Legendary band Metallica to decide if Va. high school marching band will win national competition

The Oakton High School marching band performing on their home field. (Courtesy Carolee Schriener)

A Virginia high school marching band is hoping to be number “one,” getting major attention as legendary band Metallica prepares to select winners in a national competition.

The Oakton High School Marching Cougars put together a Metallica-themed show this year titled “Parade to Black,” which has reached the finals in a competition sponsored by the iconic rock band, who will also serve as judges.

The competition is a play on Metallica’s song “From Whom the Bell Tolls” and is called “From Whom the Band Tolls,” featuring bands from across the country.

“The parents and the volunteers and the staff are all super excited for the kids,” Christy Henderson, president of the band booster association of Oakton High School in Vienna, Virginia, told WTOP.

“It’s just surreal to me that one of my all-time favorite bands is going to watch my band,” said Oakton’s marching band director Jamie VanValkenburg. “I’m so proud that we made it this far and that our band is going to get this kind of visibility.”

Oakton is one of five finalists in the small band category with under 75 members.

“We had a concert on Thursday, and I stood up there before the concert and said ‘I don’t know if you all have heard, but we’re a finalist in this competition.’ The crowd just kind of went wild,” Henderson said.

Henderson’s son Terran is a senior and a drum major for the band.

“To know that the band members of Metallica are actually going to watch my kid conduct … I’m thrilled for him to get that kind of visibility in the world,” she said.

If Metallica selects them to win in their category, they will win $15,000 worth of equipment for their band.

“It’s pretty incredible,” Henderson said. “This has been a labor of love for so long.”

But there’s also an audience favorite competition, and voters can show support for the Cougar marching band online here. The results of the competition are expected in January, with voting open until Dec. 31.

“I’m thrilled,” said Jayden, a trumpet player in the band. “This means a lot to me, and I’m sure it means a lot to everyone else in band and Color Guard. Additionally, this proves that even small bands can do big things.”

Deniz, one of the drum majors for the band, said she was excited to watch the video and see their hard work pay off.

“It turned out amazing and really showcases all the work that our band put in the season,” she said. “Watching, it makes me so proud of us as it really demonstrates our great improvement over the past few months.”

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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