Our Favorite Pageantry and Arts Websites
- Arts USA
- Atlantic Indoor Association
- Color Guard Educators
- Council on Youth Sports
- Drum Corps International
- Ethics and Risk Management For Guard Instructors
- Florida Federation Colorguards Circuit
- Geena Davis Institute for Women in Media
- Marching Mentor
- Marching Roundtable
- Marching Roundtable Diversity Committee
- South Florida Winterguard Association
- The Women of Colorguard
- Winter Guard International
- Youth protection for change
Friday, March 25, 2016
This winter guard season is about to come to an end. Championships is the culmination of a season of sweat and tears...passion and devotion. As any other season, I come away with an array of emotions, thoughts, and ideas. I've reached a point in my guard career where I have no more to gain and really don't have any more to lose. I'm at peace with who I am as an instructor and some time ago, lost my ego in exchange for the betterment of the kids and the activity as a whole. Doing that, has allowed me to see things differently. I talk to people differently. I listen differently. I judge differently. I instruct differently. Do I follow criteria and rules? Of course I do. Do I want my teams to win? Of course I do. Somewhere though, I lost the ego. I saw that a person could only walk on the floor at World finals so many times or post on Facebook about the great show I'm judging so many times, before I had to stop and look around and say, "There has to be more than this."
The path I chose is one of advocacy. Kevin Spacey once said that if you have made it, then it is your job to send the elevator back down so others have the same opportunities. When I dropped my ego, I started looking around at how those of us that did make it, had it a little easier. We had less guards to compete against, classes that had a little more defined identities, and for the most part, we were all competing against ourselves who were of similar age and creating an activity that we wanted to see.
Things are different now. We...those of us who are older...were the creator of the criteria and the creator of the rules, We created rules to fit our needs. We are now judging. We are still instructing. We are making money through design and production value at the cost of the younger instructors, who don't have the experience and who don't have the perspective. Many of them are lost. It is time to send the elevator back down and give a helping hand.
"But Shelba...no one wants what we have to offer."
"Shelba...we've tried. No one comes to OUR trainings."
"But Shelba...they don't care. I mean...we tell them they need training."
Yeah, yeah, yeah.. You know what I have to say to that? BULLSHIT! We haven't tried hard enough. You know why? Because, often times...many times in fact, young people or people who lack perspective that comes with age and experience, don't realize what they don't know. They don't always grasp the danger inherent in the activity or grasp that they even need help. Many don't understand recaps and many feel as if the criteria reads like the instructions of an Ikea purchase. When we say "training" many don't even know what that word means. Is it basics? Is it cleaning? How do we train the body? When is o.k. to blend body and equipment in one motion? Here are a couple of numbers for you.
In Dayton this year, there are 120 colorguards registered for the Scholastic A class. Dayton as we all know, is pretty much for the best of the best. In a quick survey I did of 5 circuits...there was a total of 247 guards registered at their championships who will fall onto the Regional A sheet. That's just 5 circuits. This means that there are thousands of kids around the country who fall on the regional sheet and hundreds of instructors teaching those units. There are things about these units we don't know. We don't know the experience level of the instructors. We don't know if they have had any training by their local school or band in basic skills of coaching and safety. We don't know what their educational levels are and we don't know the situation of their financial status, rehearsal space, staffing capabilities, and rehearsal time. Not knowing this information, but knowing that there are thousands of kids who are in these gyms with these instructors, creates potential problems.
We as an activity are struggling to define what introductory, basic, and intermediate looks like in all four captions. I've written about it and posted about it on Facebook numerous times, but I think it's more than that. It's more than creating a policy on promotion during the season or telling judges that "training" must take precedent over design. That statement though, that I hear in every circuit, every place I judge is subjective based on any one person's personal experiences. We struggle with these concepts, because we aren't reaching across the aisle to truly discuss them. We find excuses to not address it. We fear change. We fear working together. We let the past get in our way. We create arbitrary borders that keep dialog from occurring. Mostly though, we aren't bringing the true stakeholders to the table...the instructors...the young ones...the ones who are lost, confused, and scratching their heads in understanding how to take a young guard from band camp in July to Championships in April, while they have a minimal budget, minimal staff help, and minimal rehearsal time.
