BY LEAH CUMMINS
Many students on campus are highly involved with McKendree and play various sports as well as join many organizations. One organization many students do not know much about is the color guard and winter guard programs at McKendree University. The color guard is part of the Marching Bearcat Band (MBB), and every member is a McKendree student. The winter guard, on the other hand, is a separate program that is affiliated with McKendree called Avidity Independent Winter Guard.
As a MBB color guard member, I have practice three times a week, and we perform at every football game and other exhibition performances. We spin flags to music the band plays while performing and keeping formations. Because we learn new routines each week, our choreography is not very difficult; it mainly complements the marching band’s music and shows school spirit! Becoming a member of the color guard was one of my best decisions as a student at McKendree because I met an amazing team of people who share my passion! Moving in early was another perk because I spent a week with my team and felt more confident during the first week of school since I knew 21 other teammates.
To actually understand color guard, it helps to know its background history. Originating from the military, soldiers carried a flag with their colors on it. Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) drill teams also commonly used fake rifles and would spin them. The original color guards had flags and rifles, but did not incorporate much choreography or themes into their performances.
Today, however, color guard is an art, much like Dance Theater, and it includes show themes, costumes and show makeup. Modern color guard spins flags that are six feet tall, rifles that are 2-5 pounds, and dull metal sabres. Flags have colorful silks which coordinate with the theme of the choreography. Dancing, hence the choreography, is also a huge of color guard, and we use movement to portray our theme and add to our equipment’s routine.
Dance, flags, sabres and rifles are all common in winter guard shows. Winter Guard International (WGI) is the biggest circuit for winter guard. The difference between winter and color guard is that color guards accompany marching bands, and winter guards perform in a gymnasium with a decorated tarp floor to recorded music. Winter guard can be more demanding because there is no wind, sun or rain in the way. The winter guard team at McKendree is very successful. We practice from September to April almost every single weekend for 10+ hours at minimum. Some weekends, we rehearse for 20 hours or more. We do not rehearse during the weekdays because we have team members traveling from as far as Kansas City away to join our team. Because the team is just affiliated with McKendree, anyone can join.
Avidity Independent won a silver medal in Independent Open last year at WGI World Championships, making them 2nd in the world in their division. This award also bumped the team up into the highest division in the circuit, Independent World. McKendree also has a second team, which is in the Independent A division. For independent groups (not high school groups) there is “A”, “Open” and “World.” It is a huge honor to make the World team, and I am thankful for the opportunity to join this year! To join either team, auditions are a three day process, and anyone from the area can attend. The benefits of being a McKendree student include scholarships and a guaranteed spot on one of the teams!
Overall, the McKendree color guard and winter guard teams are great programs that are not very well known. Color guard members are more than just ‘flag twirlers’ and have interesting aspects just like theater and dance. WGI is called Sport of the Arts for many reasons, including the variety of performances and skills which color guard brings to the table.