Locally Grown

15 minutes. That’s how long it took me to drive home to Christiansburg from my dorm freshman year. I grew up a Hokie: drawing on the desks in McBryde while my mom was teaching class, sleeping in Torg bridge, and pretending I was flying as I ran across the drillfield.

 Eric Chang with Christiansburg High School students at Virginia Tech’s High School Band Day 2018; Source: Eric Chang

Eric Chang with Christiansburg High School students at Virginia Tech’s High School Band Day 2018; Source: Eric Chang

One day in my junior year of high school, my friend Cody took me to go see The Marching Virginians rehearse. We went to see some of our old friends that used to march with us back at Christiansburg High School. I remember pulling up to that old track field. I remember hearing some old man mumble something about clarinets and saxophones taking forever to find their perfect reed. I remember it being cold, real cold, and thinking that these people were crazy for trying to practice in this weather. I stood with Cody and his mom on top of the hill behind the tower watching the MV’s march around. No one seemed to be bothered by the cold; everyone just seemed to be enjoying it. And almost as soon as I was about to head back to the car for some warmth, they started playing. It was beautiful, full, rich, breathtaking, and very loud. Like, really loud. I was stunned. I had never had the chance to hear the MVs before, since my family never went to football games. I remember standing there and thinking that one day I wanted to be part of that sound. It was around that point that a manager walked up the hill and handed me a white Marching Virginians beanie. He thanked Cody and me for being at their rehearsal and told me to keep the beanie to stay warm. It was a small kind gesture, but it stuck with me forever. 

 Eric Chang wearing the MV beanie his first year as a Marching Virginian; Source: Brendan Little

Eric Chang wearing the MV beanie his first year as a Marching Virginian; Source: Brendan Little

After that day, I wore that beanie all the time. You couldn’t see me without it. It became a part of my image and character. People came up to me asking if I was going to march with the MVs, and I just responded, “I hope I get the chance.” Eventually, I was accepted by Tech and filled out the interest form for auditioning for the MV’s. Since then, it has been a ton of amazing memories. From running to form the Eastern Shore of the state of Virginia in front of the Ohio State Band my very first game, to dancing the Hokie Pokie at The Battle at Bristol, to standing in front of the band and conducting the 330-strong. There has been much to experience, but I will never forget that first day I saw and heard the MVs. Every time I put on that uniform, I want to embody the same level of excellence I heard that day and the same level of humility and kindness shared by that manager.