On any given Saturday in October or February, you will find a marching band competition or winter guard show where thousands of kids will present their productions. At those shows are judges. Many...if not most of those shows have judges who are flown in from outside the region. This is not a bad thing. It's gives the units perspective. There is one drawback, though. How do I as a judge who is getting a paycheck, stay invested in a region of the country I don't even live in? What incentive do I have to keep the dialog going after the guard leaves the floor and after their three minutes are up? On any given Friday in October or February, you will see judges posting on Facebook about the flights they are on and the show they are headed to. On any given Sunday in October or February, you will see a multitude of "thank you's" as judges depart home. It's all on the up and up. I believe that everyone is doing their part for the kids. However, when I get on that plane on Sunday morning, I worry. I worry that there is a guard out there...one of those 247, that is doing something absurd. I told them to take it out. I let my score reflect it, but I'm not sure they understood and it bothers me. I worry about safety. I worry that there are judges who don't truly understand training in it's most purest form and are asking those in regional A to do more when if fact, they should be encouraged to do and spend less. In fact...I've heard it happen and in every circuit I've judged in. I'm concerned that there are concussions we don't know about, broken wrists, broken ankles, shin splints, and dislocated knees that are happening, because we aren't really talking about what matters...the safety of the kids and how we need to create a system of education and judging that helps those hundreds of young instructors keep those thousands of kids safe.
I make it very clear when I bring these topics up that I don't profess to know the best course of action. I also realize that any change would be like unraveling a small necklace wrapped into a thousand knots. I know this, though. Change takes time, but change doesn't happen until the process is started. I realize that many fear change. I know that you have to have the voice of the stakeholders impacted and I know that not all stakeholders will care and will fight you on the change. This is social cause advocacy 101. I also know that when you talk safety, sometimes rules need to be made. Period and end of story.
I am advocating for a different system of education and judging of the Regional A, non WGI bound regional guards. I am advocating for dialog. If we are truly in this for the kids, then we need to start looking at how training occurs and what the skills are we are demanding in these classes. We will all win in the end, when education takes priority over competition and ego.
Monday, March 21, 2016
"Hey girl how are you doing tonight?"
"Oh you know. Not what I thought it was going to be this year."
"Who are you with?"
"Oh yeah, I heard. Saw the recap. Here you go. There's an extra shot in there for ya."
I mean...how cool would that be! The bartender at headquarters should always be some old guard queen from the 80's that once wore sequins and had red prism tape wrapped around the tip of their rifle. Or...wouldn't it be cool to have Marilyn from Miamisburg or the girl from Field of View who screamed, "Youurrrreeee Fiiirrre (D)!" The bartender should always, always, always be a person who marched at least 20 years from the current season. As the weeks goes on, the bartenders become part empath, part historian, and part entertainment.
If I were the bartender I would create drinking games for every time we heard the phrase, "The judges." Then we would take a shot for every person who walked in the door wearing more than one medal around their neck. There is the obligatory shot any time someone cried or the twenty something who wore a tux to A Class finals on Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. in the Nutter Center and still wearing it at midnight. I mean...the possibilities are endless. There would be a round of free drinks when you heard the phrase, "Oh I don't care about the placement...as long as the kids enjoyed themselves." As we all take a drink, we would all raise our glasses with a collective, "Yeah...o.k." We would all drink when someone debated what entertainment really is.
My ultimate act of bartending would be to create a special WGI menu of drinks. Your order would reflect day of the week, placement, mood, and age.
The Parrot--Here's the thing. You made it this far. I don't care if you are a competitor, judge, or the contest staff. If you are physically sitting in Dayton, then it means that you made it. You need this great cocktail made up of Malibu Pineapple Rum, strawberry puree, and orange juice. It's light and bright and drink up, because you have no idea how this week will turn out. By the end of the week my friend, you might be drowning your sorrows in a rum based Dark and Stormy.
Thursday Night...Prelims Day
Shiraz--This nice glass of Shiraz is for the Semi-finalist who still needs to get up tomorrow morning for practice and then fight through the muddle of other semi-finalists for the ultimate hope of not being the first guard out of finals, because well...that really sucks.
