The Slippery Rock University Winter Guard took first place at the Three Rivers Winter Ensemble Association Contest on Jan. 31 with their performance of “Carol of the Bells: A Winter Journey.”
The SRU Winter Guard was awarded top honors in the Regional A Collegiate Class out of 45 participating guards from Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Judges rank the guard based on technique, unity, creativity and overall performance, Samantha Passarello, an information systems and technology major and co-captain of the SRU Guard said.
Winter guard is similar to color guard, the guard that performs with a marching band, but because the audience is seated closer to the guard they must be more expressive and detailed, Passarello said. The group practices twice a week and performs nearly every other Saturday.
Students are selected to join the guard based on their abilities with spinning a flag, rifle, saber and their movement techniques, Aley said.
The guard holds bake sales, clinics and sells T-shirts throughout the year in order to afford a performance floor, uniforms, equipment, buses, entrance fees and other expenses, Passarello said. The group also has an extremely dedicated staff helping them take their skills from practice to performance, she said.
“We work with some of the best people in the world,” Passarello said.
Mr. Bruno Zuccula, the guard’s instructor and an SRU alumnus, selects the music for the performances and aids in refining the guard’s overall technique and performance qualities. Zuccula said he has worked in the color guard section for 48 years, 13 years performing and 35 years instructing. During that time, Zuccula said that he taught in Japan, Italy, England and other regions in the United States, totaling 10 world championships in drum corps, three bands of American championships and three winter guard international championships.
Along with their instructors, Passarello and Christine Aley, a middle level mathematics major, play unique roles as co-captains, both teaching and learning along with the rest of the guard.
“Every member of our Winter Guard is talented. Each member has their own strengths,” Aley said. “As co-captains, it is our job to take the work that has been given to us and make sure that everyone learns and understands it, whether that means answering questions brought up to us or asking questions ourselves to make sure that everyone has a clear understanding of the routine.”
Watching other guards perform before their group at a competition is exciting rather than nerve-racking for Aley. The guards show support for one another and have fun while showing off their hard work, she said.
When there are difficult tricks in the show, mistakes are bound to happen, but it is how the group recovers that truly matters, Passarello said.
“As a team, it’s important for us to not feel alone while we are performing,” she said.
Consistency is key, but when a drop or mistake does happen the guard tries to adapt quickly and counts out the motions to help the other members get back into the work, Passarello said.
As the group prepares for future competitions, Zuccula encourages them to “always do your best. Never let an opportunity pass you by. Enjoy every moment.”
And not all rewards from competition come in silver and gold. For Aley, being a part of Winter Guard has given her the benefits of hard work and perseverance.
“Winter Guard is not easy. You must learn formation placements, routines, and must always be improving on equipment technique and skills, while fulfilling the jobs and requirements of being a student. It can be hard and a little overwhelming at times, but with perseverance and hard work the ending product is amazing. This lesson can be transferred to any aspect in life and is one I will keep with me throughout mine,” she said.
The guard will be performing their show in the Morrow Field House during common hour Feb. 26 and move on to their first WGI Regional Competition on Feb. 28 where they will compete against guards from all over the U.S.