Oakton High School Marching Band Takes the Lead in Inaugural Metallica Competition

The Oakton High School marching band from Virginia has recently made a remarkable performance that caught the attention of many. In a groundbreaking national competition created by none other than the legendary heavy metal band, Metallica, the Oakton High School band took the stage and absolutely stole the show with their rendition of Metallica’s iconic song “Enter Sandman.”

A Unique Performance

During the performance, the musicians, dressed in black uniforms, shocked the audience as they momentarily put down their instruments, only to reappear on stage with black, white, and gray wigs, all amidst a dramatic cloud of smoke. Throughout the show, the band utilized traditional marching band instruments to deliver stellar renditions of not just one, but five Metallica songs, while also sporting costumes adorned with wigs and chains to mirror the appearance of Metallica’s guitarists and drummers.

A Triumph for Oakton High School

With over 450 high schools and colleges participating in the competition, the victory was not an easy feat. However, the hard work and dedication of Oakton High School’s band did not go unrecognized. Metallica announced Oakton as one of the four high schools to emerge victorious in the competition, with the Fairfax County school being awarded $15,000 to spend on musical equipment.

Surprise and Joy

Speaking about the unexpected victory, Jamie VanValkenburg, the band director of Oakton, expressed his surprise and elation, mentioning that he never anticipated such a win and described it as a truly unprecedented achievement for their program.

Preparation and Commitment

To deliver such an exceptional performance, the band members put in tireless efforts into preparing for the competition. Despite some members being unfamiliar with Metallica’s music, they dedicated themselves to familiarizing with the band’s songs during band classes, in their leisure time, and even during bus rides. They focused on mastering five key songs: “The Unforgiven,” “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” “Turn the Page,” “The Memory Remains,” and of course, “Enter Sandman.”
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Challenges and Creativity

Adapting Metallica’s music for a marching band show presented several challenges, considering Metallica’s unique setup with a singer, two guitarists, a drummer, and a bassist. To navigate this, VanValkenburg and his team had to creatively arrange the music for over a dozen marching band instruments, collaborating with a former professional musician to transcribe the notes. With some adjustments and utilizing various instruments for different parts of the songs, the band successfully captured the essence of Metallica’s music through their own interpretation.

Unconventional Approach

The band’s parents played an integral role in organizing the visual elements of the performance, creating a makeshift stage for the percussionists, guitarist, and drummer, complete with a black curtain donning the words “PARADE TO BLACK,” paying homage to Metallica’s “Fade to Black.”

Dedication and Rehearsals

Months of rigorous rehearsals preceded the performance, with the band members diligently practicing three days a week after the commencement of the school year. The first showcase took place in August during the halftime of the school’s home football game, marking the beginning of an incredible journey.

A Spectacular Showcase

The performance itself was a spectacle, commencing with a powerful rendition of “The Unforgiven,” with some members donning black leather attire and chains, embodying the essence of 80s heavy metal. The climax of the show was marked by a surprise element where the band members adorned punk-style wigs and made a captivating entrance onto the field, accompanied by enthusiastic “rock on” hand gestures, leaving the audience in awe.

Recognition and Victory

Following a dedicated recording of the performance on the football field, the band awaited the results with bated breath. When the news of their victory broke, the emotional response from the band members and the revelation that their months of hard work had resulted in a monumental achievement was nothing short of overwhelming.
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A Lasting Impact

Looking ahead, VanValkenburg plans to utilize the prize money to procure new percussion instruments, aiming to create a lasting tribute in the form of a commemorative plaque to celebrate Oakton’s remarkable win. The impact of this achievement is anticipated to resonate within the school for years to come, serving as a testament to the dedication, talent, and sheer determination of the students and their mentor. In conclusion, Oakton High School’s triumph in the inaugural Metallica competition exemplifies the power of passion and creativity in the realm of music, showcasing the boundless potential of high school bands in reimagining and interpreting the works of legendary artists. The story of their remarkable journey serves as an inspiring testament to the endless possibilities that emerge when talent, dedication, and innovation converge.


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