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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Brighton’s new winter guard to host state competition

Feb 24, 2021 12:28PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

In late March, Brighton High will host students throwing rifles and sabers and twirling flags while they compete for a winter guard title.

In its first year competing, Brighton will host the Winter Guard International state championships for scholastic regional A on March 27, while following the safety and health guidelines surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have six total competitions this year and almost all of them are virtual,” Brighton High Color Guard Director Hunter Field said. “We will travel to Riverton and Tooele, but even there, teams will be performing shows that are recorded to be judged. At state, it will be the same thing; we will only host about five or six schools.”

Even so, Field is thankful his first-year 14-member squad will “get the competition feel and experience.”

Similar to marching band season, winter guard performs a routine set to music, showcasing their techniques and talents with flags, rifles and sabers. 

Brighton’s routine is named after the song they perform to, “If there was a zombie apocalypse, I'd let my dog eat me.” Backdrops provide a graveyard as the winter guard represent zombies in the night.

“There are so many stresses in life right now, I thought we all could use a release, something fun in life,” Field said. “It’s a story-driven show that is very expressive. It’s a lot more visual, and the flags provide color.”

On Feb. 6, Brighton winter guard families gave the squad enthusiastic applause as they performed the routine, which Field choreographed.

Field, who has visions of the guard increasing up to 50 members by next fall and competing on four different teams within six years, said he welcomes any student in “any shape, way or form.” Dance experience is preferrable, but not required, and dance company members would be a natural crossover, he said.

The squad not only performs during fall marching band season and winter color guard season, but also will learn up to four routines for summer parade season. After marching band, some instrumentalists will grab a flag to perform for just the winter, returning in the summer to their instruments for parade season, Field said. 

“Our auditions aren’t to cut students, but to assess where they are and where they fit in terms of dance, flag, rifles and sabers,” he said. “We want to make sure students have the most positive experience, we want to make sure people feel welcome and they want to be there.”

To ensure that experience, Field and assistant director Elliott Ramirez-Rodgers have regular meetings with each guard member.

“We set goals and ask what they want to accomplish and get out of the season. We ask, ‘What can we do to make sure this is a positive experience for you?’” he said.

Then Field works with students during the three weekday rehearsals as well as the optional rehearsals that are held twice per week, where students learn to master new tricks.

Students are not only learning those tricks and basic dance fundamentals in their guard experience, Field said they’re learning leadership skills and a positive attitude.

“We want to teach our members to have that positive outlook on themselves, not to beat themselves up if they see someone is better than they are at a competition. We help them realize that if someone is better, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t good at something,” he said.

Field knows that approach works from personal experience.

“The best part of color guard is 110%, the people around it. They are some of the most positive people I’ve ever met,” he said.

Field got involved in color guard when he attended Provo High School.

“A cute girl asked me to join,” he admitted. “I’m not a dancer, but I came over and fell in love with the dance aspect and with a rifle, saber and flag, it was so much more fun.”

It wasn’t a romance that ended happily ever after as Field said she got mad as “I got better than her.”

After high school, he continued to perform with the Wasatch Independent Winter Guard for three or four seasons before starting to help with technique on the Spanish Fork High School color guard. He worked his way up to assistant director last season, even helping to originate the school’s routine as a memorial to Bob Ross.

Now, Field is studying math at Utah Valley University to become a teacher and has hopes of teaching at Brighton as he builds the color guard program.

“Some of our color guard members are the most dedicated, passionate members I’ve seen anywhere,” he said. “This is one of the best experiences of my life. It’s just been incredible and it’s going to become even better.”