There have been many songs written by Tech students and alumni down through the years, and one important song, "Moonlight and VPI," written by a non-alumnus on request of the Corps of Cadets. Some have stood the test of time and remained intact, others have had minor adjustments to a word or two to reflect changes in the university and its student body, and others have come and gone and are long forgotten.
James Sochinski, Director of Bands (1978-1990), created many arrangements of the music played by the Marching Virginians, including the "VPI Victory March" and The Hokie Pokie. He also updated the arrangement of "Tech Triumph" to replace the multiple versions being played.
The university's most popular fight song was composed in 1919 by Wilfred P. Maddux (class of 1920) and Mattie Eppes (Boggs).
The song was first performed on Saturday, November 1, 1919, at the Fair Grounds in Lynchburg, before the football game between V.P.I. and Washington and Lee University. According to the report in the Nov. 5, 1919, issue of The Virginia Tech, there were problems with obtaining uniforms for the entire Corps, so only the junior and senior classes, along with the band, were able to attend the game. The cadets arrived by train in Lynchburg at 11:30 a.m. and headed to the Carroll Hotel, which was V.P.I. headquarters. At 1 p.m., the cadets paraded through the streets of Lynchburg, then headed to the car barn to board street cars for the trip to the Fair Grounds.
“On arriving at the grounds, the battalion was formed for the review on the football field. After passing in review before the grandstand, the four companies formed a hollow square with the band in the center, and the band played our new song, ‘Tech Triumph.’”
In a letter to The Virginia Tech published on Dec. 10, 1919, Maddux expressed his appreciation to the student body.
To the Editor of "The Va. Tech,"
Dear Billy [Virginia Tech editor William Clift]
May I take this means of asking you to express through the columns of "The Tech" my sincere appreciation for the generous way in which the Corps received our new song. It is needless to say that the hearty approval of the student body makes me fell highly pleased, for I am quite sure that those who love their Alma Mater are as eager as I am to see the song become more popularly distributed.
While, of course, every one realizes that I expect to benefit financially through the publication of "Tech Triumph," I want every body to know that it is mainly my devotion and love to the college, which I am proud to boast as my Alma Mater, that prompted me to write the song and it is for the sake of "Tech" that I want it to receive a wide circulation. It is more than gratifying to me to see the ardent spirit and loyalty which the Corps manifests when every man lends his lusty voice to swell the chorus of football singing.
You may be interested to know that the college has approved the song officially and a large number of copies will be sent our by the college to high schools throughout the state as an advertisement of the spirit of "Tech." If I will not be presuming too much upon your kindness, may I ask that you help boost the song through "The Virginia Tech," and furthermore that you encourage the men of V.P.I. to join us in spreading our song around the country until V.P.I. will be known throughout the South and the country at large.
Thanking you again for your cooperation in making the publication of "Tech Triumph" a success, I am
Yours very cordially,
The following school year, as noted in the June 2, 1920, edition of The Virginia Tech, "After a great deal of trouble, to say nothing of the expense incurred, the Monogram Club has succeeded in placing the "Tech Triumph" upon a Columbia record, and we are told that the greatest college song on "record" will be out during Finals."
The popularity of the song continued, as reported in the Nov. 3, 1920, edition of The Virginia Tech. "The song has been a great success, not only as a school song, but also as a popular selection, and is featured as such by many dance orchestras. J. N. Walker, who has been handling the sale of the records and piano copies for the Monogram Club, has received another supply of both the records and the sheet music, which are now on sale at 256 G Division. The price remains the same as formerly, $1.25 for the record and 35 cents for the piano copies. Anyone who has failed to obtain either the record or the sheet music is urged to do so at once, as the supply is not expected to last long."
The Highty-Tighties had a contract with RCA Victor, according to the March 9, 1951, edition of The Virginia Tech. The band was to record "Tech Triumph," "Victory March," and five other marches. The three-record set was to be available on a choice of 78 rpm or 45 rpm records.
Maddux and Eppes
Techmen, we're Techmen, with spirit true and faithful,
Backing up our teams with hopes undying;
Techmen, Oh, Techmen, we're out to win today,
Showing pep and life with which we're trying;
V.P., old V.P., you know our hearts are with you
In our luck which never seems to die;
Win or lose, we'll greet you with a glad returning,
You're the pride of V.P.I.
