Building a College Winterguard

| October 13, 2011 | 2 Comments

Many colleges are developing winterguard programs based out of the university.  If your college doesn’t currently have one, you might be just the person to make that happen.  It takes hard work, creative use of resources, and the desire to continue what you love.  Based on our experience building a competitive winterguard at James Madison University (JMU) in Virginia we offer some points to consider when starting or building your university guard program.


Any university activity, whether it is a fraternity, club, or sport, needs support from the university staff.  Talk to your band director first and see if this is something that would be supported by the department.  This doesn’t mean that they have to fund it or be there, just that they will help you develop connections within the university and community.  Remember to discuss with your band director how a winterguard program can help to support the university’s current arts department, provide exposure for the school, and act as a recruitment tool.  If the band director is not interested, try to find another sponsor; A connection to the school is necessary.

Establishing your program:

Depending on your university structure it may be easiest to make your winterguard a club, a class, an intramural sport, or even just an extension of the band program.  Here at JMU our winterguard is actually an extension of our marching band and a club called “For the Love of Colorguard” (FLOC) which was already in existence when we started exploring the option of creating a winterguard.  Since the club was already established it saved some administrative steps in creating the actual winterguard.  FLOC now acts as a sorority and booster organization to our winterguard program.  Its purpose is to help the JMU Marching Band through service, provide help to local high school colorguards, and to fundraise and support JMU’s Nuance Winterguard through service opportunities.  Because of them we have more access to university space and university support in fundraising.  Because the university does not fund our winterguard program, the ability to fundraise through FLOC’s resources is necessary.

James Madison University Nuance Winter Guard 2011Money:

Winterguard is expensive, but the key to having a successful college program is making it as inexpensive as possible for the students who wish to participate.  In order to do this you must use all of your resources.  Some examples are:

  • Flags and Uniforms:  Use flags or uniforms from your fall program – if you don’t have a fall program, see what you can borrow from local high school programs.  Do you sew?  Or does a parent?  At Nuance we make at least one set of flags each season ourselves.  Remember, the flags don’t have to be complicated to be effective.  Putting together uniforms from discount dance supply stores can also offer you options, or you can try consignment websites for used flags and uniforms.
  • Floor:  Make your own!!!  Contact your local Billboard company and ask for scraps.  To paint the floor ask for donations from a local company or go to Walmart – they have the cheapest paint around AND you can return what you don’t use as long as it hasn’t been opened! {see Catina Anderson’s article on how to construct a floor from recycled billboards here.}
  • Grants: Check with your university Student Government for grants or contingency funds.
  • Space:  Use your connections.  Within the university you may have to book with the athletic director, but also talk to local high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools.  Consider whether your university has large rooms outside of the athletic arenas such as large music rehearsal rooms with movable furniture or even gym space within, say, an early-childhood education building.  Sometimes elementary schools are easier to book because of their sports programs.  If a public school teacher is willing to become a sponsor of the activity you might not have to pay for the space.  Or if they know that they are supporting their local university, that may help as well.
  • Staff:  If you want to pay your staff, it will raise your dues.  Determine whether the staff can work for free or if you can trade favors in order to get help.  If you go help other instructors, they may be willing to come help you.  Being a performer who writes their own show can be a very rewarding and educational experience.  However, be aware that significant challenges may arise if you try to instruct your peers.  Relationships can and will change if you are both performing and instructing.  In many cases it is easier to seek out an experienced instructor to work with the student leadership staff.
  • Travel:  Plan your competitions around locations where you can stay and travel cheaply.  Room with friends, parents, older brothers and sisters, alumni, or other friendly guards to save on hotel costs.  Plan gas money into your budget so those who are driving other performers around get some compensation for their contribution, without having to beg for money from other team members.
  • Practice space: Practice space and hotels can be the largest variables when determining member dues.

It takes careful planning, budgeting, and using your resources creatively in order to succeed.  Connect with your local circuit and other directors and ask for their advice.  You won’t be able to do it alone, so get help from everyone that you can and let them assist you in building your program.  Your program will provide an extension of local high school programs as their performers graduate – but it may also become the training ground for future instructors serving to build the activity in the area.  Many of your performers may find themselves returning to their old programs as assistants.  It can be a win-win for the entire community.

There are so many passionate performers in high school – you don’t have to let your experience end there.  Your program can be an amazing asset to your University and with careful planning and solid instruction it just may become a key training ground for future instructors and in turn the growth of the Sport of the Arts.

Photos of the JMU Nuance Winter Guard, 2011 WGI Indepedent A finalists, taken by Catina Anderson at the Atlantic Indoor Association Championships in Chesapeake, VA.

Tags: , , , ,

Category: Administrative, College/University Color Guard, Instruction, Professional Development, Team Management

About the Author (Author Profile)

Carly and Jerry Philp are currently on staff with 2011 IA WGI Finalist, Nuance Winterguard, and the Marching Royal Dukes Colorguard at James Madison University. Carly is currently the Fitness Manager at Valley Health Wellness & Fitness Center. She is Communications Secretary for the Atlantic Indoor Association and has been instructing Colorguards for the past 10 years. Jerry is the Director of Music at Buffalo Gap High School where he teaches band, choir, and guitar classes. They live in Harrisonburg, VA and are alumni brothers of Kappa Kappa Psi, National Honorary Band Service Fraternity, and an honorary members of For the Love of Colorguard.

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Catina says:

    Great article Carly and Jerry! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences! I’m so excited about our new “college” section and can’t wait to hear what else you have to share!

  2. Letasha says:

    Thank you so much. I am starting an independent team in my state and because its our first year im on the fence of paying dues. What is your advice on this? Whats an acceptable fee if any?

Leave a Reply