How Band and Colorguard Have Helped Me In Theatre
I'm the definition of a nerd . All through school I was in honors and AP classes. I started choir and theatre in elementary school and as soon as I hit middle school I joined the band program. I spent the next 7 years as a band kid and sprinkled in choir, theatre, and eventually colorguard. To increase the nerdiness, I took up a leadership position in the band program in high school, starting as a section leader and progressing to drum major. For all my non-band people out there, essentially I was the leader for the clarinet section to start and then became a leader of the entire band and conducted for the performances. Through high school I still participated in theatre, but I kind of put it on the back burner so to speak. As I’ve been doing some reflection lately I started connecting my experiences in both band and colorguard to those in theatre. I wanted to share how I feel that my years in band and colorguard helped improve my skills in theatre.
One of the main things that I feel like band specifically taught me that really helps with musical theatre specifically is the ability to read sheet music and understand music notation. This includes pitch (which helps with sight reading new pieces of music (though I’m certainly not as good at sight singing a piece of music as I was sight-reading while playing my clarinet). Likewise, equally (or maybe slightly less than equal) important is how to read rhythm. This is an especially helpful skill if learning a musical that has never been done before as there will not be an original cast to listen to to learn the music.
Something that both marching band and colorguard helped me with is an awareness of formations. For example, a dance piece may be choreographed and staged where the performers are in a diagonal line. I have already had this awareness to and skill to “dress the line” as we say in the band and colorguard world. Formations are choreographed for a reason, so it’s important to make sure that we are actually in the spots we need to be in.
I did theatre long before I even knew what colorguard was. So really I came into colorguard having learned how to perform from theatre. However, with that said, I feel like performing while performing a colorguard show and performing on stage are definitely different and learning how to perform in a colorguard show has definitely improved my overall performing skills. The biggest area I see in myself is in my presence. This was a skill I also benefited from my colorguard experience during the modeling challenge for Broadway Bound Live (an experience I will be blogging about in the near future).
Another benefit I gained from my colorguard experience was a major improvement in my dance skill. Prior to colorguard, I had taken no formal dance classes and as such, my skills were pretty lacking. Colorguard is based in dance (mainly ballet basics, contemporary, jazz, and modern dancing). As such, most colorguard rehearsals, skills camps, and auditions begin with a dance class that includes stretching, exercices that take place sitting and standing, across that floor exercises, and then choreography. As such my dance skills greatly improved and that is something I was particularly grateful for when beginning to attend rehearsals for Broadway Bound Live.
Dancing and performing at the same time
Finally, I feel like colorguard really helped to improve my ability to dance and perform at the same time; both from a cardiovascular ability and the mindf**k that can happen when I try to do too many things at once. This is a necessary skill to have in musical theatre as you will often sing and dance at the same time. After doing colorguard for so long where I would spin a 6 foot pole with a 4 foot silk (that’s the flag part) while also dancing. It now makes singing and dancing at the same time feel much easier to me than it used to.
I want to make it clear that when I call myself a nerd, it isn’t degrading. In fact, I’m proud to be a nerd. The passion that I have for these activities is immense and while some see that and laugh, the best performers in all of these areas are the ones who are most captivating to watch. If you look outside performing, the best minds who are definitely nerds are the ones who invent life saving measures and incredibly technology that improves quality of life. So instead of seeing it as a bad thing, I think it is actually an amazing thing. What are you nerdy about?
If you are interested in seeing what colorguard looks like and is about, here is one of my favorite shows from all time for winterguard (an indoor version of colorguard with no marching band, inside with a tarp on the gym floor): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPz3ghvz1G0
And here is my favorite colorguard action shot of myself ( For context it was a sad show, so that's why I look distraught... all part of the performance!)