TEWKSBURY — On Saturday, Tewksbury Memorial High School played host to the New England Scholastic Band Association’s (NESBA) annual winter guard competition. Participating teams traveled from all over New England to compete. The competition included winter percussion, an indoor percussion drum concert line, and winter guard; a color guard sport derived from military ceremonies.
In winter guard performances, guard members toss and spin flags, rifles, and sabers, and combine elements of dance with performances centered around a specific theme.
TMHS’s own Affinity Winter Guard hosted and participated in this, it’s fourth annual competition. Under the direction of TMHS music teacher Heather Ware, the 15 member group presented their show, The Heist, featuring music from The Grinch and the Trans Siberian Orchestra.
The performance included a very large prop modeled after the Grinch’s Mount Crumpet. TMHS Affinity Winter Guard competes in the Guard Independent A division, a move that let them add members from Wilmington and surrounding communities who did not have guard units of their own.
Senior Jasmine Won, who sprained her ankle during the performance but kept right on going said, “The hard work and effort pays off, and you feel so great when you catch a piece of equipment and watch the whole ensemble come together.”
Rifles, sabres and flags were all incorporated into the routine.
Ware said, “It is an exciting event because it is the first official competition of our season and our first opportunity to see where we land in comparison to our competitors. Affinity presented an awesome performance and ended the night in third place in their division. I am so thankful to all of the volunteers who gave countless hours of their time to ensure that the event ran smoothly. I can’t express enough how appreciative I am of all those involved, including the Tewksbury Music Association, New England Scholastic Band Association, and the Affinity Winter Color Guard alumni, friends and families.”
A panel of judges observed the competition from the indoor track, recording audio critiques for guards to review in preparation for future competitions. This was the first scored competition of the season. The group performed last week at Salem (MA) High School where they performed for judges and spectators in the Evaluation Show; judges do not give scores, but offer critique and feedback for the performances.
The groups competed across nine different classes and were evaluated on a series of criteria including music, visual performance, artistry, pacing, and so forth.
Senior Amaya Allen explained, “Affinity practice is about nine hours per week from late November until late March, and each member gives it their all.”
The group practices in the Ryan School cafeteria several times each week, and has competitions on Saturdays. Allen has been with the team for four years and said that while challenging, this year’s routine is the most fun.
“We have such a great camaraderie and motivate each other while sharing an activity we all love,” she said.
Every guard’s performance revolves around a storyline or theme. Equipment is specifically designed to match the theme. For example, Affinity members dressed in green costumes to reflect the Grinch theme and had hairstyles to mimic the Whos of Whoville. Captains Brian Carta and Ian Mangan led the group.
Said Carta, a senior, “guard is a very different sport. It’s satisfying to watch and perform. It’s a positive and supportive community.”
TMHS winter guard runs during the winter sports season and is comprised of students from Tewksbury Memorial High School, Wilmington High School and Shawsheen Tech this year. The team hosts a free clinic in the summer for any student with an interest to learn more and have fun.
Season finals are March 31 at Salem High School and are open to the public. The next competition is at Burlington High School on Feb. 8.