Carr maintains drive to improve Color Guard skills during pandemic

Sofia Miller, Final Focus Editor

Rachel Carr (12) prepares to catch her flag after tossing a single-and-a-half. Carr has practiced Color Guard techniques in her backyard more frequently during the pandemic to maintain her skills. Photo by Julia Dailard.

When Rachel Carr (12) heard the news in October that Color Guard was cleared to begin practicing in person once a week, she was floored.

“I felt so overwhelmed with emotion that I burst into happy tears because we hadn’t been able to do anything since March,” Carr said.

However, moments like these—moments hinting toward a return to normalcy—have been rare. Carr, who’s been on the Color Guard team for four years, and team captain for two, said she wanted to continue to push herself to improve her skills throughout quarantine, beyond the limitations that the pandemic has brought to Color Guard at school.

One source of motivation to do so has been auditioning for drum corps outside of school. Drum corps, Carr said, is like the major league of competitive marching band and Color Guard. Each year, the top performers from around the world audition into teams which compete for an international title during the summer. Compared to Color Guard at school, practicing and performing in drum corps is considerably more intense, something which Carr hopes will allow her to continue to grow as a performer.

“It’s not necessarily that I have an end goal to enter corps,” Carr said. “I’m really just trying to do it for myself, because I know that I have good potential and I want to make sure that I’m not losing that during COVID.”

On Feb. 7, Carr was accepted into the Pacific Crest Drum Corps, one of 22 world class corps in Drum Corps International (DCI), a governing body for junior drum corps. World class corps typically tour across the country from June to August, though touring this year will be limited due to COVID restrictions.

The audition process began late November of 2020 and included submitting a video with basic exercises and routines on various guard equipment, including flag, rifle and saber. Carr then had to do a private lesson over Zoom with the head coach of Pacific Crest’s Color Guard. This audition process would normally occur during one intensive weekend, but was lengthened this year to accommodate having to review each individual’s audition videos separately, as opposed to evaluating auditioners all at once, within a group setting.

“Because of COVID, everything was virtual, so it took about two months just to get through the process so that they could look at my video,” Carr said. “But normally, they would have a two-day audition camp where you would spend the night, and you would have nine-hour rehearsal days where they would see how proficient you are, what kind of skills you can do and how fast you can learn.”

Carr said Pacific Crest Drum Corps has accepted around 40 members this year, and each member is contracted into the corps for one year before they would have to re-audition for the team again.

This isn’t the first drum corps Carr has auditioned for outside of school. In 2020, Carr auditioned for and was accepted into the Gold Drum and Bugle Corps, an open class corps, which is a level below world class drum corps. However, the entire 2020 season was canceled due to COVID.

“That was going to be my first year, so I was trying to do a lower level corps,” Carr said. “But I’m back and better than ever, and this year, I’ve tried to increase my performance abilities so that I could go straight into a world class.”

When Carr was faced with fewer time and practice with Westview’s Color Guard due to COVID, she began to put in more hours of practice at home.

“We’ve been very limited in the amount of in-person and even virtual practices that we’ve been allowed to have,” Carr said. “So as far as Westview’s team is concerned, we haven’t had a lot of in-person training to [develop our] performance skills, so my main motivation has just been to keep my skills up and keep getting better.”

Part of what keeps her motivated, Carr said, is surrounding herself with Color Guard content, even if virtually.

“I have an Instagram account where I only follow guard accounts,” Carr said. “And every day I’ll look through and try to find [videos] that inspire me to choreograph or try new tricks in my backyard.”

Carr has had this Color Guard-dedicated Instagram account for at least two years now, but said that it’s become a larger source of motivation for her during the pandemic as she posts her own Color Guard routines and choreography more frequently.

“Posting on social media sometimes as an end goal motivates me to get better, because when I create choreography, and I know it’s going to be shared, I work harder to make it look good,” Carr said. “It’s like my way of performing virtually.”

In the absence of the typical Winter Guard production that Carr would look forward to in previous years, Carr has set deadlines for herself in order to give herself something to work towards so she can maintain her drive. 

“There are definitely weeks where I just don’t want to practice because my brain is not doing good,” Carr said. “But in a good week, for example, this week, I’m trying to have a deadline. I’ve been going outside about five to six times a week, sometime between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. and just work and choreograph that whole time. So I’m keeping my motivation.”

Carr said she appreciates the efforts, both inside and outside of school, to bring Color Guard to life again, and looks forward to her future as a contracted member of Pacific Crest Color Guard. The nicest moments, however, are those marked by an air of slight normalcy, Carr said.

“Last Tuesday during our after school marching band rehearsal, we finally finished learning the drill for our mini-marching band show and we were able to go through the whole three-minute show at once,” Carr said. “We felt so accomplished and it actually felt like normal times for the first time ever.”