Sam Adams--You can't go wrong with a Sam Adams when you still have a semi-finals run tomorrow. You are well placed and should stand strong against the other 12 guards in the neighborhood of 7th-18th. Be careful, though. You don't want to be the guard who drops their rifles all the way out of finals.
Old Fashioned--Today was rough. We feel ya. We've all been there. This is what you need. It's the cocktail of the ages and the story of Dayton. This wasn't your year. Whiskey and Bitters. You can't go wrong. Drink up and then have two more.
Margarita--Yes Girl! This is your year. You are solidly in the top 3 and you can feel that medal around your neck. Enjoy the tequila, but be careful sunshine...One well timed drop on the 50 can send you flying from second to fourth in a heartbeat. Good luck with that.
Cosmopolitan--This is the drink for anyone who came to the realization back in February that their guard will be lucky if they even make it to Dayton with the rickety old bus you had to rent, because half of the performers failed to pay their dues. Here's to you. You made it to the end. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
Zinfandel--Shhhh....You're a judge. We won't tell anyone you were here. Take this drink in this plastic cup and everyone will believe it's a Sprite. Don't make eye contact with anyone on your way out. "Don't anyone recognize them. Everyone look at your shoes!"
Friday Night...Semi Finals
Negroni--Girl you didn't make it to the big dance. Sorry. Really. We feel ya. You need this delicate blend of one part gin, one part vermouth, and one part campari. You of course want the orange peel garnish. Oh screw it. You don't need the garnish. Just the drink. Straight up and of course...we will keep them coming.
Cabernet--You made it to the big dance. CONGRATULATIONS! However, you are 20th place in A class...going on in the Nutter Center tomorrow morning and your wake up call is 3:30 a.m. Don't drink too much. We will see you tomorrow afternoon after your nap.
Planters Punch--You made it in! Yay for you! You are so excited, because you never thought they would make it. Go for it. Who cares at this point? You had 14 freshman, a percussion guy, and two trumpets that made up your guard. You go girl! Dark rum is for you.
Heineken--Because the contest staff and volunteers need a drink, too as they had to deal with the guy drinking the Negroni when they couldn't pull their floor off fast enough. Don't drink too much tonight, though. Tomorrow is the big day and it's Dayton so expect rain, mixed with sleet and snow.
Saturday is split up into two parts. The first part of the day is the afternoon break before World finals, but after Open and A finals...whenever that's actually going to end. The cocktails in the afternoon are fruity and fresh. It's going to be a long night and you need to start light.
Madras--This drink of vodka, cranberry, and orange juice is a perfect starter to the final end. 30 guards to go and you are finished. Enjoy this cocktail with friends and celebrate a much earned summer break.
Screwdriver--This is another easy one. Enjoy it, but while you do it, stop talking about the amazing show you are doing next year. There is a reason you didn't make it out of Thursday. Shut up and drink.
Tom Collins--You missed finals by one tenth and well...you need this. Gin on the rocks mixed with lemon juice and sugar syrup. Have two. Oh hell...have three. This is going to be a long night for you.
Champagne--Your guard is the guard to beat. Congratulations! Although, most everyone hates you and wishes you would just go away somewhere far...enjoy tonight. World Class finalist. Celebrate with your staff and enjoy your success.
Midnight...Finals is over
Martini--Yaaassss! It is the night we have all been waiting for. This drink is for those that can hold their posture with grace and class. You didn't make finals. You were last place. You were first place. Who gives a shit. This is the drink for those who carried themselves with grace all week. Drink up!
Red Wine Sangria--Pure party drink for the big party going on in room 117. None of you have taught in 10 years. You're only here to see colorguard, old friends, and bitch about the changing culture. Enjoy.
Strawberry Mojito--This drink is all about the fun. Vodka, strawberries, limes, and a bunch of other fruity stuff. This is for the kids who just turned 21 and are prancing around in their costumes with their medals. In all seriousness...we are old and please come back when you are wearing Depends and remember the good old days.
Bad Girl Punch--Be careful of this one. This drink is for the world staff's that made it to the end. Good for you. When the rest of our weekends ended at 4:18 on Friday afternoon and we started drinking at 5:16 at the closet dive bar we could find...you pushed through. You made it. Now go out and celebrate your success.
