The Right Place

The first week of band camp is the best start to a great experience not only with the Marching Virginians, but also with Virginia Tech. And I know we say practically anything at Virginia Tech is the best experience, but to me, band camp truly always will be.

Rehearsal just before the live stream, “Meet the Band!”; Source:  Marching Virginians Facebook

Rehearsal just before the live stream, “Meet the Band!”; Source: Marching Virginians Facebook

There’s a rush of nervousness and energy you didn’t know you had when stepping under the pavilion and seeing that practice field for the first time. I’ll never forget trekking to the Marching Virginians Center as a freshman only to somehow end up at the German Manor, running through the brush to the MVC parking lot, and being a sweaty mess at check-in.

But this is just the first day of auditions. Once you complete that audition and make it to a day full of marching fundamentals and burning skin to have the privilege of sitting under that gorgeous shade of the pavilion, that’s when it starts. You watch more than three hundred students pile under, each staring with anticipation, conversing giddily. And you wonder about the sound, you shame yourself for not bringing ear plugs for what’s to come.

When we start the warm-up, the anticipation builds, and it doesn’t fully hit you just how much you’ve wanted to be in something you’ve never known until you hear a stands tune. For me, it was Light ‘Em Up, where the “mild head bang” was a vigorous neck break for the net section. 

A lot about what week one of band camp has taught me is that you have to appreciate the time you have when you have it; there isn’t room for bitterness when you’re busy being appreciative. If you go about worrying whether or not you’ll make it, or how you played in your audition, you’re choosing to ignore the other players, who are undoubtedly just as nervous as you are, and their individual experiences that got them where they are. 

Notre Dame Game, 2018; Source: Ryan Adcock

Notre Dame Game, 2018; Source: Ryan Adcock

It’s important to remember who you are, and to make relationships that last beyond the audition room. With that said, sometimes the section you audition for might not always be the right one for you. Sometimes, knowing that you want to be in the band is a stepping stone to other opportunities beyond your main instrument. It very well could be your second, or third (if you’re really that proficient holy cow!) or none of the above.

None of the above is most often used as the last answer to a multiple choice question. Most often, we select it because it wasn’t listed before in any of the other questions or we simply don’t know how to go about answering the question in general. And I feel like a lot of people apply this logic to being a manager for the Marching Virginians, which isn’t true.

When I say sometimes the right section isn’t always your first pick, it’s because you might find something more exciting elsewhere while still being a part of a great organization. Becoming a Manager isn’t a last resort option, you still have to audition and you have to be interviewed for the position all while the first week of syllabi are being posted.

Marshall Game Day, 2018; Source: Tyler Robbins

Marshall Game Day, 2018; Source: Tyler Robbins

Take it from a band member who’s been interviewed a thousand different times for the blog, and she’ll hate me for saying this, but it’s because she’s such an incredible individual with so many experiences that don’t all derive from being a manager. She’s found ways to be amazing at what she does everyday and put her energy into something worthwhile: a sense of responsibility to pull everything together during practices and game days.

Her experiences started with being an athlete, anything from gymnastics to volleyball, soccer, softball, swimming, dance, etcetera. Her goal was to be an athlete and to continue that into college like her dad. Being an athlete at the start of auditions made transitioning from sports to marching so much easier while also learning a new skill set.

To her, the band moves together like puzzle pieces, so many of these pieces rotate and somehow fit themselves into a perfect picture. A lot of the times there isn’t any real way to go about forming the puzzle, sometimes you pick a corner and sometimes you start in the middle. And each time the puzzle is completed, it’s magical in its own way.

Noelle’s softball team in July 2013; Source: Nicole Dobbs

Noelle’s softball team in July 2013; Source: Nicole Dobbs

She compares auditioning to softball: you don’t know where the ball is going to be hit or if you’re going to catch it. There are so many things beyond your control that you can go for the ball all you want and the chances might be great, just know it’s never going to land right in the palm of your hand.

In this instance, you have a team and there are people to back you up, but the pressure and the actions you take are your own. In band, there are so many more people to rely on that there’s always connections and support even during times when you feel like you didn’t make a big enough impact on someone to start with. There will always be a band member that understands how you’re feeling.

Selfie of Noelle, Harrison, Mariah, and Tyler (right to left) during the 2018 Homecoming Game; Source: Noelle Baxter

Selfie of Noelle, Harrison, Mariah, and Tyler (right to left) during the 2018 Homecoming Game; Source: Noelle Baxter

Especially the band members that are directors. In the office, there’s a sign that says, “What if the hokie-pokie really IS what it’s all about?” Dr. Polly and Chad don’t just have it hanging there for no reason.

“The hokie-pokie has always been about turning yourself around and to keep dancing. At the end of the day, no matter what you’re feeling, you gotta turn yourself around and keep going for the greater good of the band, but most importantly for yourself.”

-Noelle Baxter, Librarian and Manager for the MV’s