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A first of his kind: Meteorology student becomes Marching Virginians’ first-ever weather forecaster

Ben Sheppard, senior, combines his love for music and weather with the Marching Virginians

BLACKSBURG, Va. – People like myself and Patrick McKee know what it’s like to have passion for music and for weather, but neither of us was named the band’s official weather forecaster. Ben Sheppard, a senior majoring in meteorology at Virginia Tech, was just named the Marching Virginians' first-ever weather forecaster.

Sheppard’s love for weather started, "Around middle school in Hurricane Irene and Sandy. They were back to back years.”

The window wells at his home began to flood. He had to start bailing out the water with a bucket. It was at this moment he thought to himself, “I remember wondering in that moment, ‘how do you predict this?’”

A few years prior, Sheppard was handed the gift of music in the form of a trumpet. It wasn’t clear how he could mesh the two until he first visited Virginia Tech.

That’s when, “The Marching Virginians played a weather-themed show.”

It was love at first sight and sound. Sheppard auditioned, made it into the band and quickly became the butt of the joke when the weather turned bad. He used the jokes to his advantage, though, and started, "Distributing weather information via some group chats to the band. That’s when the band directors approached me and asked me if they could receive those weather reports.”

Heading into senior year, Sheppard applied for a leadership position in the band. What he didn’t realize is that a position was created just for him — the band’s weather forecaster.

With a smile on his face, Sheppard tells 10 News, “I was fulfilling the first-ever weather forecaster position with the MV’s, and I was so, so excited to hear about that.”

Without an accurate forecast, the quality of the music can suffer. Drums can go out of tune fast. Woodwind instruments, such as clarinets, can easily get damaged.

Sheppard explains, “Anything that’s made of wind is more susceptible to the rain.”

Humidity is hard to deal with early in the season, because it, “Makes it harder to play the high notes.” As a drummer, gripping the stick gets a lot tougher too.

The hard work is made easier, though, by the passion Sheppard has for his craft. He says he spends hours a day doing everything he can to get the forecast right. And now, he has a piece of advice for those that may or may not follow his path to success.

“You never really know where it’s going to go until it does. And when that does happen, some really exciting things start to happen.”

About the Author:

Meteorologist Chris Michaels is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays on Virginia Today.