Local winter percussion units and color guards now have the opportunity to compete close to home in the first season of the South Valley Winter Arts Association (SVWAA).

The SVWAA was designed to bring performance opportunities to winter ensemble groups within the southern San Joaquin Valley. Winter ensemble groups are composed of color guard and percussion units that perform indoors. Winter guard is a combination of flags, mock rifles and other equipment with dance movement. Winter percussion is basically an indoor drumline with marching and music.

The first competition was on Feb. 6 at Mission Oak High School in Tulare with 17 guards and 19 percussion units in attendance from Kings and Tulare counties.

President of SVWAA and Sierra Pacific High School’s band director Jeff Detlefsen said he — along with other band directors — wanted to give students the opportunity to compete closer to home.

“We have participated in winter percussion and guard for years,” Detlefsen said. “However, we have always had to travel to Bakersfield, Fresno and beyond for performance opportunities.”

There are different circuits where schools can compete in such as the San Joaquin Valley Color Guard & Percussion Review which typically holds competitions in Fresno and Clovis. It requires many schools in Kings County to travel and pay high expenses.

LHS band director Shawn McElhaney said the SVWAA exposes winter ensemble groups to the local community which many people are unaware of.

“This activity is far more theatrical than most people think,” McElhaney said. “Not only do they march but they have body movements — at the same time adding the musical side.”

The school’s percussion unit and color guard won first place at the South Valley’s first competition. Percussion and color guards are put into different classifications based on skill level. Lemoore’s percussion is in the Open Class and the color guard is in the Scholastic A Class.

McElhaney said the school’s percussion unit show is about meditation exploring the spiritual said of the Asian culture.

Lemoore’s Liberty Middle School celebrated its 10th year competing with other winter guards and percussion units.

The school’s band director Chris Morshead said he hopes more schools in the area participate since the new circuit is closer. He said the school has competed in other circuits in the Fresno area but is excited to compete in its own community.

“The only time where we ever get to play for a local crowd is during the Pancake Breakfast,” Morshead said.

He said they did not compete at the SVWAA’s first show but will compete at the next one on Feb. 27 at Hanford West High School.

The third show will be on March 12 at Golden West High School in Visalia. The circuit championships will be on April 9 at WHCL’s Golden Eagle Arena.

Participants have the opportunity to compete at the championship level if they compete in at least on regular show in the season.

“We are very, very excited,” Morshead said.

He said this year the percussion unit’s show is titled “X Marks the Spot” which tells a story about finding treasure. The winter guard is performing with music from the television show “Glee.”

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Hanford High School’s winter percussion and color guard did not compete in the first show as well, but is scheduled to attend the next one.

The school’s band director Janet Levine said they are frequent competitors in the Fresno area. She said competing in other circuits gives students the exposure to different competition settings.

This year the schools percussion show is called “Beneath the Ice” and the color guard show is called “Valentine.”

“It’s mostly going to be cute and happy,” said color guard instructor Jason Smith.

Hanford West High School’s percussion unit placed second in the Scholastic A-Silver Class on Feb. 6. The school’s A and B color guards received third and fifth place in each of their respective classifications. The band director at Hanford West High School could not be reached for comment for the story.

Detlefsen said Sierra Pacific will compete at the rest of the SVWAA shows including championships. He said they will also participate in some Winter Guard International shows throughout the year.

Independent units will also be performing throughout the season such as Imbue Winterguard, College of the Sequoias Percussion, Fresno State Indoor Winds and Valley Independent Percussion.

“I love seeing the community come and support our local schools,” Detlefsen said.

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