Marching band earns top marks on two fronts with morale, tech advancements

On Oct. 8, Statesmen Marching Band took first place in the Oakton Classic competition, winning superiors in every category in their assessment two weeks later.

In addition to motivated members, band director Paul Vesilind said improvement in the team’s technical effects influenced their scoring.

“We took a really big step up from last year in performance, execution and value,” Vesilind said. “And even the show itself was a little more advanced and had more elements to it.”

Vesilind said marching shows are always a challenge.

“Marching band has so many elements between the sound and the visuals, and it’s always difficult to get a good marching band show on the field,” he said.

With a Spider-Man theme, some elements included web-themed drill or choreography, platforms representing skyscrapers, a web sheet and their very own Spider-Man doing back handsprings across the field.

“I think I’ve been in the marching band with my kids for nine years,” Band Parents Organization President Rose-Ellen Eastman said. “This is one of my top three favorite shows,” Eastman said the pandemic decreased the size of the band but provided a new enthusiasm to play.

“Coming off of the pandemic, some of these kids hadn’t played in a group for a while,” she said. “They learned the motions really quickly. They were just super motivated.”

Drum major and senior Pasha Ryutov said for the second season after COVID-19 it went well, but that there could always be improvements.

“Considering our circumstances, it was an amazing season,” Ryutov said. “The most important thing is that we taught our rookies how to launch. My biggest point is that this season is kind of the best preparation for underclassmen for the next season.”

Last year, the band was one point away from a superior rating in their assessment.

“While we were putting a lot of effort in, it wasn’t as focused and dedicated,” Ryutov said. “It was really frustrating because we put in all this work, and we just didn’t get the best thing that we could have done.”

The assessment ratings come from the Virginia Band Orchestra Directors Association. If the marching band earns superior again in the spring, they will be titled a Virginia Honor Band for the first time in years.

“It’d be nice to do that again this year,” Vesilind said.

However, Vesilind said his focus for the band is not necessarily on the trophies and awards.

“If you do that, you know you’re setting yourself up for disappointment,” he said. “It’s really more about the camaraderie and the pride in the work that we’re doing and how far we’ve gotten in the execution.”

Ryutov said although some “band kid” stereotypes are true, he said it is different from other extracurriculars.“Being a ‘band kid’ is like one of the most fun things you can do,” he said. “Ask anybody in the marching band. They’ll say that that it was a good experience. Even if they don’t do it again, they don’t regret it.”