It seems like synchronized magic: flags tossed high, twirling on an unseen axis to the beat of the marching band, then sailing downward into the hands of the girls who tossed them.
If the 16 girls who are members of the Brownwood High School band’s color guard make it look easy, it’s not quite that.
Behind the pageantry and precision is hard work and practice, practice practice — and not everything goes exactly as planned. They’ve dropped flags during halftime shows, and they’ve accidentally whacked themselves and each other with the flags.
Those occasional setbacks don’t detract from the girls’ love for what they’re doing.
The color guard is part of the band, and color guard members are those who have previously played an instrument. They are also required to try out for color guard in the spring before being selected to join.
“Being able to see them from the drum major’s stand, I see them all together and it takes my breath away, even though I’m in the color guard,” said senior Britlynn Bitters, one of the band’s three drum majors.
Britlynn, a flute player, joined the color guard as a junior. During a halftime performance at a football game, Britlynn splits her time almost evenly between conducting the band and performing with the color guard.
Britlynn and the color guard squad’s two lieutenants — juniors Alexia Garcia and MaKenzie Boswell, who play saxophones — described their experiences as color guard members in an office off the band hall.
“We are a visual,” MaKenzie said. “We’re performers, and we are the visual effects of the band.”
Assistant band director Lesley Lambert said the color guard “enhances the band. At contest, especially the area level and the state level, a band that advances gets what’s called GE points — general effect. And that comes from the color guard.”
Alexia said she is inspired by the flag tosses, “especially when we’re all together. It just gives it another ‘wow’ factor.”
MaKenzie explained why she wanted to join the color guard. “Listening to the band and the way that they sound, it’s always inspired me to want to move to it,” MaKenzie said. “It puts movement into it, and it’s very expressive. You get to pour your emotions into it and it takes the band’s sound and really helps it move, and give it some visual effect.”
There is plenty to learn — different flag tosses, fundamentals, “even how to hold the flag properly on anything we do,” Alexia said. “There are specific ways our hands have to be. There’s a lot of background to it that many don’t know.”
The technique the girls use when tossing flags determines how high the flags go and how many times they twirl.
Lambert added, “and they have to march while they’re doing the flag work.”
Color guard members “have to be on the right foot at the right time,” MaKenzie said. “Our toes have to be up, and sometimes our toes have to be down first because we have different types of marching.”
But the payoff makes the hard work worthwhile, the girls said.
“I don’t know about you guys,” MaKenize said. “But the last game, I got butterflies like a freshman all over again. I was just so excited. Color guard’s my everything.”
The color guard is a family within the band family, the girls said.
“Just like how the band is, but we’re just a little family,” Britlynn said.
Alexia added, “we’re immediate family.”
MaKenzie made a reference to the roles of Lambert and the squad’s captain, Kaytlin Welch, who was away at tennis as the girls spoke.
“We’re sisters, that’s what it is,” MaKenzie said. Kaytlin and Miss Lambert — dang. Those are the mamas, all right. Miss Lambert takes really good care of us and makes this a family. You couldn’t have all these sisters and all these siblings with all this love without a mother to take care of us.”
Lambert’s husband, David, is the director of bands.
“These young ladies are very special,” David Lambert said. “They not only play their instruments, but they learn to to do flag work and enhance the show. We’re very proud of these young ladies.”
Lesley Lambert said, “what I love about color guard is, when they are in synch, it takes your breath away. It’s just really exciting to watch them. When those tosses go up at the same time and they’re caught at the same time, it’s the wow factor.
“Dealing with these girls is pretty rewarding too.”