in this show. Alumni from this time period say the show was met with a standing ovation from VT and Clemson fans alike! But honestly, how could people not like a show that ends with a John Williams fanfare?
1990s: Pregame at the National Championship
It might be cheating to count this as a 90s video (it technically took place in 2000) but it was the end of the 1999 season, and I have a special soft spot for this one because it was my freshman year!
The football team was ending an amazing undefeated season by facing #1 FSU at the Superdome in New Orleans, and the MVs came ready to perform for an ecstatic Hokie Nation:
I absolutely LOVE pregame anyway, but when we came to attention at the end of the run-on, my ears were ringing from all the cheering! The crowd was so intense I couldn’t hear myself playing Superman, and the bow was all over the place because it was too loud to hear the count and we were full of adrenaline. Just watching this video still gives me chills (and almost makes me forget being associated with the “Hokie Rap” at the VT pep rally earlier that week).
2000s: Narrows High School Performance
Following the shooting in the Spring of 2007, the Virginia Tech community was still reeling. For the MVs, performing was an important part of the healing process as we recovered from our own loss of Ryan “Stack” Clark.
One of these healing events took the form of a performance at Narrows High School to honor the memory of Jarrett Lane. The performance was bittersweet, featuring lots of popular MV tunes and a special performance of “Amazing Grace”, arranged by James “Uncle Jim” Sochinski:
The clashing tones in the middle of the tune are intentional - 4 groups of 8 notes for a total of 32 individual notes represent the 32 lives lost. This emotional performance left many in tears.
2010s: Performing at Bristol Motor Speedway
The Battle at Bristol was a unique opportunity: VT would face off against Tennessee on a football field made out of a NASCAR racetrack infield. A college football record would be set with over 150,000 fans in attendance!
The hype for this game started more than a year in advance, and the 2016 edition of The Marching Virginians started their season by rising to the occasion:
Seriously – that is one of the cleanest VT formations of all time!
There are so many more “defining moments” for The Marching Virginians! Some honorable mentions include:
Big bowl games like the 1995 Sugar Bowl, 1986 Peach Bowl, and the 1998 Music City Bowl
Service events like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, traveling to Craig County for the first time (or the next 10 times!), and building the house for Stack
The first performance on the field at the Sochinski-McKee Marching Virginians Center
Can you think of a favorite MV “defining moment” not mentioned here? Please feel free to leave a comment below!
I’d like to give a HUGE thanks to these MV folks for their help in making this post possible:
Steven “Trunks” Rich for the ridiculous amount of time he spent digitizing old VHS recordings of pregame and halftime shows – we’ll be releasing more “Vintage Marching Virginians” videos on YouTube this year!
Lynette Mergler & Vicki Saville for their awesome behind-the-scenes info about the Disco Duck show (there’s so much more that could be said about this show – it should have its own article!)
Jon T. Cox for posting the 77-78 information packet scans on Facebook with the spell-outs
Eric Schindelbeck, Joy Soriano Thompson, and Kristi Benton Newman for pointing me towards the 1984 Clemson show
Laura Beth Holroyd for reminding me about the Narrows show and Dane Neer for posting the performance on YouTube when it happened!
David McKee for filling in some history gaps for me and confirming my choices
Paul Correll for being my awesome husband and helping me make sure this post was presentable to the public <3