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Highty Tighties
Highty-Tighty Logo.png
SchoolVirginia Tech
LocationBlacksburg, Virginia
DirectorSenior Chief Jim Bean USN (Ret.)

The Virginia Tech Regimental Band, also known as the Highty Tighties, VPI Cadet Band, or Band Company was established in 1893 as a military marching band unit in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Virginia Tech also has had since 1974 a non-military marching band, The Marching Virginians.[1]


Roots of the band

Glade Cornet Band, 1884
Glade Cornet Band, 1884

From 1875 to 1892, the Corps hired civilian bands to provide music when needed. One of the best-known of these groups was the Glade Cornet Band, formed by several Blacksburg townspeople in 1883.[2]

In 1892, corps Commandant John Alexander Harman formed a six-piece drum and bugle corps. One member, Cadet Lieutenant Frank Daniel Wilson, sought out several other cadets with musical experience, and formed an unofficial band. Besides Wilson, the initial musicians included Sergeants Clifford West Anderson, John William Sample, Theodore Graham Lewton, and Lorenzo Montogery Hale; and Privates Harry Woodfin Phillips, William Marshall Watson, Charles Lewis Pedigo, William Rufus Prige, James Archer Walsh, and Robert Beverly Jr. Professor and LtCol Ellison Adger Smyth was also a member of the band and a key figure in establishing the band, as well as the first football team in 1892. Wilson eventually convinced Harman and the board of trustees of the need for a distinct band company, and it was formed in May 1893 with Major James Patton Harvey as the first director and Wilson as the first company commander.

In 1894 the Corps traveled to Richmond for the first time for the unveiling of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. In 1896, the Band played at the Jefferson Davis Monument dedication in Richmond, Virginia. They were the only band so honored. In 1896, the band, along with the entire corps, traveled to Roanoke, Virginia for the first annual Thanksgiving Day VPI-VMI football game and pre-game parade to the stadium. This tradition continued until 1970, when Virginia Tech and VMI stopped playing in Roanoke. (The final Virginia Tech-VMI football game was played in Norfolk, VA in 1984.)

Service in the Spanish–American War

Citation Cord for Spanish–American War Service
Citation Cord for Spanish–American War Service
Band of the 2nd Virginia Infantry Volunteers, circa 1890
Band of the 2nd Virginia Infantry Volunteers, circa 1890

In 1898, the Band volunteered for duty in the Spanish–American War. The War Department authorized the organization of bands of twenty-four pieces for the volunteer infantry regiments. A Major Shanks wrote to Major Harvey, Director of the VPI Band, requesting him "to prevail upon his Band to join the Second Virginia as its regimental band. The director, Major James Patton Harvey, and 20-members of the band joined some Blacksburg, Virginia townspeople and former bandsmen to form the Regimental band for the US Army's 2nd Virginia Regiment.

Since service specifically as a VPI unit had been denied, along with the lettered units of the Corps, Major Harvey and fifteen cadets of the Band resigned from VPI and enlisted as individuals with the Second Regiment, along with four VPI alumni and five members of the Blacksburg Glade Cornet Band. Major Harvey was appointed Chief Musician and Leader of the new organization. The Second Virginia's new Regimental Band was a VPI organization constituted as an Army unit. The band was to be stationed in Cuba, however the war was over before they were scheduled to leave from Florida. They were called on to play many times during their stay.

The Highty Tighties were presented with the white citation cord in 1936 for meritorious service in the Spanish–American War. According to Band legend, the cord was pinned on the Band commander backward by Eleanor Roosevelt. It has been worn with the braid on the outside ever since. The official university story is that President Burrus presented the citation cord to the band.

During the absence of Major Harvey, Frank Carper became director of the Band during his senior year in 1898.

