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What Is a Marching Band Color Guard?

By Erik J.J. Goserud
Updated May 23, 2024
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A marching band color guard is a visual representation to augment the music of the band and is used to express nationalistic pride or team unity. They can also be called a drum and bugle corps. The color guard brings tremendous visual impact to a marching band. Color guarding began in military history when men with flags, staffs, or mock rifles would accompany a band playing a patriotic song to invigorate the army at a time of war. This section of the drum line has since been adapted to teams and organizations with marching bands.

While it is most common to see a color guard at football games, many major university sports teams will have a marching band color guard accompany their bands to other rallies and events. They are often seen performing at halftime events during high school and university games. In the sports off season, marching band color guards may also participate in their own competitions with or without a band. Color guards consist of both male and female members. The band director may refer to the color guard section as the flagline or guard.

The attire worn by the members of a marching band color guard may be military or a band uniform with colors of the team they represent. The band may include a theme, which may be represented in the band’s attire as well. Flag spinning is a common maneuver performed by the color guard. It is important for members of the marching band color guard to work in synchronization. The influence of marching band color guarding has also been passed on to cheerleading squads at sporting events; for example, the squad's members may wave their team’s flag in time to the music.

The number of members in a color guard varies widely — some marching band color guards will only have a few members, while others will have as many as 40 or 50. The size of the band and the budget of the organization have a correlation to how many members are in its color guard. It is common for marching band color guards to practice daily in order to achieve perfect synchronization. Marching band practices typically range from two to three hours and include the color guard most of the time. Special color guard-only practices may be set up to prep for competitions that do not include musical accompaniment.

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Discussion Comments

By anon941900 — On Mar 24, 2014

I was in color guard and I had to march just like the rest of the band. Marching color guard and the military (original) versions are different but both are, in a sense, patriotic.

By Scrbblchick — On Feb 27, 2014

Our band's color guard was called the flag corps, or, as those of us who were not impressed called it, "flag drag." Those of us in JROTC looked on the flag corps with a slightly jaundiced eye because they didn't have to learn to march with the rest of the band. Even the dance team and majorettes had to learn to march with the band, but not the flag corps.

Times have changed a lot though, and I see the color guards marching with the bands and they give a real dash of color and panache to a marching band.

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