Greenbrier West Alumni Band preserves school spirit long after graduation

By Jeffrey Kanode, RealWV

In an era when the arts face budget cuts and even outright removal from school curriculum, a group of former band members from Greenbrier West High School (GWHS) came together to form what they first called “The Legends.” Now rebranded as the Greenbrier West Cavalier Band Alumni, these graduates are building bridges to Charmco’s current band students.

For three years now, Cavaliers past and present have united to perform at a Greenbrier West home football game.  The adults join the students for the pregame, which includes renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and West’s school song, “Buckeye.” The alumni stick around too, joining today’s band up in the bleachers to play throughout the game. While the inclusion of former band members adds depth and numbers to the current twenty-six member West band, the mission of these “legends” extends beyond beefing up the band’s roster.

“There are a lot of kids—and not just at West—who might not have the parent support. It might be work-related. We never know. This is our way of being there with the kids. We want them to succeed, excel, keep music as part of their lives,” said Brittany Mandeville, who co-coordinates the alumni band with friend and fellow band alumnus Monica Bowyer.“ Mr. Simms has done a wonderful job with the kids. We just want to support them. Every year we have more numbers in the alumni band. My dream is that one day, between the alumni and the kids, we will take up the whole field.”

On the night of the game at which the alumni joins the students, the alumni band provides dinner for the current Cavalier band.  They also have time for conversation and reflection.

“We talk to the kids and we take questions. We ask them what they want out of the band, and we share with them our band experiences,” Mandeville noted.

The alumni band operates as its own unique entity, separate, for instance, from the band boosters. They take donations and use those funds to help care for the band.  For instance, this November the Greenbrier West band students are traveling out of town to experience the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in concert. Mandeville and her compatriots plan to reimburse the band boosters for the cost of that trip. 

Mandeville reports that the West alumni band hopes to broaden its scope and do more with the contemporary band.  For instance, they may start participating in parades, beginning this Christmas season. Mandeville hopes this increased activity will not only help today’s students, but serve as marketing and outreach for the alumni band, too.

“Everyone is invited,” she implored. “Even if someone didn’t graduate from West, if they were part of our band at some point in their schooling, we want them to come and join us.”

To that end, Mandeville created a Facebook group which can be found by searching for Cavalier Marching “Legends” Band Alumni. She said that she and Bowyer will post future plans and upcoming events on that page.

The alumni band includes a bandmember from the class of 1973, and a member who just graduated in 2023.

Brittany Mandeville has two sons currently playing with the Cavalier band. Her sister, GWHS class of ’07, also proudly marched and played. On the football field that recent Friday night, Mandeville, her sister, Amber, and her two sons, Teagan and Dominic all played together in the band of alumni and students. Fighting tears, the mom and older sister reflected, “That was a special night for our family, especially for our mom.”

Teagan, a senior, will be joining the University of Charleston’s band next fall. “UC’s band is small and mighty, just like our band is small and mighty, so he will still have that feel,” Mandeville explained. Freshman Dominic is just getting started as a Cavalier band member.

Brittany Mandeville has a connection to the Greenbrier West Cavalier Band that can be described as deeply personal, steeped in both her past and present.  It can also be called familial, and for Mandeville, no description could be more appropriate. “Whether the kids have a good home or not, they always have home with us, the band,” she said. 

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