Early history

The VPI Cadet Band and Corps of Cadets traveled to several expositions in the early 1900s. In 1901, the band played "The Thunderer" for John Philip Sousa at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Sousa was so impressed that he dedicated a performance of his latest march, "Hands Across the Sea", to the band. The band played "Dixie" 72 consecutive times in 1902 at the Charleston Exposition, setting the world record. At this exposition, the band also played for Teddy Roosevelt, who was quoted to have said he "had never seen such a band." John Philip Sousa met each member of the band personally in 1904 at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (100th anniversary celebration that was delayed for one year) in St. Louis, Missouri. The VPI Cadet Band played in their first of several Presidential Inaugural Parades for President Woodrow Wilson in 1917.

Wilfred Preston ("Pete") Maddux, a trombone and baritone player in the Highty-Tighties (member of the band from the Fall of 1917 to 1919), jointly composed "Tech Triumph" (1985 recording) in 1919 along with Mattie Walton Eppes (Boggs). Mattie Eppes was a neighbor of Pete in his hometown of Blackstone, Virginia. When he was home, Pete would often play violin with Mattie accompanying him on the piano. One evening in the summer of 1919, Pete asked her to help him compose a fight song for VPI. She played the tune and Pete wrote out the score and the words for two verses in a single evening. Pete Maddox is not listed in the yearbook with the band after 1919. Ms. Eppes later married John C. Boggs, Superintendent of Randolph-Macon Military Academy.

Name origin

The Band gained a nickname while marching at the Richmond parade, honoring Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France in 1921.[3][4] The drum major attempted a mace toss as he passed the reviewing stand. The wind blew the mace and it fell to ground, bouncing once. The drum major caught the mace off the bounce and still rendered a proper salute to the reviewing officer. Foch supposedly yelled 'hoity-toity' (show-off in French) in response to the drum major's display. For many years this was believed to be the origin of the band's name. However, history states that the name came from a cheer that was invented when the band was housed in Division E, the fifth stairwell of Lane Hall. While waiting for meals, each unit would give up a cheer. The bandsmen were tired of not having a name, and made up a cheer that went: "Highty Tighty, Christ Almighty, who the hell are we? Riff ramm, goddamn, we're from Division E." It has since evolved over the years.

Band company organizations

The Highty-Tighties formed several musical units within the band over the years, including

Parades and performances

In addition to home coming parades and home and away football pre-game and halftime shows, the Highty-Tighties have marched and played at all manner of events within Virginia and elsewhere. The following are some of the significant activities and events in the life of the Highty-Tighties in the 20th century.



Lane Hall circa 1888–89
Lane Hall circa 1888–89
Lane Hall in 2004
Lane Hall in 2004

in which VPI played against the University of Miami (1966) and Mississippi (1968). The games were televised as the "game of the week."


Presidential inaugural parades

Highty-Tighties march in the 1969 Nixon Inaugural Parade
Highty-Tighties march in the 1969 Nixon Inaugural Parade

The honor of marching in Presidential Inaugural parades has been bestowed on the Highty Tighties 11 times since 1917. This honor represents both the reputation and pride of the band and the hard work of Highty-Tighty alumni and friends in lobbying for this honor.

List of band directors

the band marches to the stadium during a home football game
the band marches to the stadium during a home football game

Traditionally, the commander of the band has been a Captain, if the commander is a senior. If there are no seniors, the commander has been an enlisted officer. Over the years, the Drum Major was not always a senior, especially in early years of the band.

See also


  1. ^ Information about the Virginia Tech Regimental Band that is paraphrased here is found in the historical collection of Virginia Tech yearbooks, The Bugle, on-line, 1895-1989
  2. ^ "Corps History". Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Website. Archived from the original on 2009-05-10. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
  3. ^ This section is based on oral tradition passed down by the Highty Tighties. It has also been quoted in the "Early History of Virginia Tech" by Harry Downing.
  4. ^ Harry Downing Temple, Col, USA retired. "Early History of Virginia Tech". Va Tech Library. Retrieved November 30, 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ a b c "The Highty-Tighties: Upcoming Events". Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  6. ^ Ward, Justin. "Highty-Tighties to march in Governor's Inaugural parade". Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  7. ^ "Highty-Tighties to perform during inaugural celebration". Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  8. ^ Bugle, Virginia Polytechnic Institute year book for each year