Southridge color guard crucial to wintry show

Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Southridge High School junior Esmeralda Garcia performs during the ISSMA Open Class Invitational at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium in Jasper on Saturday.


HUNTINGBURG — It might be small, but it is mighty.

The Southridge Marching Raider Band’s color guard program has been a highlight of the group for decades. And though it only has two members this year, Esmeralda Garcia and Calista Martin play an integral role in creating the band’s theatrical, winter-themed spectacle.

When the roster was set and Esmeralda and Calista were locked in as the only members of the guard — the fewest in the section since Band Director Lannie Butler started at Southridge nearly 30 years ago — the two could have decided to hang it up. But they stayed.

On top of the record-low membership, the school’s color guard program instructor stepped down before work began on this year’s show. Juana Sandoval — who was one of six members in the band’s color guard in 2018 — stepped in to fill that spot.

“I’m proud of all of them,” Butler said. “Real proud of them. Because they could have easily said ... they could have done it, and just kind of phoned it in. But if you’re gonna do it, do it right. And they’ve really all found a way.”

Sure, it’s a building year. But it’s also one in which the guard is thriving.

Butler explained that his band is at the mercy of the small school it represents. The numbers in Southridge’s 45-member marching band fluctuate yearly — kids get involved in different activities, or take different classes, or just don’t have time for the six-month season. Band leadership always makes it work.

The color guard generates the visual aspects of the show that factor into the band’s score and rating at competitions.

On Saturday, the Raiders will perform at the Indiana State School Music Association Regional Contest at Evansville Central High School. The band will take the field at 11:45 a.m. CT, and a good performance would send them forward to an ISSMA semistate contest later this month.

Esmeralda and Calista wear makeup during the show that turns them into ice queens with seemingly frozen faces, and they spend the entirety of the group’s 8-minute performance darting from point to point.

“If one of them is slightly one count behind, it’ll throw everything off,” Sandoval explained. “Everything they do has to go with the music. When the band plays a big hit, they have to be a big hit with the band. You have to recreate what the music is. You have to feel the music through the flag.”

Esmeralda and Calista wave those flags. They lift heavy snowflake props. Esmeralda, a junior, said the two create “wow moments," weaving in between snowy trees and props shaped like ice people as the blue-and-purple-clad color guard members dance and bolt across the turf.

Eyes in the bleachers gravitate to them, and those responsibilities bring a feeling that Calista, who is just a freshman, thrives on.

“I’m used to being the center of attention, a little bit,” she said with a smile.

Other band members have noticed how much work the two guard members have put in this year, and they’re proud to play alongside them.

“Every weekend, we’ve had judges just compliment them and praise them,” said Evalyn Sherer, a senior mellophone player. “And we’re all so proud of them. Every chance we get, we love the color guard.”

Butler also credited drum major Brianna Stasel — who is a senior and has served as the band’s student leader for three years — for her role in the Raiders’ success this season.
Every great group has a great drum major. Brianna is that and more.

“First of all, she’s just a great person, and great student, and all those things,” Butler said.

She commands the attention of the band members at practice, and acts as a liaison between Butler and the students. He describes her as an assistant band director.

“The little details make a difference,” Butler said. “And it’s responsibility. Because she’s a third-year drum major, she has way more knowledge than she did her first year. And she’s always been great because she wants to do her role and job.”

At the ISSMA Open Class Invitational Saturday in Jasper, Brianna said this year has been different for her because she has a better sense of her job and how to put the group in a position to succeed.

“I’m extremely proud,” she said of the band. “I’ve been extremely proud since the first rehearsal. Just the work ethic they have is incredible.”

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