Monday, April 17, 2017

Tryouts Don't Have To Be Trying
by Troy Bunkley

It is time again to start preparation for the Fall marching season and that includes the selection of the color guard. Auditions are coming up fast and we need a reminder of the important aspects of the audition process. Below are some tips from the Washington High School color guard staff in Washington, Missouri.


Reaching out to as wide of a talent pool as possible is key to successful recruitment. Word of mouth by current and returning guard and band members is extremely efficient and effective. The kids know the kids and will bring only those students that will work well in your program. Another good source of talent is other areas of the fine arts. Drama, vocal music, and dance students are familiar with performing in front of audiences and will make great candidates for your guard. Ask teachers in those areas to allow you or a current guard member to say a few words about the auditions. This will only take a few moments of class time and will allow the teacher to demonstrate their support of other areas of the arts.

Promote your audition event to the students through morning announcements, flyers, the school newspaper and any social media permitted by your school guidelines. This will help tremendously in getting the word out to as many kids as possible. Live performances at school assemblies, concerts, or in the morning before school in the gym will let those interested in the activity see it up close and in person.


The use of a multi-day audition camp is highly recommended. Scheduling four days total for a camp allows for a good balance of instruction and witnessing of growth and improvement of the candidates. Three of those days should be used for teaching flag basics, sample choreography, and seeing how well students can move and dance. During this time you are also watching how students learn, interact with instructors and peers, and their overall growth and development on the equipment and dance. The fourth day is the actual audition day. It is good to have a "rest" day between the teaching days and the audition day for students to absorb what has been taught to them. Spinning a flag involves the use of many new muscle groups and does not come natural. Students will need some time to get used to it.

Candidate Qualities

Rating the candidates on their equipment and dance skills is a given for the audition. But there are other items to be considered when evaluating a student's overall potential. Observation of the candidate during the camp will reveal traits such as work ethic, ability to focus, rate of improvement, and ability to work with peers.

Make sure to request grades in all current classes. You need this information to avoid any surprises of ineligibility down the road. This information also allows you to be aware of students that struggle in the classroom. You then can keep tabs on them during the season to help keep them in good academic status.

You also want to pay attention to the general health of your candidates thru observation of wraps, joint braces, and limps. The unique physical demands on the body of color guard can be challenging for even the healthiest members. Students with limitations may need routines adapted to prevent any additional injury.

Most importantly, having an audition permission slip listing all rehearsals, performances, and membership expectations signed by both the student and a guardian will greatly reduce most communication challenges down the road.

Audition Criteria

The teaching of basic skills on flag and movement should be the focus of the audition. Ideas for flag basics include drop spins, cone exercises, flourishes, and a variety of tosses that fit in your program. Movement basics should start with some across the floors such as walking in time with music, jazz walk, jazz run, chase/saute combo. Some basic body movement could include plies and tendus. A final thing to look for in the audition is the performance and expressive qualities they can add as they do the flag and movement work.

Final thought

Where the audition process will provide you with numbers to rate each student, the goal should be to bring quality people with potential into your guard program. Hard workers, positive attitudes, determination, and just nice people are qualities to look for. High quality people will create the high quality color guard program you seek.

Troy Bunkley
Palen Music Center - St. Louis
[email protected]

The Washington High School Color Guard Staff includes Julie Bunkley, Sara Barnett, Dale Robison, and Erin Shaul. The Washington High School Color Guard is consistently recognized for their achievements in both the Fall and Winter seasons including Gold medalists at the Mid-Continent Color Guard Association Championships for the last six years. They have also been Finalists at the Winter Guard International World Championships for the last four years.


Contact Your Local Palen Music Center Representative

Can we assist you with anything? Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.