By Melissa Valentovic
SC Staff Writer
When you say the words, “color guard,” many people associate the words with people spinning flags in front of a marching band for visual effect at halftime. To people like Zach Jacobes, color guard is so much more than just that.
The blonde haired, blue eyed East Stroudsburg University junior majoring in Hotel Restaurant and Tourism Management has devoted the last seven years of his life to guard.
Despite the hectic background noise of students talking and eating lunch at the University Center, Jacobes seemed to ignore the surroundings, and focus on our interview. Looking me straight in the eyes and giving me his undivided attention, he meticulously took me through his different guard experiences.
The muscular twenty-two year old is the captain of Q Performance Ensemble, a competitive indoor color guard. Indoor color guard teams (in contrast with ‘outdoor’ color guards that perform with marching bands) perform to their own pre-recorded music, without a band behind them.
As of this year, Q’s new home is East Stroudsburg University, and is competing in the Winter Guard International World Championships this April in Dayton, Ohio.
According to Jacobes, the long practices can get extremely grueling, but are worth it, as he says the entire season leading up to the World Championships is a journey.
Jacobes got into color guard, which members refer to as, ‘spinning,’ when he was a student at Quakertown High School. He said he began because he had a relative who was also doing color guard, so it would be easier for him to get a ride home if they were in the same activity together.
Jacobes looked back on his first season performing with the marching band, recalling how it was when he was recovering from a broken finger from gym class. He laughed, saying his job was to simply hold a giant ring at the end of the show, and he looks back as being a human prop. Although the first piece of equipment he learned to spin was a flag, he says his favorite is now rifle.
According to Jacobes, Q evolved out of Quakertown High School when the difference in skill level within members became so apparent and drastic, the staff wanted two separate teams for the indoor season.
Jacobes says director Franko Robinson had always wanted an independent group, so he broke off and formed Q, but also kept Quakertown High School as a separate team, competing in the scholastic division, which are guards that represent a high school.
However, Jacobes did not always intend on being captain. In high school, he went into the try-outs with the mindset of maybe earning a co-captain position. It was his second year doing marching band that he became captain and likes to think it was by accident.
Jacobes described the try-out interview by saying, “The staff asked me different leadership questions. I remember one staff member asked me if I could be a kitchen appliance, which one I would be. I told him I would be a knife, because it has a multitude of uses.” When he found out that he was chosen to be the captain, he was utterly shocked.
What many people would not expect from Jacobes today is before he began doing color guard, he played football. Looking back on playing football, Jacobes says it was equally as competitive as color guard is to him, and that you still, “have to be on top of your game.” However, it was when he began doing color guard that made his peers in high school astonished.
While he was not the first boy to perform with the color guard, Jacobes recalls his classmates in pure shock when they first saw him, “My first outdoor season with the marching band they threw rocks at me. It was kids from my own school when I came off the field after performing.”
What was ironic, he continued, was that by his senior year there were five boys in the guard and the entire student section would cheer for them, even shouting things such as, “you’ve got it man!” in encouragement when someone dropped their rifle during a performance.
Jacobes has also performed with The Madison Scouts drum corps in 2011, half of the season in 2012, as well as performing with the Cavaliers drum corps in 2013 and 2014. He says that he learned from the captain at Madison Scouts, how, “hard work pays off, even if it doesn’t meant that you are getting the scores you feel you deserve from the judges.”
One lesson he learned from The Cavaliers was, “to get to know each member, and even though you might not like each member, you just have to understand them, and accept them for who they are.” His years of being captain of Q have also taught him how to separate business from personal.
Regardless of his personal friendships with the members, Jacobes says he treats every teammate equally at practices and competitions. Jacobes says he stands by his vow to not give any of his close friends any special treatment.
At competitions, he can be seen smiling and accepting Q’s award during awards ceremonies, as well as bowing before each performance to acknowledge to the judges that the guard is ready to perform, but, what about the behind the scenes work that people may not see? Jacobes says the managerial aspect of being captain often goes unnoticed. In the past, it was his job to remember all of the equipment and the props.
There were two incidents were he forgot to bring the props to competitions, saying one time was his fault, but the other time he appointment someone the job, saying it still reflected on him since he delegated the responsibility to them, and they let him down.
Jacobes also posts on the team’s Facebook group page before competitions reminders of what to bring to competitions. He gave a hypothetical situation of having to remind someone to bring something obvious like socks might seem silly; but you never know what people might forget.
Under the Q organization there is also Q2, the developmental team that trains members for Q. Q2 captain, sophomore psychology major Terry Eskow says Jacobes has served as a mentor to her during her first year as captain. Eskow said, “Zach showed me the ropes and taught me how to lead our team. He has really taught me how to be a leader.”
Aside from performing, Jacobes also teaches middle and high school guards and is currently teaching himself how to play piano in his free time, saying it was on his bucket list that he made for himself. He also works at his father’s garment screen-printing and embroidery business, Swagge.
Looking towards the future, after he graduates ESU his goals are to continue to work for Swagge, as well as being a general manager at a hotel.
Past accomplishments for Q include making finals at WGI championships in 2013 and 2014. Jacobes’ goal for the season is for the team to have an enjoyable finals performance in Dayton. “I want everyone to come off the floor and not have a sad look on their face, and happy that we have finally completed our goal. If we make it into the top five or top three, that’s great, but as long as we have performance we are proud of, I think we have met our goal,” he said.
A goal he has for the organization as a whole is to become even more visible, and to not have to do as much recruiting, but instead have people seek out Q because they want to join.
Despite all of the stress, holding the captain position has been extremely rewarding for Jacobes, and has shaped him to be the person he is today. He said, “Being captain has helped me grow. I am always learning how to be a better person, as well as getting to know people better. It forces me to be more social with people. I have to understand how to lead people, which I know is important in the workplace too.”
Email Melissa at: