By Emily Ellis
You’ve probably seen them in the town parades–proudly leading the marching band down the street with their flags and rifles spinning high in the air.
But parades aren’t the only event that the Morristown High School Color Guard tackles. Members also march with the Morristown High School Marching Band in the fall and perform in local Winter Guard circuits.
In past years, the MHS Winter Guard has performed upbeat and uplifting shows that leave audience members dancing in their seats.
This year, the varsity guard took a more serious route and decided to approach the prevalence of gun violence in schools.
Entitled Each One, Important, this show describes the emotional journey that students and teachers endure during lockdown drills.
You can see Each One, Important, plus the Junior Varsity guard’s heartwarming show Heroes, at Friends and Family Night this Friday, April 12, 2019, at the Frelinghuysen Middle School Gymnasium. The event starts at 6:30 pm.
Choreographed by Director Meghan Aitken, Each One, Important, opens with guard members sitting in chairs that face away from the audience. With the backdrop of a classroom prominently portrayed, a spoken word recitation based off the modern adaptation (by Matt Cohen) of the poem The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey overlays Light of the Seven by Ramin Djawadi, which originally appeared in the Game of Thrones.
While the show progresses and the situation becomes more dire, audience members watch one of their biggest nightmares acted out before them.
“If we hit people in that soft spot, it could help change things or spread awareness for the situation,” says Co-Captain Olivia Stelletell.
“My goal is to change one person’s mind in the audience. Just one person. If I make them feel differently about the problem, my mission is accomplished,” agrees senior member and Co-Captain Sofia Delgaudio.
Preparing students for such an emotionally charged show requires months of rehearsal and training, and moments of reflection. With 20 hours of practice a week and seven competitions to prepare for, the Winter Guard season draws members close together.
“I gained so many new friends that they’re like my family now,” says senior member Kimberly Hosken.
Social media coordinator and senior member Deanna Swanson echoes this sentiment. “Guard is important to me because it’s become like a family. It’s where I can go to get away from the rest of my life.”
This sense of family reverberates through every performance because synchronicity is a crucial element of Winter Guard. As students dance and spin through their show, they use their love for each other to integrate reality into their expressions of fear.
Senior member Sarah Anderson explains that her role as the teacher is especially emotional for her because she is significantly invested in her character.
“My mom is a preschool teacher and was in a situation where she was in lockdown because there was a shooter near the school. I remember my heart stopping when I got the text. You never understand how it affects you until you are related to that situation in some way.”
With such strong emotions connected to these events, the show requires students to face a harsh reality they hope they never have to encounter.
Senior member Ray Delgaudio, who has been a member of the guard for three-and-a-half years, cherishes the ability to spread such a powerful message through the art form that he loves.
“To me, the show means being able to speak your mind about a sensitive topic. Portraying the event from the point of view of the teacher puts a new twist onto it that has never really been seen before.”
In this season already, the MHS Winter Guard has moved up two divisions and placed first a total of three times. With one performance remaining at Championships on April 14, at South Brunswick High School, the guard continues to work towards improving its show and hopes to inspire audience members to take action.
In conjunction with the varsity guard, the MHS junior varsity Winter Guard also is closing up its season this month. Its show, Heroes, explains how firemen and police officers become superheroes in the eyes of children.
Choreographed by Felicia Cloughley-Sperry, this bright tribute reminds the audience what it’s like to be a child again.
Captain Priya Nolan loves to represent her high school through such a happy, energetic performance.
“Every time I perform this show I’m taken back in time to my childhood. As we mature and become more aware of the ‘real world,’ we realize that maybe we all can’t wear capes. But we can still be heroes,” she says.
Sophomore member Nathan Wood further elaborates upon the importance of teamwork in his show .
“When I get frustrated or mad or even sad, I feel like guard is a good place to let the feelings show because I have people that love and support me,” says Wood.
Emily Ellis is a Morristown High School senior.