Winterguard: Sport of the Arts

In high school, I was involved in marching band, along with thousands of other artistic teens with no life. (Just kidding – I totally had a life back then). However, I was not musically talented enough to march through the streets with a huge, shiny sousaphone, trumpet, or flute. Nope. I was a member of the pageantry unit.

Okay look. Pageantry unit members deserve more respect. Please do not call us “flag twirlers,” or worse, wannabe cheerleaders. Because please – cheerleaders could not do half the skills that the colorguard could do. That is, at least not my colorguard. You may call us PUMs, colorguard members, talented dancers, or, if you prefer, the goddesses of marching band who were much more interesting to watch than the uniformed clones with their funny hats and horns.

(Kidding, kidding! I love musicians. Musicians rock.)

In the fall and spring, the colorguard serves as mostly a support unit for the marching band – a show of pageantry to add visual interest and get the crowd excited (okay STOP the cheerleader comparisons. So not the same thing!). However, in the winter, the colorguard finally gets to break away from the musicians and shine in an arena that belongs only to them. Well, to them and the percussionists.


Winterguard dancer

I can probably speak for many members and former members of colorguard when I say that Winterguard was the best, most exciting part of the marching band year. So much so that I will only write it with a capital W. Oh wait…you’ve never heard of Winterguard? Seriously? Where on earth have you been? Winterguard is where color meets sound in a dazzling display. Winterguard is the showcase of the band pageantry world. Winterguard is an exciting explosion of talent, skill, music, and…okay wait. I’m probably not explaining it well. Perhaps this video will help:

Just in case that did not help, here is a simpler explanation. Winterguard is a performing arts competition involving colorguard teams (although the percussion units have their own portion). It often involves a blend of dance and equipment work, with props such as flags, sabers, and rifles (no, not real ones). Most Winterguard team members then go home and twirl broomsticks, baseball bats – basically anything long and straight. (Some of us still do this, years later).

Sadly, high school budgets have made marching band programs all but extinct, including colorguards. So I won’t get a chance to push my kids into getting involved at their schools.  However, many independent guards exist around the country. Or perhaps around the world, judging by the name of the main organization, Winterguard International. Thanks to these independent guards, many talented young musicians, percussionists, and yes, colorguard members can still perform and compete against other teams. And Winterguard fans, like I, can still sit in the stands and cheer on the creative young athletes as they participate in the sport of the arts.