Overwriting for Color Guard

Color Guard (or auxiliaries if you wish) is one of the most important and, yet, misused components of a marching ensemble. Many times, this portion of the group is left to fend for themselves creatively or just moved aimlessly around the field. Because of the significance both visually and energetically, Band Directors should show careful attention toward the Color Guard from day one of show design. Here are some tips for improving the performance of these teams:

Include Guard Staff in the Color Guard Design Process

When meeting to discuss show ideas, be sure to include all members of your design team and instructional staff. If you can design with all parts of the program in mind, the show’s flow will improve. Create a timeline of musical selections and begin outlining important visual moments as well. Once the entire show is in place, meet with your guard staff and begin to create a storyboard for the entire show. This type of planning will go a long way to composing beautiful moments to feature the winds, percussion, or color guard in addition to establishing when the full ensemble generate impact together.

Balance must be achieved for Color Guard

Band Directors, find ways to maximize performance and rest time during the show. The cardiovascular nature of this activity can take a toll on the performers. The winds and percussion do not play and move for every second of a show. Neither should the entire guard. Utilize small squads of the guard from time to time, especially when one section of the winds or percussion are being featured as well. Find balance in the routine and use.

Color Guard instructors, it is okay to write simple flag (or rifle, etc.) routines for a portion of the show. As Sara Gray (a Winterguard Adjudicator) has suggested- routines should be written FOR the music. If a simple routine matches musically, then allow the music to guide your choreography. Having the team do 16 counts of excellently executed drop-spins into a dramatic toss while leading to a major impact point in the winds and percussion is appropriate and more visually effective. Visual energy and musical energy must move together.

Guard Staff: Remember Your Guard Members

A common problem of Guard routines designed for high school programs is that the choreography is overwritten. Groups attempt to perform movements that the students are not comfortable in doing. Staff members will simply say “they will do better once we clean it.” Some times, yes, they do improve. But many times, they do not find success. Just because Carolina Crown’s guard executed this amazing trick does not mean the 9th graders on your team can do it as well.

After agreeing to design a visual book for a high school once, it was requested that I allow room for visuals performed by the Cavaliers in 2002 to be inserted. It was my recommendation that the group not attempt these motions and find something that fits their ensemble. Long story short, this ensemble never performed the moves quite like the Cavaliers and it effected their overall performance.

The team of young women and men under your instruction deserve a show that they know will challenge them in some way, but also be attainable. The abilities of your team must be a priority and, much like the winds and percussion, routines should be drawn from the fundamentals that you work on daily. Write for the people in front of you.

Photo Credit: Indiana State University/Courtesy Photo
Photo Credit: Indiana State University/Courtesy Photo

3 Replies to “Overwriting for Color Guard”

  1. YES! I tell directors that guard is a musical section of the band just like winds and percussion. You wouldn’t expect the other sections to 1.) write their own book or 2.) execute skills that they are not ready for. I wish I had a quarter for every time a director had me come in to “fix” their guard, when the only thing that needed fixing was the director’s concept of what a HS guard was…by having unrealistic expectations, is it any wonder they turn into a bunch of moody divas by the end of the season? Programs with good balance throughout the sections do not breed divas… Thank you for a good article.

  2. Include your staff in the planning process. Amen, amen, amen. Don’t just assume what you want will work – your guard staff knows those kids best!!! And they (surprise!) may have better ideas than you! Love it. Thanks for a great article.

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