Virginia marching band refused to yield, strives to take field amid pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a lot of outside-the-box thinking for many people, including a group of high schoolers whose plans had to adapt to an unprecedented situation.

Many of the members of the Lightridge High School Marching Band have never set foot in their brand-new school, which opened its doors last September with empty classrooms, as the county school system shifted to all-virtual learning.

On March 3, many students will walk the halls of Lightridge High School for the first time as the school system ramps up two-day-per-week hybrid learning.

And the school marching band — which recently finished a virtual version of its newly-written school fight song — will have the chance to perform for the first time, all in the same place.

“It will be really nice to make music in person,” said Jonathan Phillip, director of bands at the new school, which is located on Collaboration Drive in Aldie, Virginia, near Braddock Road and Northstar Boulevard.

With special performance masks “that seal around the mouthpiece” of instruments, socially distanced formations, and bell covers over the place where music blasts from brass instruments, Phillip said the band has four performances planned in the school stadium.

“Currently, we cannot play at the football games,” Phillip said, due to Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive orders limiting sports, participants and spectators allowed at fall sports events.

School board member Jeff Morse introduced a resolution to ask Northam to expand the list of organizations — including marching band, dance teams and cheerleading squads — that are allowed to be present at sports events.

The resolution would also “remove the 250 maximum placed on the number of spectators — some of our venues hold up to 3,000 spectators, which would result in 10%” of venue space being occupied, far below the current 30% capacity, Morse told WTOP.

The measure passed unanimously, and school board Chair Brenda Sheridan said it would be sent to Northam on Wednesday.

“Hopefully, we can be at the last football game, which is April 8,” Phillip said.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up