Marching to a different beat: Inside the world of colorguard

This year, the team is competing in the 3A division out of 6 divisions in the Southern California Marching Band Association.

The abridged version of this article appeared in the Feb. 2023 print edition of The Mirror. This is an uncut version.

Senior Team Captain Grace Mitchell leads her color guard team into yet another flourishing spin of the flags, but one of her members messes up. Down goes the blue and purple flag.

“It’s okay, we’ll come back to it,” she reassures them.

Aside from Mitchell, the entirety of the color guard team is brand new, so mistakes are bound to happen. In these instances, she has to step in and set an example for the newer members.

Mitchell is the only returning member of the team from last season, where they were unable to compete due to covid-19 restrictions. When she was a sophomore, everything was online due to the pandemic, so the team was unable to practice with the marching band. In order to participate in color guard, they had to record themselves at home and then edit the clips into one compilation.

“You put in a lot of work, but in the end it’s all worth it when you perform in front of everyone.” – sophomore Gabriel Santos”

Mitchell had to step up her leadership in the past two years in terms of recruiting and attendance. 

“I have to be responsible for accountability, not just for myself but for the team,” Mitchell said. “Like attendance, making sure everyone’s participating and trying their best. I also need to be the mentor, but it can get discouraging when someone doesn’t get something quickly. Last year, when my captain duties really picked up because I had to do the advertising and recruiting, that’s when I was like ‘Okay, I need to get people lined up or there’s not going to be a color guard.’” 

During her freshman year, color guard placed second out of all of LAUSD competitors. This year, the team is competing in the 3A division out of 6 divisions in the Southern California Marching Band Association.

“We’re hoping for first, that’s our goal,” Mitchell said. “First place out of the 3A division for the Los Angeles and Southern California Marching Band Association.”

In order to make it that far, the team must constantly put in hard work. Currently, they practice every day during fourth period, after school until 6 p.m., and every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. These countless hours eventually take a toll on the students. 

Freshman Armando Pacheco is one of the newcomers who finds the workload of his school’s color guard team to be challenging, but still sees the benefits. 

“To me, it’s honestly pretty worth it because it’s a lot of fun, it’s an experience and it teaches us a lot that can be really helpful in the future,” Pacheco said.

Taking his practice to the next level, sophomore Gabriel Santos hones his drop spins at home. These maneuvers, along with rifle line, sabre line and dances, are essential for the team’s performances at sports games, pep rallies and marching band competitions.

Though the activities may seem daunting at first, Mitchell has helped Santos and others overcome their fears. 

“I learned drop spins and I learned tosses that I was so scared to do before,” Santos said. “But since Grace taught it to us, I don’t feel scared anymore when doing it.”

Color guard is a great way to get more involved in school events, according to team members. They believe it enhances the high school experience and provides an opportunity to form new connections.

“I think it definitely gave me a better high school experience,” said Mitchell. “I probably wouldn’t have shown up to the football games every week otherwise. It also helped me connect with everyone in the band. It’s sort of a bonding experience and something to talk about.”

The team also supports sports teams by performing at school events. 

“For the field season, which is the first semester, we participate in football games, pep rallies and any other school activities,” Mitchell said.

Second semester, which is called winterguard, the team goes out and supports basketball games.

The team’s talents extend beyond the school, as they also perform at community events, supporting middle schools and local store openings.

In their most recent competition, which took place on Dec. 3, the team placed third in the 3A division of LAUSD. Their performance was inspired by Selena Quintanilla, an iconic American Tejano singer who passed away in 1995.

The color guard team’s sense of community and unique performances are what make it special, according to team member Santos.

“You put in a lot of work, but in the end it’s all worth it when you perform in front of everyone,” Santos said.

Pacheco agrees, saying that color guard allows for stronger friendships and bonds to form.

“I feel like whenever I come here, I have something to do besides just working,” he said. “I have my own community.”

After four years on the team, Mitchell also thinks the experience was worth it.

“There’s definitely ups and downs, but I’m really glad I decided to stick it out and I think it has been really valuable,” she said. “It’s about the community and all the friendships and connections I’ve made, as well as the experiences of competing and dancing. As a whole, I’m really glad to be a part of this.”