I was late to the game when it comes to my love of the indoor marching arts, including winterguard. While I was aware of the activity thanks to my participation in drum corps, I had seen very few performances, even when I was at WGI in 2001 working a recruitment booth for Empire Statesmen.
It was the 2012 WGI Winterguard World Championships which sticks in my mind as when I truly became a fan. The top 5 Independent World class guards alone would make an excellent show on their own. Onyx once again redefined what “art” in “Sport Of The Arts” meant. Pride of Cincinnati proved once again that taking a year off didn’t hurt. Aimachi’s insane baton twirling and tosses created the loudest standing ovation I may have witnessed at WGI, in the MIDDLE of their show. Zydeco broke all of our hearts as the Tin Man lost his.
It is the Santa Clara Vanguard, however, who I wish to remember in this article. With the recent announcement that SCV was going inactive for 2023, most fans’ attention is on the drum corps part of the organization, but it was not that long ago that the Vanguard featured a world class winterguard which won multiple championships before shutting down after 2016.
I’m 2012, the Vanguard presented “John Henry: A Story For Our Time”. This show stood out in three ways – The incredible performance by the guard, Peter Gabriel’s music from the 25th anniversary of his album So, and the storytelling prowess of Wayne Harris.
From the Vanguard blog:
Wayne’s father was the first who told him the tale of John Henry. The students loved hearing about the story with his father, as it involved a young Wayne electrocuting himself and ending up in the hospital, where his father would visit every night and tell him stories about John Henry while eating chocolate chip ice cream. “At the very core of the story is the idea that one person can make a huge impact, whether it be John Henry, or my father coming to comfort a scared little boy in the hospital every night. The stories of them both together was a way to show them that we are all capable of heroic efforts, just by doing one good thing every day.” Wayne tells us, “I wanted the students in these communities to see their own lives in heroic terms. We are in unprecedented times and we are all challenged in ways that force us to be brave, resilient and strong!”https://www.scvanguard.org/celebrating-black-history-month/
Wayne’s final statement of the show always stays with me: “I will do what I can do.” This show did everything it could do and became one of the memorable experiences in WGI history.