Modern color guard is a combination of military drill, also called marching, and the use of flags, sabers, mock rifles and other equipment, as well as dance and other interpretive movement. Traditional color guard first began during the English reign around the same time of the Civil War. A band would accompany the soldiers to play music to keep their spirits up and to keep them in beat. Along with the band, they also had a soldier holding a flag with their colors on it.

Color guards can be found in some colleges, universities, high schools, middle schools, and independent drum corps. Members of color guard teams march along with their fellow marching band members. Today the guard uses choreography and equipment for added visual appeal during a marching band show. Usually marching bands and color guards perform during football games at halftime. When in competition, the color guard score is typically based on movement, visual effect, fluidity of choreography with the music, coordination of all members,drill, and the use of equipment(e.g. flags, rifles, and sabers). During a competition the guard adds to the overall score of the band, but is also judged in its own category. Color guard has been considered to be both an athletic competition and an art. Due to its popularity, it has been suggested that color guard be included in the Olympics games.


A high school colorguard getting ready to perform.

Color guard in a marching bandEdit

In a marching band or a drum & bugle corps, the color guard is a non-musical section that provides additional visual aspects to the performance. The marching band and color guard performance generally takes place on a football field while the color guard interprets the music that the marching band or drum & bugle corps is playing via the synchronized spinning of flags, sabers, mock rifles, or other pieces of equipment, or else through dance. A color guard can also perform without a marching band. This is usually referred to as "winter guard" or "indoor color guard." A winter guard performance takes place in a gymnasium or arena, and the color guard performs to recorded music instead of a live band. Color guard members typically prefer the term "spinning" to "twirling."


Originally, a military color guard often traveled with a band, which would play a patriotic song. This use continued into the civilian marching bands, and today, a marching band's color guard will normally carry equipment descended from those of military color guard: flags, banners, mock rifles, or mock sabers. Color guards often choose costumes and props that coordinate with the theme of their show. Color guard membership can be very large, sometimes rivaling the number of musicians in the band. Color guards also accompany drum & bugle corps, independent marching musical units which train during the early spring and compete during the summer months. During the 1970s and 1980s, much of the impetus for the evolution of the modern color guard came from the arena of competitive drum & bugle corps, although winter guard, both independent and school-related, have claimed the cutting edge in recent years.


Some color guards also participate in competitions that exclude the musical performers. Winter guard takes place after the marching band's season ends. Most of these guards are found in North America. Held indoors, typically in gymnasiums, winter guard competitions are a growing part of the pageantry activity which also includes marching bands and drum corps. Color guards involved in these indoor competitions may be part of a high school or college marching band or may be stand-alone club in these educational institutions. Additionally, some guards are "independent" and are self-sponsored or attached to a non-profit organization such as a veterans post, a church, or a municipal recreation department. Such guards can draw members from a wide range of ages and areas.

In the past, membership in competitive color guards was limited to those under 22 years of age, but Winter Guard International (WGI), a major governing body for the activity, raised the age limit for the highest class of independent guards. During the 1970s, most color guards were influenced by military marching styles. They performed to live drum cadences or were silent, relying on the footfalls of the members or vocalizations provided by the guard captain. The military style evolved into the modern color guard, and WGI was formed in the late '70s. WGI set the stage for more standardized national competitive rules and judging.

Units are judged on the design of the show and the aptitude of the members regarding movement and equipment work. Expectations are different for the varying classes, with longer shows and more stringent requirements as the units ascend to the highest class, "World Class."

Competitions are generally held from mid-November through early April with local circuits accounting for most of the competitions nationwide. WGI sponsors widely attended Regional Championships leading to the national championship typically held in early-April.

The WGI guard movement also spawned indoor percussion contests which are often quite similar to the guard contests in design.

Winter guard Edit

Winter guard is similar to outdoor color guard, except they perform indoors on gymnasium floors through the winter season. Winter Guard International is the major sanctioning body for the activity in the United States.