So You Want to be on the Virginia Tech Drumline?

Band camp might not start until August, but for the Virginia Tech Drumline, the season’s already begun.

Hokies auditioning on the quads; Source: Alana Hassett

Hokies auditioning on the quads; Source: Alana Hassett

Drumline leadership for the 2019 season was announced just last week, which means that the percussion section leaders and rank captains are already at work brainstorming ideas for cadences and exercises for next year. Over the summer, they’ll release the official audition packet, and in August, percussionists will come from near and far to audition for the line. The drumline has been about thirty-six percussionists strong for a few years now, and if you’re interested in being one of them, then here’s what you can expect from auditions:

The first day of auditions begins with introductions and some wise words from the section leaders. They’ll emphasize the importance of your attitude throughout the audition process. The Marching Virginians want people who want to be there and who are upbeat, energized, and supportive of others. These attributes factor into your audition—it’s not just about your skill.

Leadership will also remind you that you can audition on any instrument that you feel comfortable with. If you’ve practiced the snare packet and the cymbal packet, then you are welcome to audition for both. You’ll want to be careful that you give the leadership of each sub-section enough time to see what you can do, but you’re welcome to try your hand at more than one instrument.

You’ll also be told that besides leadership, there are no guaranteed spots on the drumline, not even for people who’ve been on the drumline one, two, three, or seven years. Everyone is auditioning, and while someone with a year or three of experience might have the upper hand because they know what to expect, everyone is given brand new music at the start of the summer, and everyone is expected to practice it. If you learn it and play it better than the returner—well, sucks for them.

Lastly, you’ll be told to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen. It’s gonna be a long two days.

After the morning pep talk, you’ll split into sectionals. There is no formal structure for this sectional time. If you want to switch instruments, you’re expected to do this on your own time. The first hour of camp is usually devoted to the fundamentals of each instrument, so get ready for a lot of ‘eight on a hand,’ basic scales, and whole note crashes. After this sectional time, you’ll get a nice dinner break, and then you’ll come back for even more sectional time.

As the sun sets, and the Blacksburg heat becomes almost bearable, you’ll come together with the other sections for rehearsal as a block. This is your opportunity to show that you’ve heard the advice of leaders and instructors, internalized it, and put it in your hands. If you’re a fast learner, you’re more likely to make the line.

At the end of the night, each auditioning percussionist gets the opportunity to talk to leadership alone. At this point, they will tell you how you’ve done, how you can continue to improve, and how you can increase your chances of making the line. This way, you can start the next day knowing exactly what you should do. Then you’ll head back home, take a shower (important!!!), and get a good night’s rest before doing it all again the next day.

The second day of auditions is organized similarly to the first, with a combination of sectional and block rehearsals. After lunch, you’ll have your formal “audition,” during which you’ll play alone for leadership. While this is referred to as the “audition,” it’s important to note that your performance over the whole two days will factor in to the final decision. During the last dinner block, leadership will gather in the office to set the drumline, and when you return from dinner, the results will be posted on the door of The Marching Virginians Center.

The snare line practicing during band camp; Source: Bob White

The snare line practicing during band camp; Source: Bob White

If you make the line, you’ll head right back onto the practice field for rehearsal. If you don’t make the line, then it’s not the end of the world. Many, many players have continued practicing, gotten involved with concert bands, and come back every year until they’ve made it. You should absolutely come back, and leadership will reiterate this again and again. You’ll also have the opportunity to interview for a manager position, if you’re interested. This is an incredible opportunity for people who are passionate about band and who still want to be a Marching Virginian. (If you’ve shown a great attitude during auditions, leadership will likely put in a good word for you). Check out this blog post about the managers to learn about the amazing things they do for The Marching Virginians.

If you already know that you want to audition for the drumline, then feel free to reach out to section leaders Tyler Pozarycki ( and Matt Belton ( and let them know that you want to be added to the Facebook interest group, once it’s made. If you don’t have a Facebook account, you should make one.

In addition to the information above, leadership has offered some great suggestions for the audition process:

Section leader and quad player, Matt Belton, says, “Be confident. Just act like it’s a normal day and keep relaxed. Tensed muscles and an unfocused mind really set you back.”

He adds, “Be prepared. Knowing the packet goes a long way. Listen to advice from staff or leadership. They are there to help you and want to see you succeed.”

Lastly, he urges, “Get good sleep. Bad sleep has really hurt auditions I’ve had before. A good night’s sleep will keep your brain focused the next day, which is the most important part.”

Section leader and snare player, Tyler Pozarycki says “The best thing you could do to make yourself stand out at auditions is to memorize your audition music. It shows leadership that you have a drive to succeed.”

He continues, “And make sure you take care of yourself during the two-day audition process (drink near a gallon of water a day and reapply sunscreen). That may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but it’s surprising how many prospective players forget to do this. You always want to make sure that you’re in the best condition possible so that you can audition to the best of your ability.”

Bass drum rank captain, Daniel Agunias, says, “Know the book inside and out. Come with an open mind. Make some new friends!”

Cymbal rank captain, Spencer Rankin, says to focus on fast learning and rhythmic accuracy.

As you practice over the course of the next few months, you should also think about how this audition is more than just an audition; it’s an opportunity to make friends, to learn from talented students and instructors, and to get a taste of the incredible Hokie spirit that you’ll see everywhere on campus. As The Marching Virginians start to gear up for next season, we get more and more excited to meet you and see what you’ve got!