Monday, July 20, 2009

Revitalizing N.O. Marching Tradition | Color Guard.

Today I decided to hit up my frat Brother, Baryl to Begin a discussion about an Idea which came to mind. The Idea of re-defining what it means to be a New Orleans high school Color Guard member. My reason; There’s been an uprising of military-style Color Guard units performing with Black Show-Style bands in cities all over America. As for our guards, Although they are traditional. They have fallen off as a dominant entity of our marching units In New Orleans.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina I saw no value in having a color guard, but after being in Texas for a while and actually marching in a band with a Different kind of color guard; It gave me a reason me appreciate what it New Orleans guards Do….

The big difference is that in New Orleans, our Color Guard and Flag Team are not the same group of people. Our guard is military style and our flag Teams are Female members who march while twirling 2 short flags. In other cities and states, The color guard is a troupe of prancing girls with flags, hoop and streamers. We don’t do that here In New Orleans and it’s Nowhere near the same thing.

Now I feel that it’s time for a New Orleans Color Guard revolution. Schools Like St. Augustine, O. P.Walker. Warren Easton and McDonogh #35 have brought back The initial concept. but I don’t feel that it’s enough to stand out as a respected organization within our marching bands.

It’s Time for a Revolution

Being a former member and now photographer of these bands. I have seen things done from both the inside and out. But honestly, It’s a very old standard New Orleans marching units go by. I don’t want to change the tradition. I would like to help revitalize The Tradition.

In New Orleans, our guard units consist of a military-style guard which include. Banner Carriers, Tall Flag Bearers, Rocking Flags, Swordsmen and Rifle Bearers. Their purpose is generally For pageantry reasons. Those purposes are mainly to Honorably represent the school, city and state. by Displaying The Banners and Flags and wearing the school colors with pride.

In addition to the military Style, These guards sometimes to put on a show for spectators. some schools such as John McDonogh has a Drill Squad. Rather than only marching high knee lift steps, sets of guards would usually perform eight-count dance routines while marching. It’s a great asset to some units. But it doesn’t appeal to all schools from a traditional standpoint. That’s where the line seems to be drawn.

For the past 10 year I’ve seen the same thing from each guard unit. Maybe approached differently per school; But they all are fairly the same. With similarities comes boredom, and I strongly believe that people have become bored with The Normal Color Guard.

With that said….

The Time Has Come For A Revolution

What Kind Of Revolution?

First off, We must reevaluate the concept of what it means to be a Color Guard. By doing this, it will allow an opportunity to explore new mediums and bring new Ideas to surface.

Improving The Marching & Drill Precision Before Katrina, our guards would try to out-step / out-march each other. But their needs to be a proper level of both military and non-military style Drill training to execute their drills properly. as well as to have knowledge of common military marching terms. This should be part of the protocol. There should be no reason to not to Know what a Flank or Mark-Time is.

Improving The Ranking Just as the band, You have Section Leaders, Veteran and Crab Members. Each member practically is part of a section within the group. I’m not sure how other guards units went ,but at my Alma Mater JFK; The Ranking went By Grade Level as well as status on the squad. It was similar to this. (below)

  • 2 Banner Carriers – Crabs / Freshman or Sophomore
  • 3/5 Tall Flag Bearers (city, state, country & School Flags) – Crabs/Sophomores
  • 15 Rocking Flags - Crab, Sophomore and Junior Members.
  • Riflemen (any Number) – Junior Members
  • Swordsman – All Senior Members.

Basically, each Item was specified per level or rank. I Personally think our guards were great. In addition to that, each of these groups had specific drills they performed in the stands or on the field/street.

Outside of band, Those things don't matter to people. but it does matter within the Units. Why? Because I feel that each Ranking was proper for the student’s classification. Also because students must know how to properly use each Item before moving up in rank. My point is that it’s more to being a guard than swinging a rifle / sword & rocking flags/banners.

The Uniform and Pageantry

Most Recently, I have seen marching bands and color guards in the exact same uniform. I think its okay. but in order to stand out as a single Unit, These guardsmen must have their own look aside from the band. Those young men and women should look and perform gracefully like a group of soldiers. it may take more money, but it’s worth doing.

It was common Pre-Katrina, That if a guard unit did not have an official uniform, They’d wear Dickies uniforms in school colors along with citations on their shoulders, military spats, gloves and a helmet. Schools like Walker have brought back the idea of giving their color guards their own identity.

Before It's closing, Alcee Fortier’s troop of guardsmen were the epitome of style, as well as an outstanding part of their own marching unit. Many schools have mimicked their style but Fortier stands alone when it comes to style.

St. Augustine’s Color Guards are the prime example of what marching guard is supposed to be. from the ranking, the classic uniform as well as the general presence of as an actual Knight. it’s so traditional to what St. Aug. represents as a band and as a School. They strike Fear in the hearts of many!

What I would Like To see is.

The Heart of a Soldier

As a bandsmen from New Orleans, Since the time I was in middle school I have seen leagues of feminine boys who become color guards, Mainly because they want to hold a flag or dance. I’m Sorry if this offends anyone; but it has to stop. That is not what being a guard is about. As a guard, You are like a Marine. There should be no form of feminine flamboyance within this group. Especially if this group consist of males. Discipline is a must.

Clean and Drilling That Works

Rather than looking like dancing fools, Develop a New style of steps. aside from the general 2, 4 and 8 count step and Kick I normally see these guys do. I would like to see proper execution of all drills. such as Professor Griff leading Security of the First Word. I’d even prefer to incorporate something similar to the black greek style of stepping into their units. It would work and would truly be entertaining and if anything, it's always better than prancing around like fools.

Proper execution Is always a factor

If You have Seen Norfolk State University’s Spartan Guard you would know EXACTLY what I’m referring to. If not; You can view it within the First 60 seconds of this clip below.

I believe it would allow members to feel that they have earned their membership as a guard and to be respected and appreciated as the performers they are amongst the band community.


The concept must be renewed to compete with the schools who have stepped up their game by adding guards to their marching units.

I honestly believe that The N.O. color guard can become outstanding entity.

Although they are part of the marching unit. Like spectators these guys are the witnesses to the Battle, like the Jurors in the court room. although they have school pride. They can decide the winner or looser of the battle in an unbiased fashion.

That is EXACTLY why i feel they are needed.

I love the New Orleans band community, This is just one of my attempts to not only Restore Tradition but to revitalize and revolutionize What it means to be a bandsmen in New Orleans.

The Only way This Situation would work is if The Color Guard instructors. would hear me out. and maybe take some of these things into consideration.

Note From The Book

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