Guest Post: Virginia’s Finest
Tripp won last week’s prediction contest and earned the right to guest post. Here’s his thoughts on the finest marching band in Virginia, and all other 49 states.
First, let me start by giving my thanks to Rob and Todd for running this awesome blog; keep up the great work guys!
It was no surprise JMU beat URI last weekend, but who would have thought that our boys in purple & gold would dish out such an utter butt-whooping? Despite the Dukes’ staggering win by 77 points, even the biggest JMU fan likely found the last quarter of the game tiresome to watch… but I can tell you there was one group of fans that enjoyed every last minute. This group is part of the reason I am such a HUGE JMU fan, and I’m sure you guessed who: “Virginia’s Finest” THE MARCHING ROYAL DUKES!
The MRDs are an integral part of the football program and campus in general. What other student organization at JMU (or on any other campus for that matter) has marched across the U.S. and Europe playing in the streets of London, Ireland, Monaco, and performing for the Pope in Rome? Or represented our alma mater in the biggest parade in the country – the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Sure, the finished show is always outstanding, but few Dukes fans realize the hard work and commitment that go in to making the show look and sound so great.
Recently the Daily Duke published an article titled “An Inside Look at the MRDs”. I highly recommend taking a minute to read it to appreciate the day-to-day of a Marching Royal Duke. Band members devote hours to practice every day regardless of weather conditions ( the mantra goes: “What happens when it rains?” “We get wet!”), hop on a bus at 5am the weekend of an away game for various off-campus performances, and are up in the wee hours of a Saturday morning for game day practice while many others are sleeping in and nursing hangovers from the night before. But you know what? These musicians, from practically every major on campus, thrive on rootin’ for the Dukes. Director Scott Rikkers and his assistants have created an excellent program that fosters leadership, encourages students to better themselves on and off the field, and of course, bleeds purple with the best of them. Scott and his staff focus not just on making better musicians, but on making better individuals by supporting each other as well as the community. (Shameless plug: this fall, the MRDs are “Drumming Up Support” for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in the fight against childhood cancer. If you are so able, please consider supporting the MRDs in their endeavor here.)
I was blessed to be a member of this incredible organization during my four years at JMU (not to mention meeting my wife, who was a fellow MRD) and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world – no, not even those 5am bus rides. I was fortunate to march in Ireland for New Years and down the streets of New York in the Macy’s Parade. As a member of the band, I witnessed JMU’s crushing defeat at App. State, their hard-won redemption the following year, and Scotty’s punt return against the hated Spiders in Richmond that was nothing short of magical. The MRDs are there through it all, so it’s no surprise they’re some of the biggest, and loudest, fans in the stadium. I don’t think I’m alone when I say the games wouldn’t be the same without them. (That being said, they’ll be missed in Bridgeforth East this weekend, but I have no doubt our fans will make up for it – SQUASH THE SPIDERS!)
THANK YOU to the MRDs for all you do for the JMU Community – keep bleeding (and wearing) purple, and playing loud and proud in support of our Dukes! I want to encourage everyone reading this to get in the stands BEFORE kickoff to see the amazing pre-game show, and stay after the game for the post-game show to support this hardworking band!
P.S. – If you’re hungry to read more about the MRDs, here’s another article.
P.P.S – Join me in giving to JMU!! Less than 7% of Alumni give back – every little bit helps! jmu.edu/give