Winter Guard Coach Shannon Tyrybon, with support from Band Director Mark D’Angelo and Music Boosters, which are a group of parents and staff who make decisions for the music department, decided last summer to invite recent alumni, whose seasons had been canceled, into this year’s team.
“For Winter Guard International, it [being independent] just means you can welcome members from outside of a scholastic unit,” Tyrybon said. “We still consider ourselves to be a representation of RHS.”
According to Tyrybon, high school is a time for challenging experiences, waves of success and failures, and moments that you mature and learn from. She feels as if this generation is missing out on multiple memories and milestones due to the pandemic.
“When I asked the past two years of alumni if they would like a second chance at winter guard my heart overflowed with how many responded yes,” Tyrybon said. “I could not give them back everything covid had taken away from them, but I could help them at least put a finish on an activity that meant so much to them.”
Alumni Grace Harper mentioned that she decided to come back because she never had a full winter guard season nor closure for the end of her junior and senior seasons.
Due to winter guard allowing alumni, the team has had to compete in a higher division than usual causing positive growth within the team. The team has become more mature and has had stronger discipline. But, this can cause stress on the team.
Another change is the time they compete. Tyrybon mentions that the team loves performing at night because of the amount of teams that get to watch them and the encouragement that the other teams supply.
“Competition motivates us to work a little harder, but at performance sites there is love and respect spread among all the teams,” Tyrybon said.
During practices, the alumni’s work ethic and determination has rubbed off on the high school students which is an advantage to the team. Harper also mentioned that an advantage of the alumni joining is the experience they bring to the table. All of the alumni helped coach the fall season, so the high schoolers have trust in them and are willing to take constructive criticism.
She continues to say that many of the alumni have full-time jobs or attend college so they do not like to waste time, which could be considered a disadvantage.
“I think the alumni being on the team is really helpful for this year,” Harper said. “We have three freshmen on the team this year, and only a few of the upperclassmen have actually experienced a full winter guard season, so I think it is helping the program a lot by having alumni there that have experienced full seasons.”
The alumni have been able to help by example through rehearsal etiquette and words of encouragement for the other members. It also has rekindled friendships from the past. Tyrybon explains that although the team might not be able to twirl a flag in a couple years, friendships would still be strong.
“I like it only because I was friends with a lot of the alumni so it’s nice to be able to perform with them again,” junior Brenna Harper said.
The future of the guard’s independence lies in the Music Program and interested alumni’s hands. Tyrybon stated that next year will be her last year of instruction and she hopes that an alumni member will be invested enough to take over.