Marching band offers a unique performing experience for student musicians


Chris Riechers leads the band through their practice.

Sudharshana Krishnan, Editor-in-Chief

Each fall, the school parking lot transforms into a stage as the marching band takes over the entire area for practice three days a week before performances at Friday football games. Thunderous music wafts down Stringfellow Road, and color guard members can be seen spinning flags and rifles. This comprehensive performance fuses together sound with a visual show.  

“Marching band is unique because it is an activity in which over 170 students participate,” color guard member and senior Anna DeSena said. “It’s all about teamwork. Everyone must move in the same timings and steps for a nine-minute show.”  

The program is separated into three sections, each focusing on different elements of the show. The horn players, along with the drumline, provide the musical portion; the color guard, dancers who use props, provide the visual portion.

“We usually spend ten minutes stretching as a band. Then we break out into music sections and clean up parts of our show music,” drum major and senior Munis Thahir said. “The rest of practice is usually spent on drill and choreography.”

The marching band can be found practicing in both the scorching heat of the summer sun and the breezy winds of the fall air.

“My least favorite thing has to be playing in the cold. Everyone is shivering or their instruments are squeaking,” drum major and junior Olivia Moldoveanu said. “But they’re still out there giving it their all, which I’m really proud of.”

This year, marching band is led by three drum majors, including Thahir, Moldoveanu and senior Katie Doherty.

“Drum majors are kind of like team captains,” Thahir said. “We stand on the podium at the front and conduct the band.”  

To be selected for this prestigious position, drum majors must go through a competitive application process.

“A graduate from last year encouraged me to try out,” Moldoveanu said. “I went through an interview and a teaching test.”

Although the drum majors don’t play instruments in the marching band, they play an integral role in the cohesiveness of the team.

“I play the alto saxophone in Symphonic Winds and tenor saxophone in Chantilly Jazz,” Thahir said. “So on the field, I don’t play, but in the classroom, I do play.”

As team leaders, the drum majors motivate and encourage their fellow musicians.

“My ultimate goal for this marching band season is to make all the members proud of their work,” Doherty said. “Too often, they seem unsatisfied with their performances. I want to inspire them to work hard so they can be satisfied with the work they put in.”

The band is also supported by director Doug Maloney and new addition, director Chris Riechers, who is replacing Chris Singleton.

“Riechers is a fantastic director and knows a lot about jazz, symphonic music and marching band techniques,” Thahir said. “He took a week to get a feel for the program, but now both directors seem super comfortable working with each other, and the band program is taking huge leaps forward because of it.”

As this is the second new director the band has had in four years, change is not difficult for the students. In 2013, Maloney replaced former director Drew Ross, and in 2011, Singleton replaced Gary English.

“It’s not that the program is struggling,” Thahir said. “It’s just that the directors are advancing their careers with master’s degrees.”

The student leaders have high aspirations for themselves and the band as a whole.

“My goal for this year is to do better than last year [at competitions],” Moldoveanu said. “I also want people to feel like marching band isn’t just a club, but a family.”

Recently, the marching band participated in two competitions. The team had a 10th-place finish at their BOA Regionals in Delaware, and placed eighth at their Parade of Champions competition at JMU.  Most recently, the Mighty Marching Chargers also received a straight superior rating, the highest cumulative rating, at the VBODA State Marching Assessment.

“To be honest, we’re a little disappointed by our performance,” Thahir said. “It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good.”

As the season comes to a close, they are now getting ready for the their senior night and other playoff games, but are still looking forward to the opportunity to further grow as both musicians and individuals.

“Band helps me stay focused, and it’s good for getting stress out from school,” Moldoveanu said. “I can also catch up with my friends [who are in marching band,] and we can all do an activity we enjoy while getting better [at performing].”

This feeling of community is shared by many members of the marching band.

“Marching band provides a safe place for everybody,” Doherty said. “I feel confident in the fact that the friends that I make in marching band will be there for me when I need them, and I’ll be there for them too.”

Marching band requires commitment, hard work and perseverance from student musicians and leaders, color guard members and adult directors alike.

“Any object of a sport, we meet it and go beyond it,” Thahir said. “We work really hard. We emphasize technique and a lot of discipline.”