X-Rated Punch--This vodka and X Rated Fusion Liqueur is perfect for the person who doesn't care anymore, but needs a little well..something else to make the weekend complete. Go ahead.
Sunday...the day after
Bloody Mary--Because damn....See you next year.
That's it folks. That's the Dayton cocktail menu in the world according me...the aspiring official bartender of the WGI World Championships. Look for me there. I'll be sitting at the corner table with my signature drink a double tall Madras with Absolute.
Monday, March 7, 2016
It's March and the end of the tunnel is within reach and in the sights of all involved, but there's a big job to do and to me, the hardest part of the season is upon us. This is where we as staff members must make some choices. Do we continue down the path we are on and just clean? Do we take out that one scary and not so successful moment? Do we water? This is the time to make choices and the choice is this. What is it that will make the kids feel most successful in the end and what design and cleaning decisions will get you the biggest bang for your buck?
The biggest question is this, however. How do you maintain high expectations, without compromising the original intentions of the program? Additionally, how do you do it without destroying the kids and program in the process? I believe March is what makes or breaks a program and I'm not just talking about the current season. You also have to think about the future in terms of retention and recruitment. I'll be honest with you. There are moments in my past as an instructor that I regret how I responded to bad performances at a show or regional. I let the idea that this one particular moment we had been working on for a week get to me, when that one moment wasn't at the success level of my expectations. As a young instructor and even as an old instructor, the balance in my brain is constantly fighting itself. I watch the guard from the top and have to divorce myself from the drop on the 50 or sabre feature that missed its mark in clarity, and find what's right...while finding what we need to work most on. The clock is ticking and it's ticking fast. This is the time of year we triage. What takes precedence and what part is bleeding the most?
If you don't have a staff to bounce ideas off of after a show, then you have a much harder road ahead of you and I know some of you are out there. Most of us though, have someone on staff we can ask the question, "What did you think?" If you don't ask the tough questions and get the perspective of someone else, then your brain will start to play tricks on you. What you see as a catastrophe, might just be a rough moment. What you see as great, could very well be what is denial. You need to talk to people and you need to ask for additional perspectives. You need to listen to your audio files. Remember, the judges don't always look where you do and they don't know what you worked on the night before. Also remember that the judges want you to be successful. They are not your enemy and only want the best, so listen to them as a trusted consultant. If you are in it alone, then find someone...a trusted parent of the program...a friend...a colleague...and ask them. "What did you think?"
The next question you need to ask is this. "Did we set the right goals and do we need to readjust those goals?" Going forth into March without assessing your goals is foolish. Going forth into March without assessing the minds of the performers and staff is also foolish. Where are the kids at? What will make them successful? How far should I push them? What will break them? Should I try to break them? Should I coddle them?
Let me be clear about something. Sometimes performers need the tough love at this point of the season and it is necessary. Sometimes they need just love. I can't answer the question for you, because this is where being a good coach comes into play. You need to know your kids and play to the place where their minds are at on the journey. Sometimes they get it into their heads that THEY are not good enough and their minds begin to play tricks on them. This is where the drops are tend to come from at this point in the season. This is where we ask ourselves as staff members, "What do I do with the soloist that has everything riding on their shoulders in the opening of the show with the sabre quad and she has now begun to drop it consistently?" I can't say I always know the answer. I get just as perplexed as the rest of you, but what I try to do is think, "What would have worked for me?" I was a perfectionist and I never truly felt good about myself as a performer. I never felt the show was good enough. I missed a hand placement, a count, or God forbid I dropped. When I use to tech in my early years, I missed so many great moments with my programs, because someone missed a hand placement, a count, or God forbid a drop. I missed the smiles or the great recoveries. I missed the energy or the kid in the back who finally caught her flag toss.
So this is my suggestion. Don't let perfection be the enemy of good. Don't! Find the good and assess the problems. Gage the energy of the performers as they come off the floor. Listen to audience reaction. Want to know a trick? After the show and after you have watched the show several times on video AND listened to your audio files; go back and play the video with head phones in your ear, close your eyes, and just listen to the crowd. Are they reacting the way you want? Many times, the audience will tell you what you need to fix. I watch my video's several times. The following system is the order I do it in.
