Banging out the Homecoming game with the Cavalier Marching Band

Banging out the Homecoming game with the Cavalier Marching Band

Those high notes don’t just hit themselves!

If you’re at a football game and you feel like taking your jacket off, you can just…take it off. Unless you’re in UVA’s Cavalier Marching Band, in which case you wait until you’re told to take your jacket off.

Built on the principle of coordinated movement—all hats on now, left foot first, piccolos seated together—the marching band fuses its more than 275 members into a unified whole that’s capable of learning a different halftime show for every home game. When photographer Ashley Twiggs hung out with the CMB before and during the October 10 homecoming game against Indiana, she came back wowed by the level of preparation the students showed. On home game days,  “coordinated movement” means more than marching in step; it means a morning practice (that day, in the rain), lunch in matching T-shirts and shorts, and group stretches. It takes a lot to get ready for a performance before more than 60,000 people. Football players know that too, but marching band isn’t for the stardom seeker. During about 40 minutes between warm-ups and their pre-game show, band members hang out in a parking garage near Scott Stadium, sitting on golf carts, chatting, even napping.

The football team can easily point to its win (47-7) as a measure of its own preparation, but the marching band might highlight a different number: five. That’s how many years it’s been in existence. Created for the 2004 season after a $1.5 million gift from Carl and Hunter Smith (and after the dissolution of the Virginia Pep Band, its more mischievous and, some said, offensive predecessor), the band is just a baby when compared with its ACC siblings.

That isn’t slowing it down. It’s now got a respectable membership (bigger than University of Maryland, at 250+ members, though smaller than Virginia Tech’s 330) and the confidence to be pumped, but not nervous, about playing in a stadium that hosted U2 nine days before. At least, not so nervous for one clarinetist, during that parking garage interlude, to paint a piccolo player’s fingernails blue.


Hey, what’s your major? Matt Gillwald waits in the tunnel beneath Scott Stadium before the CMB performance.

"Tuba" is always a funny punchline, isn’t it?




It’s a big vacancy that’s left behind when the CMB takes the field for their half-time performance.