Just watch our men so big and active
Support the Orange and Maroon. Let's go Techs.
We know our ends and backs are stronger,
With winning hopes, we fear defeat no longer.
To see our team plow through the line, boys.
Determined now to win or die:
So give a Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Hi,
Rae, Ri, old V.P.I.
Second Verse (seldom used)
Fight, men, oh, fight, men, we're going to be the champions
Adding to our list another victory;
Football or baseball, the games in which we star,
They're the sports which made old VP famous.
Hold'em, just hold'em, you know the Corps' behind you
Watching every movement that you make.
Winning games was nothing for our teams before you --
Keep the "rep" for VP's sake.
VPI Victory March
This popular fight song was written by Charles D. Steinwedel, class of 1943, to commemorate a football victory. The late Col. Harry Temple (class of 1934), who researched Virginia Tech and Corps of Cadets history for a series of books, had notes about the song (found in his papers in the Special Collections section of Newman Library). Temple wrote:
In pre-World War II America, before that University gave up football as a varsity sport, Georgetown University was a national powerhouse on the gridiron. For several years before V.P.I. played Georgetown in the Fall of 1941, the "Hoyas" were ranked as one of the the top teams in the country. It's mighty pigskin warriors had been defeated only once in more than three years, and were an Orange Bowl team the previous winter.The Virginia Tech team was prejudged universally as easy prey for the big Grey and Blue aggregation.
To the distinct shock of the football world, the Gobblers defeated Georgetown, at their homecoming game in Blacksburg, on 4 October 1941, by a score of 3 to 0. It was the first time that the Hoyas had been held scoreless in 30 straight games. The Tech campus went wild.
In the emotionally charged spirit of the occasion, Cadet Charles D. Steinwedel (class of 1943), a Junior at the time, was inspired to compose a march to commemorate the momentous event. He wrote both the music and lyrics, and entitled the piece the "V.P.I. Victory March."
The number had its public debut at the V.P.I. Glee Club's Spring concert, "Moonlight and Sawdust," at the College Auditorium on 7 May 1942. It was recorded by the Glee Club in 1948, and by the Highty-Tighties in 1950. The march was played at football games, by the the Cadet Band, for several years after the war.
Steinwedel's march lists opponents of Virginia Tech from the 1930s and early '40s -- Georgetown, William and Mary (Indians), Army (1938, a 38-0 loss), and V.M.I. and Washington and Lee ("worthy teams from Lexington"). The words were revised in 2000 to reflect Virginia Tech's membership in the Big East football conference; acknowledging West Virginia (Mountaineers), Miami (Hurricanes), Syracuse, and long-time in-state rival Virginia.
You've seen Mountaineers fumble,
You've been in Hurricanes' eye,
And you know 'ol Syracuse
Has learned the force of Hokie-Hi.
Worthy teams from all around,
Like Hoos from UVA,
Know a winning team awaits them;
Victory is ours today.
You have seen the Hoyas tumble,
You have made the Indians cry;
And you know the Army mule
Once took a kick at V.P.I.
Worthy teams from Lexington
Have fought with all their might;
And now it's time to show the world
That victory is ours tonight!
Clear the way, so that team from Tech
Can roll to Victory!
No foe can stand the test,
So fight your best, and we will do the rest.
Strength and speed keep you in the lead;
You'll never go astray.
Our banner high shall ever fly
For victory is ours today.
A number of songs have been composed and proposed as an Alma Mater for Virginia Tech, but no one song has been officially adopted. Two "Alma Maters" have been offered, both composed for a contest, but neither received an official recognition from the university administration.
What is considered the current Alma Mater was composed for a student contest held in the spring of 1939. The contest, first announced in The Virginia Tech on Wednesday, January 18, 1939, was sponsored by the V.P.I. Richmond Club, "one of the oldest, as well as one of the largest, sectional clubs on the campus. The minimum prize offered was $10 and "all types of songs will be considered; either the Alma Mater type or a song along the lines of "Play Ball" or "Tech Triumph."
The music was written by Ernest T. Sparks (class of 1940) and the words were written by Lyle G. Chase (class of 1942). The words have appeared in every commencement program since 1954, constituting the closest official adoption of any "Alma Mater" at the university.