- Listen to the audio files...take notes
- Watch the video for pure reaction
- Watch the video for cleaning purposes...take notes
- Watch the video for cleaning purposes...take notes
- Watch the video for cleaning purposes...take notes
- Watch the video to see where it is I'm irritated with the design (because well...it isn't a good week until I've made a designer angry at least once)
- Listen for crowd reaction
- Send the video to someone else...listen to feedback without defense
- Make a schedule that goes all the way to championships
Keep your expectations high and the kids will rise to the challenge. They want to rise to the challenge. When it's all said and done I want you to remember this. They are harder on themselves then you could ever be. As a perfectionist myself, no instructor was ever harder on me than I was on myself and I had some tough ones. I had Ping, David Baker, and Jeff Wroblewski. Great instructors all of them, but none of them were tougher on me than me. Let that guide you through March.
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Last Sunday night I sat like many of us did, with popcorn and wine by my side, and watched the Academy Awards. I listened while Chris Rock brilliantly took jab after jab at the Academy for its lack of diversity in nominating black actors, actresses, directors, and writers. This was not by far the first year I have followed this issue. Part of my professional job is to understand media trends and how those trends influence young people. I not only follow, but read the research put out by the Geena Davis Institute and Women's Media Center every year on the jobs offered to women in the media. I'm a follower of the Women's Sports Foundation who also track participation of women in sport at all levels of play and leadership. That's my focus, so when the topic of the lack of nominations for the African American community surfaced, it didn't shock me nor offended me. I already knew much of the data. This post however, is about women. It's the women of the pageantry arts and how we are represented.
Let me be clear, I don't present information like this without facts to back it up. This is one main reason I can't speak to the issue of ethnicity in our activity. We don't have the data and I can't go to a website and look it up as easily as I can with gender. However, it is important to note that just because this post is about women, does not mean I believe that we demonstrate equal representation in the African American, Asian, or Hispanic communities; although the United States Census tells a different story. One look at a Dayton arena floor or in the stands toward the judges and it's easy to see that we have a diversity issue.
This post is about women and I get my information from 4 websites: Music For All, Drum Corps International. Winter Guard International, and Guide Star. My numbers come from these websites and are as accurate as the website presents it. Let's start with the numbers.
All three national pageantry organizations have common denominators and although each organization is structured differently and present different elements in our activity, they all have certain elements in common related around the competitive aspects of our sport. Some venture more into education than others, but they all have a competitive component. These numbers are my main focus.
All three organizations have judges. I looked at the judges for all major finals events in 2015 and came up with these numbers.
Semi Finals--11 judges
Bands of America
Thursday Prelims--7 Judges
Friday Prelims--7 Judges
Scholastic A--10 Judges
Independent A--10 Judges
Scholastic Open--10 Judges
Independent Open--10 Judges
Scholastic World--10 Judges
Independent World--10 Judges
There were a total of 121 judges in the major finals shows in 2015 and 13% were female. I am not including WGI Percussion or Winds in these numbers for sake of space, but make no mistake...those numbers are worse.
Now I want you to look at the Hall of Fames. All three organizations have Hall of Fames. I've broken them out by organization.
DCI--Began Hall of Fame started in 1985
Jim Jones Leadership Award--DCI Started in 1997
Music For All--Hall of Fame started in 2003
The total female honorees in the three organizations is 11%.
So why does it matter? What's the big damn deal? The big damn deal is because we are a collective activity made up of a significant amount of women who perform, teach, judge, and administrate. No one to my knowledge is capturing this information across the country as to what the total percentage of females to males are participating in various aspects, because if they did, I think the ratio's would look a lot different than percentages in the low teens, specifically color guard. Growing up female in America bares its challenges as we struggle with the concepts of body image perpetrated by the media and messages received in the work place. This is crucial in guard specifically, because it appears, (I have no numbers as no one collects these numbers), that the men design and choreograph at significantly higher numbers and the women tech. In our activity, designers make more money than techs. That is a fact. We don't collect information on salary or hours worked in this activity, because if we did, someone might be able to make a true case for inequality in pay.
