Working Wednesdays: Part 3 Nov 1st

Happy November and welcome back to Working Wednesdays!

If you have been here before, you know that I have updated the featured image for Working Wednesdays. I had always been skeptical about the previous one, so I created this one. I like this one much better.

For this week’s Working Wednesday, I thought I’d branch off from Aquatics and over to my other working passion- Color Guard. So this is your first look into color guard instructing:

First off, what is color guard?

Well, I am going to go ahead and assume that my readers know what marching band is (If you don’t please let me know and I will certainly tell you all about it.). The color guard is the more visual aspect of the marching band. The people you see with flags, swords (sabres), or guns (rifles) marching with the band.  The are usually twirling (we call it spinning) the equipment in a graceful or theatrical manner to emphasize moments of the marching band show.

If you haven’t had a chance to look at last weeks Transparent Tuesday– it goes more into detail of color guard as my passion and how I got started and my history with performance in color guard as this post will go more into the work aspect of it.

Over the summer, I began instructing at St. Charles High School in St. Charles, Missouri. There were just 6 kids- and one instructor above me. It definitely wasn’t my ideal situation, but it was an excellent start. They had a really cool show this marching season. It was about riots and political uprising. It was dark and militant. It was fun to write for and interesting to watch.

Since I moved 5 hours away, I have began my search for a guard to work with in this area- at least for the winter season if not for a year round position.

So here is some of the fun (and not so fun) that goes into instructing a guard.

Choreography– When most people think choreo, they think dance. In terms of guard, choreo is any of the movement that will be performed. Flag movement, rifle movement, sabre movement, body movement, etc. Choreography is what my heart longs to do these days. Putting different movements together to create a finished product is such a cool feeling when it is all put together. You have to design the movements to go with the music and effects of the show design. There are certain elements that need to be included- soloists, flag features, weapon features, dance, etc. The work needs to have variation based on what is going on formation wise, feature wise, and music wise as well.

Show Design– For fall marching band, this is much more simple as the band director does most of the design (be it himself or hired out). For winter guard, though the show design can be hired out, it is often chosen and designed by the individual instructors. You have to pick a song, that fits the competition circuit’s time requirements and that has enough dramatic moments to make an interesting show. It also cannot be a song that everyone is doing- which is difficult to determine, but usually means that the song cannot be less than 5 years old and you cannot find more than one unit performing on YouTube (also said unit cannot be located anywhere near where your unit is located.). With song choice comes what equipment will you use, where will you put what soloists or features. Any props? tarp design? flag design? weapon design? uniform design? hair and make-up?etc.

Auditions– Auditions are an interesting concept. When considering auditions for each season, you have to take into account how many people you would like to compete with, what classification that you are competing in, how difficult you want the show to be? etc. A guard with more people makes more people want to audition. It looks more fun to have a tarp with 15-20+ people on it than a tarp with 5-9 people on it. At the same time, anything more than 25-30 people would be too crowded to do larger flag work. You also have to consider the skill level and determination of the group. If you have a group with weaker skills, but are eager to work and become better- that is okay. A group with weak skills that are content with that- would be difficult to work with. Obviously, strong skills are a good thing. When holding auditions, you are looking for how each individual will fit into the show design. Don’t get me wrong, you can make anyone fit, but it is always good to consider who has strong enough skills to be on weapon lines and who may need some more solidity in their flag work at the moment. The other thing to look for in auditions is body type. This is not to say that people with different body types should not be accepted- that is quite the opposite. The reason to look at body type is to help aid in the uniform choice process. We want to make sure that the uniforms chosen are as flattering as possible for all body types in our units.

Office Work– I call this part office work because it is the more clerical- not so fun- part of being a guard instructor. It is certainly not always done in an office, but it can be. For all artwork and music used- you have to obtain copyrights and legal use from the publishers and owners. This is especially important if your unit is competing in a national or international circuit- such as Winter Guard International (WGI). You also need to obtain all of the appropriate school district paperwork from your members- and keep track of it. This is usually permission to travel, medical forms, etc. So it is very important. The other pretty important thing to do is to get registered for competitions. Each circuits registration period could be different, but it is good to get registered as early as possible. It helps set your schedule for your students to plan around as well as gets some cheaper registration fees for the school. For weekly practice schedules you may need to secure places to rehearse, which oftentimes the band director will help with this. The band director will usually help with securing transportation from events as well. If you have any overnight festivals or competitions, you may have to secure hotels, restaurant reservations, extra transportation, rehearsal space, etc.

Scheduling– One of the biggest aspects of instructing is setting a rehearsal and performance schedule. Typically units practice two evenings a week with some extra practices/camps scheduled as needed. It is best to get the students a copy of the entire schedule as early as possible- including rehearsals, camps, performances, meetings, etc. Otherwise you may be having to work around other aspects of their schedules. The other thing that goes along with scheduling is an attendance/discipline policy. You, as the instructor, do have to be understanding that these are high school kids with obligations other than guard. Typically, for me personally, any rehearsals missed without letting the instructor know are unexcused. If they let me know, each absence will be taken on a case by case basis. Any absences with a doctors note are automatically excused- and doctors notes will be verified. Another system that I found pretty great was used when I was on my high schools dance team. It is similar to the system above, except for each absence- unless sickness or fully approved by instructor (so still taking each on a case by case basis- they just have to tell you ahead of time) constitutes a fraction of a point, a point, or multiple points. The instructor can fully approve (no points), partially approve (certain amount of point[s]), or deny (same amount of points as an unexcused). I think a good maximum is 10 points, with an unexcused worth 2 points. I would issue a discipline at 5 points and more harsh discipline at 10 points with anything past that up for discussion. I feel that that is plenty lenient enough and each one gives way to be more lenient as needed.

There is certainly a lot more to guard instructing than just this, but this was a good start for the first look into it on Working Wednesdays. Stay tuned if you want to know more as the weeks go by!


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