This song has undergone two recent changes to reflect the current state of Virginia Tech. At the September 10, 1999, meeting of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association Board of Directors, the board adopted a minor change to update the lyrics. The original "V. P., all hail to thee" was changed to "VT, all hail to thee." The third verse was changed in 1989 to better reflect the co-ed make-up of the student body, dropping "sons of V.P.I." for "sons and daughters, one" with "sky" in the next line changed to "sun" to keep the rhyming scheme.
Alma Mater (1939)
Sparks and Chase
Sing praise to Alma Mater dear.
For VPI we'll ever cheer
Come lift your voices, swell the song.
Our loyalties to her belong.
So stand and sing, all hail to thee,
VT, all hail to thee.
The Orange and Maroon you see
That's fighting on to victory;
Our strife will not be long this day,
For glory lies within this fray.
All loyal sons and daughters, one,
We raise our banner to the sun;
Our motto brings a spirit true,
That we may ever serve for you.
Original third verse
All loyal sons of V.P.I.
We raise our banner to the sky;
Our motto brings a spirit true,
That we may ever serve for you.
So stand and sing, all hail to thee,
V.P., all hail to thee.
Earlier Alma Maters
On April 2, 1914, The Virginia Tech declared in a headline that "V.P.I Should Have a Song All Her Own and as Immortal as the Hokie." The article stated that "It is desirable, we might almost say essential, that the V.P.I. have a college song peculiarly her own. We need a song which will be handed down to the generations to come at V.P.I. just as the good old "Hokie" has been handed down; one that will make you overflow with loyalty and cause your heart to skip a few beats as do the well loved strains of "Dixie."
Songs were to be submitted by May 15, 1914, and a prize of $10.00 was offered for the best song. However, May arrived and passed without mention of a winner. The Virginia Tech revived the contest the following term, with an announcement on Oct. 1, 1914, that the contest was never closed and a new deadline of Oct. 15 was in place. The $10 prize still stood.
On Oct. 22, it was announced that Prof. Robert B.H. Begg, professor of civil engineering and a member of the class of 1899, had submitted the winning song. "There were two other songs which were also very good," the article reported, "and from the three it was hard to choose. The music to Professor Begg's song, however, is more characteristic of a college song and it was therefore selected."
"Capt. Brauer, of the band, is preparing the music for the prize song and it will be ready in a few days. In the meantime every body learn the words and we will practice it some evening at yell practice," the article concluded. (R.C. Brauer was First Seargent of the Cadet Band.)
Alma Mater (1914)
Where the rugged Alleghanies
Rear their crests on high,
Stands our much loved Alma Mater
'Neath Virginia's sky.
Old Virginia Polytechnic,
Unto thee we sing,
While thy sent'nal mountains guard thee
Loud thy praises ring.
Orange and maroon is waving
O'er our heads today,
While we toil for added laurels
At thy feet to lay.
When from thee thy sons are parted,
In this changing life,
Dreams of thee that haunt their slumbers
Help them in the strife.
The Virginia Tech of Oct. 29 included "two of the best songs which were sent in during the song contest, and the authoresses have kindly donated them to the list of V. P. I. yells and songs."
V. P. I. Forever
(Tune: Maryland, my Maryland)
O V. P. I., we lift on high
The colors that we cherish;
Orange-maroon win late or soon,
Their glory'll never perish.
For them our fears, our joy, our tears,
From them we'll never sever.
We'll lift them high
To every sky
O V. P. I., forever.
O V. P. I., our hoki-hi
Leads every cheer that's given.
The sound is dear to every ear,
With it the air is riven.
O hoki, hoki, hoki-hi,
We'll hoki still for V. P. I.
For her our team will win or die.
O V. P. I. forever.
Mrs. R. H. Price, Blacksburg, Va.
Dear Old V. P. I.
(Tune: Old Lang Syne)
As the ivy green clings to the wall,
So our heart to thee is nigh,
Dear "Alma Mater" best of all,
Our dear old V. P. I.
Thou did'st guide our feet in youthful days,
Thou did'st teach us truth and right,
And now our voices rise in praise,
To thee, our beacon light.
We will carve thy name in halls of fame,
It is graven on our heart.
Thy praise we'll sound, the world around,
Thou art of life a part.
We will cherish thee, long as life shall be,
We will love thee till we die
And our hearts all sigh, when we say good-bye
To dear old V. P. I.
Mrs. Thos. D. Berry, Bedford, Va.
