ETTRICK, Va. -- Members of the Virginia State University Trojan Explosion Marching Band are back in Central Virginia are a whirlwind and reflecting on the last few weeks that saw them set new milestones and break barriers with several performances.
"It's been a busy year," said interim director Taylor Whitehead.
The events started with the band's 10th appearance at the Honda Battle of the Bands after a ten year hiatus.
"It was incredible, to say the least, truly an honor for me as a first year student to be participating in the 10th year that Virginia State goes to Honda Battle of the Bands," said sophomore percussionist David Lomax, who is studying to become a mechanical engineer, of the experience. "A lot of people say that it's like a family and I would completely agree with that. Because you meet these people, you come from different places, but you all have the common goal of being great."
After that, some of the band took part in a performance on the Today Show.
"It was an experience being in New York because that was my first time. And to see people watching through the windows. It was just, like, we're bringing the culture here. This is -- this is us and it's great for others to be able to see and hear and experience it," said senior percussionist Christina Jackson.
After the appearance, the band headed down to Baltimore to play for their basketball team's appearance in the CIAA tournament (the Trojans would win their opening game, but fall in the quarterfinals to #1-ranked and eventual winners Fayetteville State University).
The band also got the call to head to Washington to perform at the White House's Black History Month program. They were the first university band to perform at the event, which is usually reserved for the Marine Corps.
Freshman trombonist Alex Colbert Fauntleroy hopes they are not the last.
"It did excite me to be one of the on the beginning or cusp of introducing that concept into to the future generations," Fauntleroy said.
For Whitehead, the flurry high-profile gigs was a full-circle moment for the second-generation VSU grad and former band member.
"I can remember dreaming of one day leading this organization," he said. "So for it to happen. It's really like a dream come true."
When he rejoined in 2013, he has climbed the ranks since and took over as interim director this year.
“I never would have dreamed that I will be in the White House performing with a group of students," he said.
The high-profile performances have also been a proud moment for Whitehead because of how well his students have performed.
"I felt that we would do well," Whitehead said. "But they really rose to the occasion each time and they they were welcoming of the challenges."
Since the whirlwind tour, Whitehead said the phone has been ringing off the hook with more opportunities. He had this prediction for the band's future: “growth and explosion.”
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