Marching Terriers prepare for new season

The William Byrd High School Marching Terriers held their Away Camp at Camp Bethel in Botetourt County during the week of July 29-August 4. They performed their new program for their families on the final day of camp.
Seniors in the William Byrd High School Marching Terriers band make their traditional walk across the practice field at the end of Away Camp on August 4. Seniors in the Class of 2019 include (left to right): Ashley Peters, Eva Pierce, Carmen White, Maggie Steuart, Nathan Ferris, Alyssa Summey, Emily Wheeler, Megan Wu, Sunyanna Anderson, Shea Sterling, Caleb Jones, and Rashad Vaughn.

The William Byrd High School Marching Terriers are busy preparing for their debut of this year’s program, “Portraits of the Human Spirit,” on September 7. That will be the football team’s first home game this year, facing Bassett High School.

This year the band has grown to about 83 members. Percussion players started practice back on July 9; the Color Guard, on July 16. Rookie band members began rehearsals on July 18. The entire band held Home Camp at WBHS the week of July 23 with this year’s Away Camp at Camp Bethel in Botetourt County from July 29 to August 4. Practice will continue on several afternoons each week back at Byrd once school gets under way.

Band Director Dan Plybon is returning for his 12th year leading the Marching Terriers. Denise Aspell, Director of sixth and seventh grade bands at William Byrd Middle School, is once again serving as assistant band director. Additional staff includes Chris Steuart, who teaches at WBHS, percussion instructor Rob Curtin, and Color Guard instructor Jes Curtin.

This year’s student leadership consists of Corps Commander Megan Wu, Drum Major Ashley Peters, Woodwind Captain Carmen White, Brass Captain Ethan Bowser, Percussion Captain Alyssa Summey, and Color Guard Captain Maggie Steuart.

There are 12 seniors this year including Ashley Peters, Eva Pierce, Carmen White, Maggie Steuart, Nathan Ferris, Alyssa Summey, Emily Wheeler, Megan Wu, Sunyanna Anderson, Shea Sterling, Caleb Jones, and Rashad Vaughn.

Plybon explains that the “Portraits of the Human Spirit” program focuses on five common human emotions or hurdles we all face at one time or another: fear, courage, hope, struggle, and triumph. The program features songs that will invoke these emotions.

During the performance pictures will be displayed on large screens depicting each. Fear is represented by an individual standing on a high cliff looking down; courage is portrayed as an individual bungee jumps off a high cliff; hope is depicted with a mother’s hands in the shape of a heart as she holds her baby’s feet; an individual pushing a huge boulder personifies struggle; while triumph is expressed by an individual standing at the top of a mountain reaching up to the sky.

Plybon says the performance will also include voice-overs “to tell the story that we all share about overcoming these obstacles, feeling these feelings, and accomplishing our goals.”

Away Camp at Camp Bethel is an annual event. Students spend the days learning the music and marching routines and the evenings competing in the annual Band Olympics. This year the Woodwind section once again won the competition— by a narrow margin– which included musical chairs, a T-shirt swap game, the hula pass, a lip sync battle, and a hula hoop competition which lasted over 30 minutes.

Band families were invited for lunch in the dining hall on Saturday as the week wound up and viewed part of the new program to see what students had accomplished during the week. Seniors took their traditional and emotional walk across the field at the conclusion of the performance.

This year camp went on despite continually “dodging rain clouds” said Chris Steuart.

Marching band would be almost impossible without support from parents. This year’s Band Booster Executive Board is made up of President Suzanne Bowser, Vice President Troy Stultz, Treasurer Debra Dietrich and Secretary Chrissy Dinerville. Ways and Means Chair is Kelly Jones.

“I would like to thank everyone for making this year’s home and away band camp such a success!” said Plybon. “As we all know, an organization such as ours requires many hands and minds working together. Our parents and staff have come together to provide the countless needs that our marching band requires. It humbles me to witness so much dedication. We are a lucky group to have such people involved. With that said, this year’s camp has been one the best that I can remember.”

The Band Boosters conduct numerous fundraising activities during the year to raise the thousands of dollars needed for basic operating expenses, band camp, and participation in several Saturday band competitions throughout the marching season. Boosters not only raise money but chaperone games and competitions.

One of the band’s largest fundraisers of the year is the annual Preview of Champions, scheduled for September 15 at the William Byrd stadium. This year marks the 23rd year of the Preview event.  Bands from across the region will be competing at what is generally the area’s first band competition each year. The Marching Terriers will perform in exhibition that day.

In addition to the Homecoming game on September 7, the Marching Terriers will be performing during home games on September 21 (against Richlands) and 28 (facing William Fleming), on October 19 (Staunton River), and on November 2 (Northside).

The band also plans to participate in several regional competitions on Saturdays during the fall months.

They will be performing in the Veterans Day Parade on November 10 and in the Vinton Christmas Parade on December 6.

On November 14, the band will be hosting a free concert by the acclaimed Airmen of the Night.

The William Byrd High School band was established in 1931. The Marching Terriers have played a significant role in the Town of Vinton throughout those years. The annual Dogwood Festival in Vinton had its beginnings as a fundraising effort for the band to purchase new uniforms.

Businesses and individuals are encouraged to both support the band and to advertise by purchasing ads in the Preview of Champions program. Details are available from Suzanne Bowser at or by calling 540-904-9754.

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