Moonlight and VPI
In the 1930s, one of the most popular musical groups was Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians. The singing group and orchestra traveled around the country to perform, had regular appearances on radio, and appeared in a number of movies. The corps of cadets petitioned Waring to write a song for Ring Dance in 1942. It was broadcast on Waring's radio program during the Ring Dance on March 5, 1942, and has been a part of every Ring Dance since then. Upon entering the dance, each couple receives a pair of ribbons in the class colors. The lady wears her date's ring on her wrist with the darker colored ribbon, and the gentleman wears his date's ring on his wrist with the lighter colored ribbon. During the official Ring Exchange, the Corps of Cadets enter the ballroom and stand in the shape of the Class numerals. As each couple exchanges rings, "Moonlight and VPI" is performed.
The late Col. Harry Temple (class of 1934), who researched Virginia Tech and Corps of Cadets history for a series of books, related information about the origin of the song and its initial performance (found in his papers in the Special Collections section of Newman Library). Temple wrote:
Upon visiting the V.P.I. campus, Fred Waring developed an affection for the college. In acknowledgement of that attachment, in the spring of 1942 he collaborated with Charles Gaynor in composing the romatic ballard "Moonlight and V.P.I."
At the time, Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians were among America's most popular musical groups and their phonograph recordings were "best sellers." The group had played in a number of motion pictures, and had appeared in several reviews. In 1933, Fred Waring's orchestra and famous glee club had started their radio shows. For five years before the 1942 date, the fifty-five Pennsylvanians had been performing on the "Chesterfield Pleasure Time" radio show of the National Broadcasting Corporation (N.B.C.) nationwide network. The series had consistently won the National Radio Editor's Poll award for the best fifteen-minute program on the air for every year since the program started, staring Waring's Banjazztra, the original Waring glee club. For more than two years, Waring's veratile group of singers and instrumentalists had been particular favorites of the colleges and universities of the nation.
On Friday evening, March 5, 1942, the V.P.I. Junion Class of 1944 held its formal ring dance. The ring dance for the Class of 1944 was a part of V.P.I.'s wartime accelerated program.
At 7:00 o'clock on that evening of March 5, in honor of the V.P.I. Class of 1944, the Fred Waring group called its network "Victory Tunes from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute." Prior to the performance, Waring had solicited from the V.P.I. Junior Class its wishes for songs, and permitted the V.P.I. men to select all the numbers for that evening's broadcast. "Moonlight and V.P.I." received the heaviest calls. Other chosen selections were "Beyond the Blue Horizon," "Stardust," and "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To." It was an all-V.P.I. performance.
At Blacksburg at 10:44 o'clock on that same evening of March 5, Van Alexander, whose orchestra played for the V.P.I. Ring Dance, broadcast directly from the ring dance floor over Station WSLS and the Mutual Broadcasting System coast to coast. Of course, "Moonlight and V.P.I." was included in that broadcast also.
Bright Moon, shed your light...
moon, on the one I love tonight, moon.
Let her know romance will not die
Just as long as you're in the sky.
Tell her, "Do," moon,
I'll be true, moon,
For my love believes in you, moon,
By this ring that is on my finger,
I swear that my love will linger,
So help me to find her,
With a kiss to remind her,
Of moonlight and V.P.I.
(For the girl to sing)
Oh moon, take it slow, moon,
can't you see I'm all aglow, moon,
When a girl has fallen in love
She's in need of help from above.
Keep an eye, moon on that guy moon,
Like a loyal V.P.I. moon.
And if you want a good suggestion,
Shine on 'till he pops the question
And I'll wear his ring then,
and two hearts will sing then,
of moonlight and V.P.I.
That I may serve -- God make me strong,
Put impulse in my heart to right the wrong;
Quicken the sentient ear to misery's clamor drear,
Raise we the cry of succor to the breaking skies!
That I may serve -- Glorious in youth,
Honour my burnished shield, my sword be truth,
Knowledge the guidon bright kept ever in our sight,
Gird then and arm, a new day bids us all arise!
That I may serve -- Let Time no toll
Take of our Faith, as swift the seasons roll;
Let courage match the deed worthy of this, our creed --
That serving man, serve we our God in high emprise!
Words and music by Mrs. Ethel McKee O'Byrne
Found in the 1940-41 Guidon, Students' Handbook of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Vol. 44 (LD5655 V8 Y58 1940/41 c.2)