For some students, the Virginia Marching Band Cooperative’s Woodgrove Classic, held on Saturday at Woodgrove High School in Purcellville, was their first competition against groups from other schools. For others, it was a return to a new kind of normalcy, after a year when the coronavirus pandemic crippled many of their favorite activities.
Charlotte Crowley, an elder at Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville who plays piccolo in her school’s marching band, said it was nice to be back because “the band is really family. And so, it was sad that we couldn’t do a full season last year. Coming back this year and having a full season of competitive in-store is “really amazing,” she said.
Ryan Dempsey, entering his second year as group manager for Woodgrove, echoed Crowley’s sentiment: “I’m just so glad to be back,” he said. Due to the disruption of marching band activities last school year, he said Saturday’s event was the first marching band competition in the region since November 2019.
Dempsey continued, “The kids who haven’t been in a while are excited,” because it had been so long since they’d been on the group. “Our ninth grade students haven’t had a full year of group since they were in sixth grade.”
Groups from sixteen high schools across northern Virginia competed in the Woodgrove Classic, according to the VMBC website. The top performing schools in the competition were, from first to third place, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Westfield High School in Chantilly, and Freedom High School in Woodbridge, respectively.
The groups competed in one of four divisions – 1A through 4A – depending on size, with 4A being the largest, according to Dempsey.
As the host school, the Woodgrove group was assessed separately rather than as a direct participant in the competition.
Each of the school groups had 15 minutes – as they normally would at half-time in a football game, according to Dempsey – to set up their equipment, enter the field, perform and disperse.
Crowley and his groupmates from Loudoun Valley placed second in the 1A contest, narrowly losing to their peers from Broad Run High School in Ashburn. But by mid-afternoon, before the final scores were announced later that night, several members said they were just happy to perform again.
Loudoun Valley first senior bass drum player Chase Krisko said: “It’s really refreshing to have another season just to be back with all the friendly faces and finally compete,” after losing a season to cause of the pandemic.
VMBC fanfares still have seven weeks of competition, according to Dempsey. Several groups will be competing at Herndon High School this Saturday, and the VMBC website says there will be 13 more contests ahead of the championships, which are slated for November 6.
For seniors like Crowley, this final season of high school performance is hopefully more of a continuation than a full stop.
“The marching band meant a lot to me – that’s where all my friends are,” she said. While Crowley described her last season with the band as “really sad,” she added that “I intend to continue. I would like to go to [James Madison University] next year and play in their fanfare.
Dempsey said after the event that there was a much larger crowd than initially expected. By the end of the night, he said, some of the more enthusiastic fans had migrated to the track for a better view, and “the home side and the visiting side were completely full.”
“We’re just very positive about doing this thing again,” Dempsey said.