About Winter Guard International (WGI)

WGI Sport of the Arts is the world’s premier organization producing indoor color guard, percussion, and winds competitions.  As a non-profit youth organization, WGI also serves as the governing body for the indoor color guard, percussion, and winds activities. It is called the Sport of the Arts because it brings music to life through performance in a competitive format. Even with over 45 years of history, the sport continues to evolve and grow. There were more than 40,000 participants at the regional level, and more than 12,000 participants at the Sport of the Arts World Championships this past April.

WGI’s Mission, Purpose, and Values

General Info

In the spring of 1977,  a small group of representatives met and formed an organization to govern the color guard activity from coast to coast. The goal was to create a standard set of competition rules, establish a unity in judging techniques, and provide a national championship event. The organization that would bloom from this meeting was known as Winter Guard International.

Since its inception, WGI has drawn together the growing winter guard activity and provided leadership and guidance to generations of performers around the world. Now this international organization offers:
-standardized judging criteria within the activity
-improved communication.
-cooperation of local circuit organizations.
-an Educational Division offering clinics, and both printed and video materials regarding the color guard and indoor percussion activities.
-a network of Regional contests in the U.S., Canada, and Europe culminating in an annual International Championship in April.

WGI Sport of the Arts is governed by a Board of Directors composed of representatives from the top color guards, percussion and winds ensembles in the world, and “At Large” positions for individuals who bring their professional experiences to share with WGI.


WGI uses a competition-based approach for organizing events in order to showcase youth activities in pursuit of high standards of achievement. Events include about 60 Regionals, which lead to the three-day World Championships that evaluate more than 300 guards, 200 percussion ensembles, and 40 winds groups.


Color guards, percussion ensembles, and winds groups are considered part of the music education curriculum by most schools.  Education is the basis of the developmental criteria that define our measurement for competitive advancement. WGI Sport of the Arts provides curriculum materials for classes in equipment, movement, and design. WGI provides a full educational program for instructors and judges through seminars and video materials.

The organization promotes higher education by annually awarding over $20,000 in academic scholarships to students from our competing units.

Winter Guard

Winter guard is the sport of indoor color guard. Modern color guard is a combination of the use of flags, sabers, mock rifles, and other equipment, as well as dance and other interpretive movement. Most color guards can be found in, high schools, middle schools, and some universities, but independent organizations exist as well, affiliated more with a geographical location or drum corps, rather than a school system.

Indoor Percussion

An indoor percussion ensemble or indoor drumline consists of the marching percussion (also called battery) and front ensemble (also called pit) sections of a marching band or drum corps. Indoor percussion marries elements of music performance, marching, and theater; thus, the activity is often referred to as percussion theater. Although most indoor percussion ensembles are affiliated with high schools, there are also many independent groups that draw participants from a large area.


Winds is a natural extension of the WGI organization and will complete WGI’s support of the total band program. In fact, Winds doesn’t exclusively mean “winds only.” Groups can include any instrumentation found in a concert band or orchestra as well as color guard and percussion performers all in one group.

Competition Classifications:

All WGI contests provide two divisions of competition:

Scholastic – units whose membership comes from the SAME High School or a school that feeds to that particular High School.
Independent – units whose members are not necessarily associated with a particular school.

The units are then further divided into classes:

  • A Class – Beginning programs and performers.
  • Open Class – The intermediate developmental level of performers.
  • World Class – The most advanced programs and performers.

The Percussion division also offers Scholastic Concert Classes for units that do not include marching in their programs.

Did you know…

  • Winter Guard, Percussion, and Winds are the fastest growing of the marching arts.
  • WGI’s international presence has expanded into countries like China, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
  • WGI’s educational materials serve as the curriculum in many schools that have classes in equipment and movement.
  • WGI’s artistic direction is fully controlled by the units.
  • WGI has awarded over $850,000 in academic scholarships to students from competing units.
  • More than 600 volunteers staff the regionals and World Championship contests.
  • More than 160,000 spectators enjoy the activities at WGI Regionals and World Championships annually.
  • More than 600 local competitions are sponsored, yielding an additional 100,000 spectators.
  • Many percussion companies are now developing instruments specifically for the indoor activity.
  • Hundreds of high school marching bands benefit from the skills developed by winter programs.