Virginia Tech’s Highty-Tighties perform as musicians, leaders

They capture attention at Virginia Tech ceremonies, during halftime shows at Lane Stadium, and in parades. But it’s not just musical performances that set the members of Virginia Tech’s Highty-Tighties apart. They perform as leaders as well.

The award-winning Highty-Tighties, the Regimental Band of the Corps of Cadets, have a long history of producing outstanding students recognized for their impact on the university and in the community. The Highty-Tighties formed in 1893 and is today the oldest collegiate band in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

   

The Highty-Tighties march past Torgersen Hall. The Highty-Tighties march past Torgersen Hall.

“As the corps’ fall 2010 regimental commander, I witnessed first-hand the immense impact the Highty-Tighties have on our Corps of Cadets, the university, and our community,” said U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Micah Hafich, who graduated in May 2011 with a degree in mathematics and a minor in leadership studies. “The Regimental Band is a display of excellence, and it is a strong demonstration of the hard work and constant dedication put forward.”

Consider some recent examples of Highty-Tighties who have contributed to the university community:

  • The Virginia Tech Women’s Center 2011 Advancing Women Award went to Kasey Beernink, who graduated in May 2011 with a degree in chemistry and a minor in leadership studies. Now a U.S. Navy ensign, Beernink was one of the first women ever commissioned as a nuclear submarine officer. During her senior year, she served as the band’s public affairs officer and then as their academics officer.
  • The 2011 A. Alan Baird Award, given to the student who has contributed the most to the residence hall community, went to Matthew Buffington, who graduated in May 2011 with a degree in political science and a minor in leadership studies. Now a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Buffington served as the band company commander in fall 2010.
  • The 2008 Undergraduate Student Leader of the Year was Mark Amos, now a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, one of seven consecutive Corps of Cadets winners of the award between 2004 and 2010. Amos graduated in 2008 with a degree in electrical engineering and a minor in leadership studies and is now a KC-10 pilot stationed at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.
   

In one of the special traditions at Virginia Tech, the Highty-Tighty Alumni Band marches in the pre-game show in Lane Stadium, proving they “still have it” as they perform with the Highty-Tighties of today. “In one of the truly unique traditions at Virginia Tech, the Highty-Tighty Alumni Band marches in the homecoming parade and at the pre-game show in Lane Stadium, proving they 'still have it' as they perform with the Highty-Tighties of today,” said Col. Rock Roszak, alumni director for the corps.

Current cadets say being a part of the Highty-Tighties gives them opportunities to develop as leaders.

Aaron Bonovitch, an Air Force cadet from Maidens, Va., and a senior majoring in history, is the drum major for the 2011-12 academic year, something he never thought he would do.

“The biggest thing I think I’ve learned is that I can do anything I set my mind to,” Bonovitch said. “If you had asked me before December if I wanted to be the next drum major, I would’ve said, ‘no.’ I never saw myself as the guy out front. However, a few people inspired me to try out for drum major, so I said, ‘Why not give it a shot?’

“I worked long and hard to prepare for the tryouts. I strove to improve my marching, directing, and especially confidence,” he said. “Now I know I can do anything I set my mind to. It’s given me a ton of confidence in my leadership abilities and makes me want to strive for more and help this band improve,” he said.

   

Formed in 1893, the Highty-Tighties, the Corps of Cadets' Regimental Band, are Virginia Tech's longest serving musical organization and the oldest collegiate band in Virginia. Formed in 1893, the Highty-Tighties, the Corps of Cadets' Regimental Band, are Virginia Tech's longest serving musical organization and the oldest collegiate band in Virginia.

Collin Jeffrey Chew of Richmond, Va., a Marine cadet and a senior majoring in computer science, said the fact that the Highty-Tighties are largely directed by students is a leadership opportunity in itself.

“We are entirely self-run with the help of Maj. [George] McNeill, who lets us improve our own drill and set what shows we would like to march in,” said Chew, who plays the trumpet and is the Golf Company executive officer for fall 2011. “We even have our own staff, such as public affairs officer, operations officer, performance officer, drum major, and marching officer that work on all band-related activities. All of these jobs have their own challenges, but the largest take-away is that it gives us experience in working with peers and subordinates and leading them in order to accomplish a task.”

With its multiple ensembles, the Highty-Tighties are a visible presence on campus. Performances by the Regimental Band, the Southern Colonels Jazz Ensemble, the string quartet, the brass quintet, and the pep band for women’s basketball include more than 40 events annually.

Highty-Tighty accomplishments

As a group, the Highty-Tighties have a long list of successes.

  • The Regimental Band has won 129 first-place trophies and one second-place trophy in 130 marching competitions.
  • In 1917, the Regimental Band marched in its first of 11 inaugural parades. After winning three consecutive first-place trophies, the inaugural trophy was retired to Virginia Tech in 1965 and today resides in the museum in the Holtzman Alumni Center. Most recently the Highty-Tighties performed in the inaugural celebration for President Obama.
  • In May 2011, the Highty-Tighties graduated 20 seniors, 17 of whom were commissioned into the armed forces: 11 Navy, three Army, two Air Force, and one Marine Corps.

Video: Squad Tactical Challenge

    corps squad tactical challenge

The Highty-Tighties won the top two spots in the Corps of Cadets’ sixth annual Squad Tactical Challenge on March 26, 2011. Approximately 70 nine-person squads from the corps participated in this competition. 

Highty-Tighty alumni stay connected

Founded in 1975, the Highty-Tighty Alumni Inc. has played an active role in ensuring that the Highty-Tighties and the Corps of Cadets remain an important part of Virginia Tech. 

Alumni donate and raise money to help fund scholarships and to provide stipends for entering band freshmen, act as mentors, and promote fellowship and spirit activities.

Director continues to impact cadets

Maj. George McNeill became band director for the Highty-Tighties in 1992 after 22 years of military service in the Army Band Program. With 19 years as director, he is the longest serving leader in the Regimental Band’s history and has overseen the growth of the band, both in terms of numbers and musical quality. 

“When I became director of the Virginia Tech Regimental Band I did not realize how tremendously exciting the experience was going to be and as I look back over my 19 years with the Highty-Tighties, I can say whole-heartedly that it has been very rewarding working with so many talented student-musicians from all over the country. The real treasure is seeing them return again years later at homecoming with families and careers and reminiscing of the wonderful experiences they had while a member of the Virginia Tech Regimental Band.”

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