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Virginia Tech's Tony Distler Hangs Up The Microphone

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The longtime voice of the Marching Virginians will no longer be heard at Virginia Tech football games.

James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

After 40 years of service to Virginia Tech the iconic booming baritone of Dr. Tony Distler will no longer emanate from the speakers at Lane Stadium during pre-game, halftime or special presentations.

Distler arrived at Tech in 1967 where he started a theatre department that quickly added music and communications to the fledgling performing arts section of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

In the fall of 1973, Distler was tasked with starting a civilian marching band from scratch and putting them on the field by the next fall, an effort deemed necessary for Hokie football to become "big time" by then-Tech president T. Marshall Hahn and Academic Vice President Les Malass.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Today&#39;s front page: Asking you to do the &#39;Hokie Pokie&#39; one last time <a href="http://t.co/bHslpEXfSC">http://t.co/bHslpEXfSC</a> <a href="http://t.co/HmpBjlITAZ">pic.twitter.com/HmpBjlITAZ</a></p>&mdash; The Roanoke Times (@roanoketimes) <a href="https://twitter.com/roanoketimes/status/538311856851779585">November 28, 2014</a></blockquote>

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Virginia Tech already had a regimental band, the Highty-Tighties, that included only the members of the Tech Corps of Cadets.

Forming a larger, civilian band was an enormous step in expanding the reach of the performing arts programs at Tech and encouraging the general student body to participate more actively in sports and the university community at large. It's important to remember that the university had only dropped mandatory service in the Corps of Cadets a decade earlier and the Corps had only just been opened to women in 1973.

And there was Tony Distler, right in the middle of it all helping to bridge the gap and ease tensions.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>A salute to Tony Distler, Voice of the Marching Virginians! <a href="http://t.co/5dJ0Y0oeU9">pic.twitter.com/5dJ0Y0oeU9</a></p>&mdash; Marching Virginians (@SpiritOfTech) <a href="https://twitter.com/SpiritOfTech/status/528665875327762432">November 1, 2014</a></blockquote>

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It's impossible to overstate the importance of Dr. Distler to Tech as whole, but the athletic programs clearly benefitted from the band he voiced.

True to President Hahn's inkling, the Marching Virginians helped improve the dreary atmosphere of the seventies into a lively and generally successful period of Tech football and basketball in the eighties.

The MV's have enhanced the gameday experience to the point where it's unthinkable to not have them. The tradition and influence of the band has only continued to grow in the decades since its founding along with the athletic department, university and town.

It's a new era in Blacksburg. There's a new director of athletics, new school President and now there will be a new voice at halftime in Lane Stadium. Oddly that last change that may be the most difficult to accept.

Distler is the only voice we've known to goad us into doing the Hokie Pokie or guide us through a slew of classic rock performances. I can recall as a child learning how to spell the name of Tech's mascot by repeating Distler's trademark, "H-O-K-I-E-S, Hokies!" from the VPI Victory March.

His accomplishments and accolades have been impressive and well-deserved, as is his newfound free time.

The Marching Virginians are known as "The Spirit of Tech" and that's largely been true, but there's absolutely no debate that Tony Distler has been "The Voice".

<iframe src="//player.vimeo.com/video/112522280?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ff9933" width="500" height="281" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href="http://vimeo.com/112522280">Pop Song Lyrics as Read by the Voice of The Marching Virginians - Virginia Tech</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/virginiatech">VirginiaTech</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>