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The color guard section, reintroduced by Penn Band members in January 2021, practices with approximately 12 members and is set to start performing in fall 2021. (Photo by Kushol Gupta)

For the past 10 years, the Penn Band has performed without a color guard. Now, the newly re-formed group is preparing for its debut performance.

The color guard, a group of performers who use flags or prop rifles to interpret the music played by a marching band, was reintroduced in January by a small group of Penn Band members. The section, which has assembled approximately 12 members, has been practicing since March and is gearing up for performances at various Penn events in the fall.

The Penn Band previously had a color guard section from the fall of 2007 to the fall of 2010, but it did not last as long as the band hoped, according to Penn Band Assistant Director Kushol Gupta. The former color guard section used to perform alongside the band members in addition to playing instruments during the off-season. 

According to Gupta, the Penn Band has also had baton twirlers perform alongside the band over the years, but none of the previous color guard members were as formally organized as current members. 

“I think the likelihood of sustaining [the color guard] with new members every year is going to be more likely,” Gupta said.

Rising College junior and Color Guard Captain Lilianne Sutton was among the first group of Penn Band members interested in re-forming an official color guard section. Sutton proposed the addition to the Penn Band's executive board in an email written in January. Following approval from the board later that month, board members began allocating funds and props to the group.

The section consists of Penn Band members with previous color guard experience as well as members with little to no experience, rising College senior and Penn Band president Adam Rose said. Due to their varying levels of familiarity with color guard, the section's main goal was to standardize the technique between its members during the spring semester. 

In the spring, the color guard practiced while adhering to COVID-19 restrictions and the Student Campus Compact, according to Rose. Unlike playing an instrument, color guard members can keep their masks on and social distance while practicing choreography and techniques. 

While rising College senior Bryan Denq has been a flute player on the Penn Band since his freshman year, he recently decided to join the color guard despite not having any prior experience. Denq described his time on the color guard thus far as "fun" and "spirited," noting that, despite his lack of color guard expertise, he enjoys practicing with the team.

“Our Band Assistant Director will be telling us ‘please go home, time is already up,’ but we are so into [the practices] that we would be there the entire day if he didn’t force us to go,” Denq said. 

The Penn Band is one of two Ivy League universities to have an official color guard section, alongside Cornell University

In the fall, when on-campus events will be largely in-person, the color guard plans to scale up and “go big” with the pre-pandemic schedule, according to Rose. The color guard will have separate choreography practices and field rehearsals with the instrument section of the band. Denq said that the color guard is also looking into buying new uniforms, instead of using the uniforms from ten years ago. 

The Penn Band, which includes both instrument players and the color guard, is currently practicing for New Student Orientation, in which the band typically performs each year. In the fall, they will also play at Penn's home football games. The band also hopes to perform alongside the Philadelphia Phillies and the Philadelphia Orchestra, as they have done previously. 

"The section is only continuing to grow," Rose said. "We definitely have a long-term addition to the band, which is really exciting."

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