After years of experience with marching bands, Polly Middleton is well-versed in homecomings. And now she’s had a homecoming of her own as she rejoined The Marching Virginians.

For five years, Middleton was the associate director of athletic bands at Virginia Tech, where she also served as assistant director of The Marching Virginians and director of the Hokies Pep Band.

In July 2018, she became only the fifth director in the 44-year history of the 330-member-strong marching band, also known as The Spirit of Tech.

After leaving Virginia Tech in 2016 to gain more leadership experience, Middleton spent one year as director of athletic bands at Arkansas State University, then another as director of Illinois State University’s marching band. Her more recent position was particularly gratifying because the university is in her hometown of Normal, Illinois.

Deciding to leave that position was difficult. But the draw of the Hokie Nation proved irresistible.

“I had fallen in love with Virginia Tech and The Marching Virginians,” she said. “I love what they represent. And Blacksburg feels like home.”

Middleton began her own musical career with the instrument perhaps least suited for a marching band: the piano. When she switched her focus to her second instrument, the French horn, she became mobile—and inspired.

“As soon as I joined my college marching band,” she said, “I knew what I wanted to do with my life—be a band director.”

At Virginia Tech, she’s excited to get back together with the band.

“Marching bands promote an aspect of community unique to performing ensembles,” she said. “There is participation from students across majors and across colleges. These students are passionate about supporting their school and providing the best atmosphere possible for each game.

“To be able to continue the legacy is an honor, both daunting and exciting at the same time,” she added. “This is my dream job.”