Q&A with Dean Broadbent: The “Secrets” of Flanagan’s Success!

| May 22, 2008 | 0 Comments

“If there was one thing I could be sure to give each of my students, it would be the pride and confidence in themselves to be the people they are and accept who they are becoming.  I believe this is something that is essential in not only building a successful program, but becoming a successful individual.”  

We took time to talk with Dean Broadbent, the director of the WGI Scholastic World Class Gold Medalist Flanagan High School Winter Guard , who shared his personal coaching philosophy along with all the “secrets” of this world-renowned program’s structure and training program.

Mr. Broadbent’s Bio:

Dean Broadbent has been involved in the color guard activity since 1991.  Starting with his high school program, he quickly entered the drum corps world marching with the Connecticut Hurricanes when he was 16 years old.  He moved on to the world-renowned Cadets of Bergen County where he marched from 1993 – 1996 and later instructed from 1998 – 2002.  He has also worked with the 1997 Boston Crusaders , the 2003 Magic of Orlando Color Guard, the 2004 – 2006 Boston Crusaders Colorguard and many high schools including Norwalk HS in Connecticut from 1998 – 2001.  He also works with the Southern Knights Winter Guard from Brighton, England.

Mr. Broadbent came to Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, FL in 2001 after a friend who held the position previously went to march with “Blast.”  After hearing the position was open he was surprised to discover that the band director was also a Cadets alum.  Having already earned a music education degree from Western Connecticut State University, the position was a perfect fit for him.  He now directs over 60 students in the colorguard program, teaches several colorguard classes each year and also teaches a piano class.

In addition to his duties at Flanagan, Mr. Broadbent serves on the Board of Directors for WGI.  He also recently achieved his own personal goal of running a half-marathon when he completed both the Miami and Fort Lauderdale Marathons.

First, Congratulations on your recent achievement of the WGI Scholastic World Class Gold Medal! It was a very exciting show and must have been a very rewarding season.  How do you think this achievement will impact the overall program at Flanagan in future years?

Thank you! Yes, the Gold Medal will definitely be something to be remembered for many, many years to come. However, as great an achievement as this is for our program, it’s just made us realize how much more we have to work in the following years to live up to the expectations not only our audience and fans have built up, but ourselves as well.

What inspired you to do this particular show?

At the end of the 2007 winter season, I held a barbeque in which all our members and parents were invited to celebrate the success of the year at my house. On my coffee table lay a set of Post Secret books that a few members happened to come across while eating. Eventually, the kids suggested to me the idea of using that concept for the 2008 winterguard show, utilizing secrets sent in from our well-wishers to put on our floor.

What do you think is the most important thing your performers will take from this experience?

At the conclusion of retreat at WGI, one of the last things I told all the members was that when your passion matches your dedication, all your dreams are within reach, and obviously they had to have done something right to get where they were. I believe watching all their hopes and dreams for this season materialize before their very eyes is something they will take with them after high school and keep for the rest of their lives.

Many of our readers will surely wonder, “How do they get that good!?”  I would love to speak with you about how you structure the program at Flanagan which leads to the level of training it takes to have a team capable of reaching the top honors of the WGI activity.

How would you describe the school and community in terms of demographics/composition and educational philosophy?

When I took the job at Flanagan in 2001 it had the largest student population in the country.  3 years later the school split and our enrollment dropped to 3,800.  Pembroke Pines is located about 20 min North of Miami and 20 South of Fort Lauderdale.  The school is composed of 1/3 White Students 1/3 Black Students and a 1/3 Hispanic Students. In addition, our principal is extremely supportive of the Band and Color Guard program and was named the Arts Principal of the year in 2001.

What was the program at Flanagan like when you arrived in your current position?

When I moved down to Florida with Emma Roberts, all we were looking for was a change of scenery. The opportunity to direct Flanagan’s Color Guard was, at the time, just a perk, but not the main reason we relocated. When we first arrived, the guard was composed of about 60 kids who, for the most part, knew absolutely nothing as far as training went. The year before we arrived, Flanagan was a Scholastic A guard and there would be times in which their JV guard would place over their Varsity guard. When we took over, we moved the A guard to Open Class, won the circuit championships, and placed 16th at WGI that year with 21 out of 26 members being seniors. The year after that, we’d come back to WGI and Bronzed in Open Class.

How many competitive winter guard ensembles do you have at the high school and in what classes do they compete?

We currently have 2 winter guards.  The Varsity Guard competes in Scholastic World Class and usually has around 28 members.  We also have a  JV Guard which competes in a Junior Varsity Class in our local circuit. This past season our JV guard had 35 members.

Do you have middle school colorguards that feed into the high school program?


How large is your fall program and what level of success does that ensemble typically achieve?

In the fall the color guard usually has around 50 members and participates as part of our marching band program, The Falcon Sound and competes every weekend in October.  In 2007 we attended our first Bands Of America Regional in Atlanta and have been the recipients of the FMBC Color Guard State Champion title several times.

Are students able to take color guard as a class during the school day and if so, is this mandatory and do they receive credit for it?

