Behind the scenes with Winter Guard

by Pujita Tangirala | April 6, 2020

The members of Guard at a performance earlier in the year. Photo by Catherine Ling (’20)

When the school decided to close campus, almost every student lost out on something close to their heart. I decided to ask a few members of Winter Guard, one of the newest teams on campus, how this school closure affected their season. “I was in the car with other Guard members as we were driving back from dinner about to go to just another practice (or so I thought), when we got the email,” said Elena Wu (’21), referring to the Winter Guard team’s last Wednesday night practice after Saint Francis announced its campus closure. “It was really shocking and it became really emotional as we realized that that practice would be our last one,” she says.

Winter Guard is both a sport and an art form, combining athletic rigor with the finesse of dance, all alongside immense teamwork and devotion. A Winter Guard team was established for the first time in school history this 2019-20 school year. As a member of Saint Francis’s Marching Band, I have worked the long late-night rehearsals alongside our Color Guard in a full band setting during our fall season, and I can only imagine the dedication and commitment it takes to put in that hard work year-round. On Wednesday and Friday evenings, one could always find the team tossing flags and rifles in the gym or learning new choreography in the dance studio, rehearsing to give their best for the upcoming shows.

Unfortunately, Winter Guard was only able to perform once this season. Elena told me, “The highlight of this season was definitely our first (and sadly, our only) competition. Winter Guard is something new this year, and performing in a different environment was something really new and exciting for me and the rest of the team.” However, as almost anyone on any team knows, competitions aren’t everything. Nicole Schubert (’22) reminisced about the memories made in other settings: “Despite the focus and dedication that goes into practice, we still make time to stop and have some fun. Whenever I have a bad day, seeing my friends at Guard practice always cheers me up. Besides, learning choreo or working on a toss is a great escape from the stress of academic life. There’s so much work to get done, so there’s never a boring practice.”

Sadly, our seniors’ first and last Winter Guard season was cut short. I talked to some seniors about how they felt, as well as some advice they had for returning members. “It was a little surreal,” said Melissa Gunning (’20). “I recognized the season was going to end before it actually did, giving me some time to process what that meant. Still, I feel really sad thinking about it, how I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Guard just yet.” Catherine Ling (’20) recalled, “At the last rehearsal of the season, I cried a little—a little from feeling disappointed that my first and last season of Winter Guard ended in a seemingly unjust way, and a little from feeling immensely fulfilled by this passion that my friends and I had the opportunity to pour our hearts into.”

I’m sure many of us can relate to this situation. Spring athletes are left with unfinished seasons, and the members of our musical production were just a week shy of their first performance! It is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed and defeated at a time like this. However, it is also a great time to reflect on how grateful we should be for the opportunities we as students are given. Cat noted, “This season taught me to not take for granted the comfort that expected routine possesses, because there is an authentic sense of comfort in all those van rides to dinner and all those late rehearsals in the gym (that we used to complain about).”

For seniors, these times are especially emotionally taxing. There are many lessons to be learned from current circumstances, one of them being “to really cherish the time you have with each other because you truly never know when it can get taken away from you,” as Kalea Pilkenton (’20) told me. The ability of art and teamwork to bring people together is so powerful, as Ioana Ana (’20) explained: “One thing that lifted my spirits was knowing that our creativity would not stop just because school was over, and that we would find opportunities to get together and create music and choreography because our dedication to these activities was held together by a mutual passion for creation more than school-organized practices.”

However, a short season is not the end for Winter Guard. Returning members are eagerly hoping to “to perform a finished show next year” (Bridget Colvert, ’22) and “create even more fun memories with the rest of the team” (Aranza Gomez, ’22). While a majority of the members of this year’s Winter Guard were members of the Lancer Marching Band color guard, anyone can do well on the team with willpower and dedication. Led by coaches Jenny Lyons and Isabel Guerrero-Lubarsky, the Saint Francis Color Guard team won first place at the 2019 Foothill Band Review with their original show entitled “Tethered.” The duo choreographs for and manages the Winter Guard team as well. So if you love dance; want to experience the community of being on a team; or think that tossing flags, sabres, and rifles looks cool, joining Winter Guard would be great for you! The instructional staff and the returning members are looking forward to a great second Winter Guard season next school year!

Categories: Features

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