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Making The Band: Vanguard Color Guard

Making The Band: Vanguard Color Guard

They come from Santa Clara’s backyard to across the nation and around the globe just to be part of an elite group of participants in the Santa Clara Vanguard’s color guard. What originally started out as hundreds of anxious applicants was pared down to a hopeful 62, as Vanguard held its final color guard callbacks at The King’s Academy April 25-27. Of those 62 young men and women, only 36 (18 men and 18 women) would become members of Vanguard for the 2014 season.

Returning members still had to compete with up-and-comers, and the competition was tough, as no spot is guaranteed and each person had to fight their way into the guard.

Returning member Saralyn Bustos of San Jose is no stranger to the pressure. After spinning with the Vanguard Cadets in 2008 and 2009, she has been part of the A Corps since 2010, and 2014 is her age out year. Bustos also has a family history with the corps. Her aunt was the color guard captain in 1988 and 1989 and her uncle was part of the drum corps.


“I’m aging out this year … [Vanguard] has to do a lot with my family, but for me, with that family comes this family,” said Bustos of why she’s continued with the organization. “I’ve grown to love everyone – all the support and the staff and the volunteers. It’s a home away from home. Vanguard just has a lot of tradition. You see all the volunteers who marched before you and then you see everyone who is supporting them. The bingo is helping everyone out, so it’s important to see how they’re supporting you because they know what you’ve been through. It’s that tradition that I love. Also, we work so hard here. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t put 100 percent into every movement and piece of a flag part because I love flag. I love flag so much. It’s what I grew up with.”

Arista Thun-Smith of Keller, Tex. is also well aware of how difficult it is to make the corps. The fourth-year member was named color guard captain last year and has plans for keeping the guard together throughout the season.

“I just want to make sure that I keep everyone together,” said Thun-Smith. “So far we’ve been really chatty and I want everyone to be on the same page. I want us all to have the same goals. I don’t want us to get complacent. We had a really good year last year and I want us to keep on going up from there … I’m nervous to be captain because it’s a lot of pressure on me but … I think it’s going to be a good year … We have a lot of vets coming back who will help me out.”

In addition to the veterans, there were also newcomers like Eli White of Johnson City, Tenn., who were trying to make the guard for the first time.

“Ever since I watched The Devil’s Staircase in 2011 I fell in love with the corps and I’ve always heard that it’s a big West Coast family and that’s something I always look for is a family value in a corps,” said White.

White explained that the process had been both challenging and exciting, but that he was eager and excited for the potential of making the corps.

“I’ve wanted to be with this corps for a long time,” said White. “If I made Vanguard it would, of course, be a dream come true and I would just live out on the field. I would give it my all. I would never waste a rep and I would just be out there, with the family, giving it my all for that finals night.”

When the camp ended, Bustos, Thun-Smith and White had made the cut. All three will be in attendance when the Vanguard color guard begins its season on June 20 in Clovis, Calif. Vanguard’s 2014 show will be based on Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Visit for additional information.


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