All members of the color guard must take the class at Flanagan HS.  They receive a PE credit for fall guard and a Fine Arts Credit for Winter Guard. We are on a block schedule at Flanagan so we have 4 hour-and-a-half classes.

In the Fall my schedule is:
Period 1: Color Guard class – weapons only
Perdiod 2: Color Guard class – Flags
Period 3: Piano I
Period 4: Planning

In the Spring my classes are:
Period 1: Color Guard class – World Guard
Perdiod 2: Color Guard class – JV Guard
Period 3: Piano I
Period 4: Planning

Do all schools in your area have a color guard director position within the school and classes during the day?

Most schools in our area have Color Guard as a class.  We are the only school to have two periods of it.  Most schools have one of their instructors come in to teach the class each day.  I am lucky enough to have a music education degree, which allows the Broward School District to hire me in a teaching position.

How large of a staff do you have working with the colorguards?

The World Guard has myself and three other instructors who teach it.  The JV Guard has 4 separate staff members that just work with them.  In the fall both staffs combine to teach the marching band color guard.

How many students typically audition to be a part of the Flanagan Color Guard program?  How many do you have to turn away?  Do you have any specific tips for recruitment?

Typically we have about 70 students who come out to audition. For every student who comes out to our try-outs, we always try to find a place for them if they decide to stay. Here at Flanagan, the support at our school is phenomenal. We are given time in many of the freshmen classes to present a recruitment video to potential members, and in addition to this, the school also allowed the live webcast from the 2008 WGI Championships to be viewed at the school, allotting time for every class to watch the World Guard perform in prelims this year.

How many hours of rehearsal per week do students typically attend (including class time) for the various ensembles?

Typically, the winterguards attend an average of 15.5 hours of rehearsal every week. 7.5 of these hours are spent in class, in addition to the 5-9 Tuesday and Thursday rehearsals. On weekends in which the program attends any competitions, we usually rehearse about 4 hours before the members are given time to ready themselves in preparation for the night’s event.

What is your approach to dance training?

Our approach to dance training here at Flanagan is more of a modern dance style called the release technique. We also put a lot of emphasis on choreography. Stretch block and strengthening always occur before we teach any type of choreography. Additionally, many of our students come into the program with virtually no dance experience. At Flanagan, we teach them everything they need to know as far as proper dance technique so not only do the kids look the best they can, but also so they don’t train poorly, leading into injury.

How many of your students march in drum corps?

Because many of our staff members instruct at various drum corps, many of our current members, as well as our alumni do decide to march. This year, a total of 12 former members will be marching DCI Division I Corps.

When do rehearsals for the winter season typically begin?

We hold auditions in October and begin construction of the show the second week of November.

How do you help students balance their schoolwork with the demands of training for a World Class ensemble?

Through the numerous years I’ve been at this program, I’ve come to find that the more the students are involved in extracurricular activities, the balance between their school work, social lives, and practice becomes a bit more stable. Routine scheduling also aids in this process.

How many people are involved in the design process for your various guards?

Our entire staff helps in the creative process of putting together each show. The collaborative effort allows each staff member to have his or her input in the show design.

What are the student fees to participate and is there any help provided to students in meeting these costs?

This year the World Guard fees were $900 plus their plane ticket to Ohio. If the members have issues with meeting these fees, fundraisers are always an open option.

Does the school system provide any assistance with funding for winter guard programs in your area?

No.  Some of our instructional staff have been able to secure actual positions within the school as teachers or secretaries.  However, the school system does not compensate them for their colorguard instruction.  That is through the band boosters.

Is there a particular type of fundraiser that you find successful which you would recommend to other groups?

Each year at our home show, our program books are filled with advertisements found by the members from local businesses. Each member is mandated to raise a minimum of $100 in ads going to the program. Any amount of money raised after the initial $100 is split 60-40 between the member and the program, respectively.

Finally, Is there an overriding philosophy of the program at Flanagan?  How would you describe your approach to instruction and the general atmosphere of the program as a whole?

I truly believe the success of this program is dependent on two things: the fact that each year we produce a show that makes the audience “feel something” and the fact that each student earns a sense of confidence that exudes from every single one of them. If there was one thing I could be sure to give each of my students, it would be the pride and confidence in themselves to be the people they are and accept who they are becoming. I believe this is something that is essential in not only building a successful program, but becoming a successful individual.

Color Guard Educators Thanks Mr. Broadbent for taking the time to share his experiences and the structure of the Flanagan program for the interest and benefit of our readers.  We congratulate Flanagan World Guard once again on their WGI Scholastic World Class Gold Medal!



Category: Interviews

About the Author (Author Profile)

Catina Anderson is the founder/editor of the Colorguard Educators blog. Color guard has been part of her life for almost 25 years. She began coaching in 1994 and worked with the Broad Run High School color guard in Northern VA from 1998 until 2010. She has also written for Halftime Magazine and served on the Executive Board of the Atlantic Indoor Association. A former teacher, she enjoys sharing what she has learned and hopes to encourage others to share as well. Together we can create even more positive experiences for performers and help to collectively strengthen marching arts activities worldwide.

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