It’s an exciting time to be a band student at Martinsville High School. That’s because the MAVAHI Marching Band stood on the track Saturday before a NASCAR race at the Martinsville Speedway.
But the students weren’t there just to watch vehicles speed past. They also performed.
Calling the opportunity an experience his students would remember for the rest of their lives, Brian Joyce, band director at Martinsville High School, led his band’s national TV performance of the national anthem before the Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs race.
“It’s such an awesome event and opportunity for the MAVAHI Marching Band,” Joyce said.
Many NASCAR events score big stars — such as singer, actress and talk show host Adrienne Houghton and John Rich of country music duo Big & Rich — to sing the national anthem at their roughly two dozen venues, but the Martinsville Speedway does things a bit differently.
For at least the past decade, as memory serves, Joyce said, he has led his students in song at the oldest NASCAR track in the country.
“It is an honor to be able to perform our national anthem at such a big event. Having the students highlighted on a national level is something that they will never forget,” Joyce said. “I’m so proud of the work that the students do on a daily basis, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to showcase the MAVAHI Band students at such a prestigious event.”
The students said they don’t take the performance and honor lightly. Every day in the classroom, they pay tribute to the land of the free and the home of the brave by practicing the “Star Spangled Banner.” They also perform the anthem, of course, at football games on Friday nights.
And they take time outside of the school day and events to perfect playing what some find a difficult song.
“Some of our marching band practices are dedicated to getting ready for the performances at the Speedway,” Joyce said.
After months of practicing, the students will get their opportunity to shine in front of more than a million people on live television.
“It is important for us to have a great performance to showcase what the Martinsville community is all about. We take pride in performing for our community and supporting events like the races at the Martinsville Speedway,” Joyce said. “Performing on a national stage motivates the students to perform at their highest level possible.”
As Sunday draws closer, students in the band are getting eager – and a little anxious – about their big debut.
For Jalia Dillard, a senior, all of the hard work and preparation for the performance will culminate in a matter of days.
“The week heading up to the race is sort of stressful because we’re going to be performing in front of thousands of people plus, it’s on national TV,” Dillard said. “However, it’s really exciting because we get this amazing opportunity to be on TV for something that brings us joy.”
John Martin, a junior, expressed that, although he doesn’t get nervous before the band performs, he does get excited.
“It is pretty exciting and an honor to be able to perform in front of so many people and for live television,” Martin said.
When the nerves start creeping in for Christian Kissee, a senior, said she takes control of the feeling and turns it into something positive, especially when other band members are around.
“The bus ride to the Speedway calms the nerves that form when I think of a big crowd. The nerves eventually fade and become a feeling of success,” Kissee said. “It’s an honor and I am thankful for the many opportunities given to us to be able to play in front of thousands of people.”
Sophomore Sidney Tran talked about looking forward to the experience.
“Playing at the race track is cool. When you see all of the people cheering, it seems like a fantasy,” Tran said. “I get really excited to play in front of such a big crowd.”