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What Every Color Guard Director Needs To Know

The Essential Elements of Color Guard Instruction

Far too many times, more often than not, a young former guard member will graduate and want to be an instructor. This is great, and lots of older instructors will be pleased, but there are very important things to keep in mind when going into color guard instruction. The young guard instructor must have experience. Without this, nobody reputable will even consider you. Any guard instructor should keep in mind that high school and junior high students are forever changing in their bodies. Puberty doesn't happen overnight. The kids will have to explore different trends and sift through different looks that appeal to who they feel they are inside in order to be comfortable doing ANYTHING. Young students will eventually be standoffish, even if momentarily, but they will return to normal. If the emotional outbursts continue, then there is a potential problem. Young people want attention. I cannot stress that enough. Many times students will want to push your buttons on purpose and will ask you ALL kinds of personal questions. This can easily be avoided if you just stand firm on boundaries of respect. If there is no respect, there is no effective communication.

Guard Directors should want to write choreography that they feel is going to make the students shine, not make the choreographer shine. NEVER go into teaching guard with a mindset of ME ME ME. Always keep the progression of the students and the integrity and reputation of the program in mind. Try at all times to make mindful decisions for the betterment of the students, not yourself. There will always be a band director or designer who will want to unknowingly try to do your job for you. NEVER let this happen. If it does, just address the situation assertively and look for a common compromise. It isn't that the designer in question is gunning for your job, it is just that some people are more passionate about a show concept than others and some have it ALL mapped out in their heads. If this is the case, just concentrate on choreography.

Never get too emotionally involved with your students. Does this mean you have to be a robot around them? No, but you cannot allow the boundaries between teacher and student get blurred. If a student crosses that boundary, simply say that you refuse to answer that question. If then, they ask why, just go with the age old, "Because I said so." That is usually the most gentile way of saying shut up. There will come a time when you will have to pick/design a uniform/costume for the students. This can be the most fun if you put your mind to it. If you have no experience in this, fear not, there are plenty of places that do that for you. Always keep in mind the theme of the show in mind and try to find something along these guidelines:

  • Will this look good on ALL body types?
  • Will this be visual against a green/blue marching field?
  • Will this flow or clash with the theme or concept?
  • Will this compliment or insult the performer wearing it?
  • Will this fit in the budget?

Never, under any circumstances purchase a uniform that you want because it looks cool. Even if it is from a catalog, you must go with something flattering, tasteful, form-fitting, and flowing so that the performers will be able to put the show into visual motion easier.

Be organized! Never let your kids trash the place and certainly never let the kids misplace/mistreat the equipment. If they do, you MUST have them replace it or reimburse you for the lost/damaged equipment. There is not a single school district or independent unit that will disagree with that rule. Always keep your cool. We all get mad, and even though there will always be at least one bad apple, you have to stay on top of things by keeping cool. Maintain a firm, yet soothing voice and show no upset on your face. If something gets too difficult to control, just excuse yourself momentarily and handle the issue. 'Rules are meant to be broken, ' or some of your kids will try to convince, but in this case, not true. Every rule is there for the sake of boundaries, confidentiality, and trust. If someone breaks a rule, don't blow your top, just assertively handle the situation using a delegated authority. Consequences should follow any broken rule. No matter what.

It is alright to be friendly to your students, but not their "friend." You cannot hang out with them at their home and cannot go out with them on a date. This is another boundary that has been crossed every now and then but never should. Always keep your personal life as far away from your professional life and keep it there. Stand your ground. If there are other organizations that wish to portray any act of immaturity and/or poor sportsmanship, let them be the bad guy, never stoop. Let a higher authority figure handle the situation and by any means necessary, don't return any negative favors. Just because they like to throw punches, does not mean you have to as well. Probably the most important rule, in my opinion, is, No Pass, No Play. Always make sure students are passing their classes at all times. Make sure they get to tutoring and are doing what they need to before any students are lost to bad grades. I say this ahead of time because, in any event, a prevention is always better than a cure.

Writing an Impactful Show

Writing a show, particularly winter guard, is the high point in also the most challenging in any guard instructor's career. It can be anything you put your mind to. Using an endless multitude of colors, fabrics and textures to choose from, writing a show can be hard work, yes, but also the most fun you ever had. It requires long hard hours of no sleep, brainstorming, frustration, blood, sweat, and tears. It is an opportunity to put ALL your worth into 5 or ore minutes of emotional and intellectual, sometimes physical reactions. First, you must find a concept of a repertoire (music, sound, audio.) then you must figure out what you want to happen where in the soundtrack. Keep in mind that the work you write must be something attainable by your guard members as well as invoke an impact from the audience/judges.

There are three ultimate impacts to aim for :

  1. Visual Impact - something that is seen by the viewers by the performers.
  2. Emotional Impact - a feeling from the viewer.
  3. Intellectual Impact- Something happening in the soundtrack at just the right point in the music.
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For a more in-depth description:

  1. Visual Impact—something done by the performers with equipment. (What they are doing).
  2. Emotional impact—how the audience will react to your concept, your choreography, and your performance.
  3. Intellectual Impact—innovative and challenging way to complete the visual and emotional impacts. (How the performers use their equipment, and at what point in the soundtrack.)

Far too many times. a young and inexperienced guard instructor will pick a song that simply sounds cool or is very familiar to the general public and will just write choreography to be performed to it. That is not what the judges want to see. Although it may be seemingly appealing to the students, it will ultimately not gain any high marks from the judges who will, if anything, will have nothing too positive to say about the performance. Always keep in mind what the judges want to see. They want to see, something new, something interesting, something innovative and different. This can be achieved by heavy and careful focus on impact and effect. What is Effect? Effect is all three impacts put together in one performance.

Another challenge for any writers is color coordination. Make sure you keep a mindful watch on what colors you use in your show and where and most importantly, why? In my opinion, you can never go wrong with symbolism. If you want to write a dark show, use black, gray, or maroon. If the show is bright and happy, use yellow, pink, or white. If you seek a romantic approach to a classic, use reds, purples, and whites and maybe white. If you have a show that en-tales a story, use the same colors the actual story provides. Do not be afraid to be innovative and change up a classic by using neon green and black for a song like Rhapsody in Blue, Just keep in mind that not all judges will think alike. For Marching band, color guard judges are scarce and far between. They are wanting to see something that will pop out and demand attention. In Winter Guard, you must use your color options accordingly but use the effect to your advantage. Use choreography to gain impression instead of color and props.

In any event, teaching color guard can be the most rewarding career you can ever choose. Just make sure you make your decisions wisely and most importantly, whatever you do, do it for the students. After all, they are our future.

Winter Guard International


Ck on May 22, 2015:

The blue team photo is New Milford CT Winter Guard.

Stephanie Constantino from Fountain, CO on October 11, 2013:

This was great... I loved the video! I can't even tell you how many times someone has asked me, "What's winter guard?" I wish this sport was more prominent in our culture :)

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