By CHAZ PLAGER
It is 4 p.m. on a Saturday at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga.
It’s 68 degrees outside, but inside I’m sweating. We’re on stage for our performance, “Grave of the Fireflies.” There’s at least 100 people in the audience.
We’re on in a minute.
The judges whisper to each other, then raise their hands in a signal. We get in position as the announcer says, “Presenting their show, ‘Grave of the Fireflies’… Please welcome Palisades Charter High School!”
The crowd cheers. The music starts. And we dance. The music begins at a quiet, slow pace, our movements slow and breathy. Then the music speeds up. We speed up, adding the use of rifles and swords to our dance. The music reaches its climax, and I nearly stumble mid step, but manage to stay on my feet. The music slows: we all quietly lay down. The music fades out and is replaced by the loud cheers from the audience. We stand, bow, and exit.
When it comes to extracurriculars, I’ve always been drawn to the arts. Ever since I got the option to in second grade, I always chose art, theater, music – things I found really interesting.
The idea of creating something myself, something that looked cool, and my parents would praise me for, was a big driving factor. I continued to stick with the arts into middle school, even through eighth grade. But around that time, I remember my classmate gossiping to me while we pretended to work on our projects, “What if in high school I discover that I don’t like what I used to?”
I laughed it off. I’ve liked art all my life, why would I suddenly change my mind?
That was the last time I was ever in that class. A few days later, school closed for the COVID-19 lockdown, and I never went back to middle school.
As the days turned into weeks turned into months turned to a year, then two, I lost all interest in art. I spent my days playing games, reading books, trying to get away from what was happening around me. I never saw my friends, nor could I make any new ones. A year went by, then two.
One day, I heard school was going to resume in person. I was mixed on how to feel. I wanted to talk to people again, but would I do well at school? Would my friends still like me? As I tried to adjust to life back at school, I noticed my friends joining clubs, teams, and groups for their interests. I felt lonely, and sad that nothing interested me. It was rough.
Then I heard about color guard.
My friend in the marching band told me, knowing that I had previously liked theater, that the color guard was asking for people with choreography (dance) experience to join.
But what was a color guard? Color guard, as they explained, takes elements from traditional dance and theater, with an emphasis on dance. You use flags, prop rifles, and prop swords to convey a theme through dance and acting, though there are usually never any lines spoken.
This sounded totally off the wall, but I was intrigued, and so I signed up. Easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Color guard has been at Palisades High School, off and on, since 1963, the year the school was founded.
Color guard has two seasons: winter and fall. Fall season involves performing alongside the marching band. You can spot the color guard performing at football games. The team is under the supervision of Tyler Farrell and coached by Allison Wyant and Ceasar Avina.
Both seasons have competitions throughout, where judges watch the performance and grade it according to a set of standards. Color guard usually performs a “routine” set to music, using props and scenery to tell a story, convey a theme, or just look cool.
There are also judging categories based on how fast you can set up and pack up your equipment. This sounds very stressful to perform under, and it is.
But it is, without exaggeration, probably some of the most fun I’ve had during a performance. Being able to time your movements with the music and pulling off a flashy move and hearing the crowd cheer for you is a truly unique experience.
Unfortunately, COVID has lowered the capacity in the school’s budget to keep this program afloat, and it’s in danger of being cut this year. If this article has interested you even somewhat in color guard, I ask you to please donate to the team. Even the smallest amount can help and goes a long way to keeping this wonderful program alive.
(Editor’s note: Band Director Tyler Farrell said people can donate by going online https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=E332764&id=23 or mailing a check made payable to PCHS with “band in the memo line to:
Attn. Tyler Farrell
Palisades Charter High School 15777 Bowdoin St. Pacific Palisades, Ca. 90272.
Farrell told CTN there are two seasons for the program: color guards, in which the cost is absorbed by the band budget and winter guards, when the group participates in competitions, without the band. The projected budget for competitions, coaching, design teams, costuming, and travel for winter guards is about $15,000. To date about $1,500 has been raised. “There is a chance the program could be reduced or – worst case scenario – be dropped next year,” Farrell told CTN in an April 18 email.)