Speaking of salaries...let me throw out some numbers for you.
These are the collective salaries for top CEO's of the three major national organizations as reported through Guide Star and all of these salaries are made by men. Music For All comes closest to having an equal ratio of male/female equality in the workplace, as the CFO is a woman. They have approximately an equal number of managers and directors in various capacities within the organization, however the top dog is still a man and according to Guide Star, still makes almost $60,000 more a year. Now, I am not here to make a case as to who deserves more money based on experience or resume. All I can do is show you the numbers. WGI however, is male driven at the top in terms of executive positions and the board of directors. There are 16 members who sit on the Board of Directors at WGI and 4 are women. Music For All has 17 listed Board members with 2 women represented. Their Educational Team consists of 10 members and 1 is a woman. DCI's Board of Director's is all male. How diverse of them.
Women make up on 14% of the Board of Director's of the nationally based organizations combined.
Here is what I can say. I can say that all of these numbers are as accurate as the websites state and what they reported to the IRS. I can't say why we are male heavy and why females are missing in the ranks of the leadership positions. As someone who works daily in government statistics, I know that multiple factors make up those numbers. It could be something as simple as women didn't want the positions. It could be that no woman applied for the CEO positions for the three organization's. I know when I look at funding for the non profits my organization funds, that before dime one is given, we look at the make up of the board. We want to know if the people they represent, are represented in leadership. It is important that the face of the participant has a voice in leadership. Only a woman can tell you what it is like to be a woman, just like only a black man can tell you what it is like to be a black man. Same thing goes for being gay, Hispanic, Muslim, or disabled. If women don't have a strong leadership voice at the top, then how can we advocate for their participation?
I now want to stretch this and bring to a point I've been speaking about and writing about all winter season. The topic is training. We have an issue with defining and understanding training in the color guard activity. We don't really try to create dialog around it, except to say that guards need better training. Most of our judges in the winter guard activity are male, but the ones that are female are mostly in the IA caption. There are no numbers to my knowledge as to how many judges we have nationwide locally and nationally, but from what I can tell, judges up top in GE and DA tend to be male and IA judges tend to be female...give or take. Most of our chief judges are male and most of those males are GE or DA judges. Most circuit Presidents are male. The females in the activity are heavy on the technician side. Now...let's ask this question. Who should be making the decisions on how we discuss training? Should it be the techs of the programs and the IA judges whose job it is to mention training at every turn of every show and who are basically sitting on the floor with the kids? Most of our trainings at the local level are designed based and when I brought this up to three different circuits, you know what I got? "No one cares about this topic. No one will come." Bullshit! I call foul. Get the right women in the right place to promote training and the people will come. We know what to say, because we are in the trenches at higher numbers.
When Paradigm spun the flag with their feet in 2005, it was without a doubt one of the most impressive flag features ever seen at WGI to that point. I was the lead tech of the program. Want to know how many judges in critique asked me how I cleaned it and what my approach was? Zero. When WGI did a focus piece on it, it was the choreographer who was featured, but it was the tech team that made it fabulous and stayed up late at night analyzing the video second by second. What is the value we place on the roles in our activity?
I write this because I don't believe there are people who sit around all day in the leadership of the pageantry arts trying to screw over women. I think it's pretty simple. We just haven't paid attention. I write this because, as a tech, I get called a bitch all the time, but it's my job to make sure the final product is technically solid. That's a tough job. I write this, because there is a difference in our activity on how we speak about women vs. men. I've heard people say that male designers have that creative temper, but as a woman we've been called bitches for expecting our rifle line to catch correctly and doing the hard job of "again." I write this, because I want a teenage girl to look up into the stands and see that one day she too, can be a GE judge or the CEO of WGI, DCI, or MFA. I want her to know she can design and choreograph and make money doing it! I want her to know that she can administrate. I haven't even mentioned contest administrators. T&P judges. Announcers. How many female announcers do we hear at any national event? Every one of these people get paid. Money is made and it is mostly made by men. We should care about this topic and do something about it. It's time.
This is a complex subject and it isn't going away. My recommendation? Put a diversity committee together across the country to look into it. Oh by the way, I sit on Pinellas County's Diversity Committee...in case you need some guidance.