Mohonasen and Shenendehowa brought home trophies from a little-known extracurricular activity – The Daily Gazette


Anyone who has attended a football game where there was a halftime show would have seen a team of children working in synchronized motions, perhaps throwing guns or wooden sabers or waving flags to the music played by their high school band. This team is called a color guard. But once the football season is over, another guard takes over, called the indoor color guard, whose goal is to compete.

“The interior is a huge business and few know it,” said Mohonasen color guard coordinator Michael Salomone. “The marching bands had WWI color guards with marching bands, guns and flags. Before, it was something bigger. »

The color guard as a term refers to soldiers whose duty it was to guard the flag or colors of the regiment. This military connection to today’s Color Guards is also why participants wave flags and throw wooden rifles or blunt-edged sabers usually made of plastic to spin them through the air. In the 1960s, it became popular to march groups consisting mostly of students with a marching band in parades or to perform halftime shows. But what to do when it’s too cold.

“These color guard programs evolved from marching bands to keep them involved through the winter,” said Scott Snell, director of Shenendehowa’s indoor color guard program. “It gave them something to do all year round.”

In 1965, the Mid-York Colorguard Circuit was formed to establish rules and standards for indoor color guards to compete. It currently has 55 teams from 28 schools between Rochester east to Albany and south to Binghamton. It is one of two state circuits. Snell is currently president of this circuit.

Salamone said the Home Guard has been at Mohonasen since the 1980s, where the district established three teams: the high school or college team, which currently has 15 students; the junior team or JV of 30 students; and the Pinewood Children of 30 students, mostly in grades five through six. In 2014 they started competing and won several regional competitions. Its marching band and color guard also compete within its own state Field Band Conference circuit. At Shen, indoor teams have been competing since at least 1993 and currently number fifty students spread across the three units. There is no exterior color guard per se, as there is no marching band.

“We got everyone on the field and played to recorded music,” Snell said. “Then we bring them inside after the football season is over.”

Other indoor color guards include Albany High School, which is competing and the Johnstown School District, which is restarting a once-thriving indoor program; Amsterdam High School has an outside color guard who works with its marching band but does not compete and not all marching bands include a color guard.

Duration commitment

Participating in the color guard is considered extra-curricular and takes not only a substantial time commitment on the part of the students, but also a financial investment on the part of the district. At Mohonasen, each team has its own staff with a choreographer who comes from Austin, Texas. Once the auditions have taken place in November and the theme for the show of the year has been decided, the teams do 3-hour rehearsals twice a week and often forego their weekends. Shen rehearses on weekends with the university working until eight on Saturday; their JV up to five hours and the Cadet level up to four. Districts provide funds ranging from costumes to equipment and props, with students and parents frequently hosting fundraisers to pay for travel and accommodation costs for the many competitions hosted by the teams.

“At Mohonasen we have a great defender,” Salamone said. “These are valuable activities for students to find a place to mature and be well equipped to face life’s challenges. We have some in college who started in the fifth year. It’s a power system to keep kids invested. Few children leave university. There is a lot of commitment. Membership is usually by word of mouth. It’s quite popular.

In Shen, Snell said the district has a small budget to pay its fourteen-person staff and holds frequent reminder events to raise the annual $86,000 needed to run the program for the July-April year.

Shen’s results over the decades are impressive: 73 state medals as well as three international world competition medals.
“We’re ranked 11th in the nation,” Snell said.

As for the outside color guard, who is truly considered part of the Mohonasen marching band, fall show rehearsals for the school’s home football games begin in July. Then there’s a week-long band camp and three-hour rehearsals twice a week and some weekends. Their competitive season runs from mid-September to late October. (In fact, their last competition was for yesterday (October 8) as one of six New York bands out of 55 bands competing at the US Band’s Ludwig Musser Classic at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.)

“It’s a big deal,” Salamone said.

veteran performer

At Shen, Snell puts anyone interested in April to work.

“After the worlds, we submitted ideas and voted for a show with Scott,” said Katie Bogardus, who coached the JV team and is Shen’s new librarian. “In May, we started rehearsals to refresh the technique; removed June; and in July started working on skills and parts of the routine. In August we started working away twice a week and then three days in a row as the first game approached.

Hazards to outside color guards include the elements like wind and rain interfering with their “shooting” of rifles and sabers; a floor full of holes and super hot days where their gear is too hot to touch and black suits that absorb the heat.

“Indoors is our season,” she says.

The discipline requires strong athleticism, a focused work ethic, and a good ear for music. But it’s teamwork and that’s part of what Bogardus has come to appreciate.

“The social connections I’ve made, the connections in something I love doing and meeting people outside of the region,” she said.

Once November rolls around, everyone auditions for the inside guard segment and the goal then is to focus on getting a winning routine to win at WGI in April in Dayton, Ohio.

“There are four hundred people in the finals, eight thousand in the arena and three hundred guards spread across six divisions,” said Snell, who has been on the color guard since he was ten years old. “It’s a unique activity and it gives many children the experience and creativity to bring ideas to life.”

This event comes after numerous regional competitions where teams receive feedback on their routines and can make adjustments.
member since fifth year

“Competitions are nerve-wracking,” said Gabriella Mikropoulos, a Mohonasen senior who has been on the guard since fifth grade. “But I get a [bit] adrenaline and it’s fun and I love it. I thought Color Guard was really cool when I saw a team when I was 8. It was unique – like dancing with equipment. It’s like being in a corps de ballet.

Although his team won several competitions, being considered a star among his classmates did not happen.

“I don’t really stand out. Most people don’t even know the activity exists,” she said.

For Ember Beer, a fifth-grade student in Mohonasen’s JV unit, she said she was drawn to “how well things were put together. I’ve always wanted to do this and the coaches have been very understanding. . .and I have a good handful of friends who do.

She particularly enjoys sword throwing.

“It takes time to learn, but it’s worth it,” Beer said. “I even practice it in my driveway.”

For Bogardus, however, the activity led to a lifelong career. When she first saw a guard show in Shen, she said she thought the team was “Wow – real life magic…but I can talk to them. She joined in 2008. After graduating from Shen in 2015, she went to Russell Sage for college, but missed the color guard.

“I started exploring outside of Shen and found a corps of drums in Spartan, New Hampshire, which resembles a marching band with forty guards and 120 musicians,” she said. “But I always wanted to make a world-class guard.”

Bogardus found one in Boston called Blessed Sacrament and got a spot.

“It was very exciting,” she said.

Meanwhile, while looking for a place to practice her routines locally, she “snuck” into a job coaching Shen’s JV color guard. She also became involved over the summer as Bluecoat with Drum Corps International, which did outdoor shows on football fields that resembled Broadway shows and were shown at Regal Cinemas. In 2019, she graduated from university and in 2020, she obtained her master’s degree in library science.

In 2021, after five seasons with Blessed Sacrament, she retired and although working in the Cambridge, NY school district as an elementary librarian where she started a small color guard, she still missed guard. She discovered a band called Fusion in New Jersey, auditioned, won a spot, and will be able to compete internationally.

“The Bluecoats folks are at Fusion, so I knew I had to audition or miss out,” Bogardus said. “It’s a commitment, that’s for sure. But I don’t know what my life would have been like without color guard.

She also recently learned that Cambridge Colored custody of six children will continue.

“I love teaching and seeing kids’ eyes light up when they learn a skill,” she said. “Keeping the color didn’t come easily for me. So it’s rewarding.”

Categories: Life and Arts, Life and Arts


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