Auditioning for the Santa Clara Vanguard

Discussing my feelings throughout the audition process


Graphic by Mikaylah Du

Anika Sharma

I walked into the gym with backpacks, sleeping bags, instruments and equipment lining every inch of the wall. There were people practicing near the corner and others practicing choreography in the center. After months of preparation, I couldn’t believe I was finally at Independence High School auditioning for Santa Clara Vanguard. 

I’ve been on the MVHS Color Guard team for three years, and as senior year approached, I realized it would be my last year of color guard. But I wasn’t satisfied only doing color guard in high school — I couldn’t accept that I would have to give up the sport I loved after only a few years. So I searched for ways to continue my passion, mainly by searching for colleges that had color guards, but most schools I wanted to apply to didn’t have a team. Determined to find a way to continue my sport, I discovered another alternative — joining drum corps, independent marching bands and color guards. 

Santa Clara Vanguard is a local independent color guard and marching band, and its color guard is infamous for its extremely talented members. Ever since late August when I saw the date for Santa Clara Vanguard tryout in San Jose, I’ve been working hard on equipment, mainly rifle, and trying to pick up choreography as quickly as possible in an effort to prepare. 

One day I had been practicing my rifle quads — tosses where the rifle rotates four times — for two hours. After another under-rotated toss, my rifle bounced before landing neck up, hitting my wrist so hard I could barely bend it afterward. As I continued to fail at more advanced tosses I became extremely discouraged. 

Eventually I did get my quads, but the next week I watched a video of the Vanguard performing. Watching the members flawlessly tossing rifle and saber sixes, six rotations in the air, before catching it made me feel my work getting my quads wouldn’t suffice. 

Months passed in a blur and soon I was at Independence High School waiting to audition. 

The paranoid part of me was convinced that during auditions, we would have to execute eights on rifle and saber while doing a triple turnaround underneath and catching it behind our heads. But despite deciding to audition for just the flag line, I saw the rifle and sabers tossing sixes. 

At first, every part of me screamed I wouldn’t make it, that I wasn’t flexible enough, talented enough or just not good enough. You receive audition grades only a day after the last day of auditions. The scoring ranges from one to three. A one is the best score which means you’re on, a two is a callback and a three is a rejection. 

On a Monday evening in December, I logged  on to my Santa Clara Vanguard account and reluctantly found the tab “Audition grades.” When I opened it, I saw a 2. I refreshed the page nearly 10 times because I was convinced there was a mistake. I was invited for a callback. I couldn’t believe it. 

I won’t lie, a part of me still wonders if it was worth the emotional rollercoaster I endured and have yet to endure with my call back. However, auditioning was a good experience overall. I learned advanced choreography, ways to improve my technique and met other people who also love color guard. And even if I don’t make it this time, I can always practice and try again next year. In the meantime, I’m proud of myself for pushing myself and stepping outside my comfort zone.