Ask any winter guard member to tell you about the WGI World Class performers who have captivated, inspired, and motivated them to push beyond their limits since they became involved in the Sport of the Arts and you’re likely to hear a rousing tale of artistry, athleticism and amazement. These are people who didn’t simply entertain each time they took the floor; they changed a young person’s outlook of the activity and gave them a new awareness of what could be achieved through hard work and dedication.
For many young guard members who grew up in the early 1990s, one such performer was Marco Chavez. As a member of the San Jose Raiders from 1990-1994 and The 1995 Blue Devils World Guard, Chavez was an inspiration for a generation of fans who eagerly watched each time he performed.
WGI recently spoke with Chavez about his past in the activity, becoming a 6-time consecutive world champion, and the positive impact color guard has had on his life.
Do you remember the first time you saw a color guard perform?
Yes, it all started with parades. Growing up in San Jose, we attended a lot of parades and I loved watching the Dynasty Steppers. The coordinated drill moves and sharp hand choreography always caught my eye. My sister and I would make our own combinations and step around the house with neighborhood kids.
When did you first experience color guard as a performer?
Marco Chavez: My Junior High, LeyVa, had a parade band and color guard. I immediately joined and signed up for U.S.A. Camp. I loved it. Guarding the colors was fun, but I really wanted to perform with the tall flags.
You marched with a number of organizations over the years.
Yes, both summer and winter, but performing indoors was always more appealing to me. In 1989 I joined Tribulation ‘A’ Winter Guard for a season and was blown away by what I saw. Clovis West High School, the San Jose Raiders, and the Blue Devils all amazed me and the following year I auditioned for San Jose Raiders. I originally made the A guard, but when a spot in the World Guard opened up they offered it to me. It was an amazing opportunity to travel the country with such a talented group. I went on to perform with the San Jose Raiders winter guard for 5 consecutive seasons 1990 – 1994. The summer of 1990 I performed with the Madison Scouts Corps. I also performed with the Blue Devils in the summer of 1993 and a winter season in 1995.
Do you have a particular favorite program in which you performed?
1994’s “Gloria” with San Jose Raiders was by far my favorite. After being part of the Raider family for 5 winter guard seasons, and several summer programs, we were so seasoned and ready to experiment that year. Our instructors – Jay, Stanley, and Scott – challenged themselves, the performers, and the activity. It was an amazing season and experience.
You were a WGI World Class gold medalist for 6 consecutive years – 5 with the San Jose Raiders and 1 with the Blue Devils World Guard. Looking back now, how does it feel knowing you accomplished such a rare feat in the activity?
Being a 6 time consecutive gold medalist in the World Class was unreal. I was lucky to have joined the Raiders when I did and to have the opportunity to “age out” with the Blue Devils was a humbling experience. I feel honored to have been taught by Stanley Knaub, Scott Chandler, Jay Murphy, Mike McCool, Jeanine Casimere, as well as guest artists and instructors from all over the country.
Do you remember how you felt the first time you performed at WGI?
Walking onto that stage for the first time was incredible. I thought my heart was going to pop out of my chest. I was so nervous. It was hard to believe I was standing next to teams I’d watched on WGI videos. Warming up right next to Blessed Sacrament and Alliance of Miami, and then competing against them as well was simply amazing.
How did that compare with the last time you performed at WGI?
It was night and day. My first year I felt so small and my performance was about counting my way through to the end. My age out year I walked in with a mission to captivate an audience. As a seasoned performer my goal was to help get every ounce of performance and emotion there was to offer at every moment out on the floor. That final performance on the WGI stage felt pretty amazing! It was great to be part of that Blue Devil rebuilding year.
Do you have a favorite memory from your years as a performer?
My favorite memories were those of being co-captain of the San Jose Raiders with Colleen Mendoza during the 1994 season. That group of people was a ridiculous and crazy bunch and I was lucky to share that role with her. She is still one of my closest and dearest friends.
Which shows that you were not a part of had the most impact on you as a performer?
I grew up watching State Street Review tapes over and over and over. I also had a homemade sabre that I’d use to memorize St. Anthony Imperial phrases. However, when the Emerald Marquis came to a San Jose Regional in 1989 I was blown away by their equipment skills. I was always moved by the sensitivity and craziness of the Blessed Sac’s shows as well.
After marching, you continued to teach guard for many years. Which groups did you work with?
I went back to my roots mostly teaching the Raiders Open and World guards. I taught a few local and national high schools such as Live Oak High School, Leigh High School World, and Jackson Academy. Also the Blue Devils Open, Ventura, and the Mandarins Drum Corps.
What was the biggest difference you discovered between teaching and marching?
As a teacher my goal was to share what my instructors had shared with me, as well as provide a space where kids could grow, be challenged, feel supported, and come away feeling that no matter the outcome they had grown from the dedication and commitment they’d put into the activity.
What have you been up to since we last saw you perform?
Living in San Francisco and working in healthcare. I currently work for CPMC Hospital overseeing our Organ Transplant Department outpatient clinic programs throughout California and Nevada. I continue to take dance classes – most recently studying Horton technique and perform in theater and dance whenever possible. I do yoga, play softball, and enjoy going to Giants baseball games quite a bit. I also make it a point to travel to a new place at least once a year and this year I’ll be marrying my partner of 8 years – so we’re spending a lot of time planning for the big day in August!
Do you still consider color guard a part of your life?
Always. It helped make me who I am today and when you grow up in the activity and are surrounded and consumed by it the way I was, color guard will always be part of your life. I met my best friends through this activity. Those “remember when…” moments always come up.
What advice would you give to aspiring performers?
Absorb as much as you can from your instructors. Find a style that speaks to you and dig into it. Take theater and all styles of dance. Apply yourself and be dedicated.
Any wise words for young instructors who are stepping into the role for the first time?
Educate and nurture your students. As an instructor you have an obligation to mentor, guide, and enlighten today’s youth. Expose them to dance companies, theater methods, classical and contemporary music. Every student has a different reason and intention for joining the activity and as an instructor it is up to you to water the seeds and open their minds to the world and the potential it holds.