Winter Guard International (WGI) is a visual performing arts organization that hosts regional and national competitions for color guard (known as winter guard), indoor percussion ensembles, and indoor winds. Contests are held in the U.S. and Canada. WGI headquarters is located in Dayton, Ohio.
Emerging from the indoor color guard activity, WGI was founded in San Francisco, California in 1977 by Don Angelica from New Jersey, Shirlee Whitcomb from Southern California, Stanley Knaub from Seattle, Washington, Bryan Johnston from Chicago, Illinois, Marie Czapinski from Chicago, Illinois, and Lynn Lindstrom from Arlington Heights, Illinois. Together they created the first division of WGI, the color guard division. The second division, indoor percussion, would not be established until 1992. The third division, winds, was established in 2014.
WGI was created as a competitive vehicle for the performing arts. The organization sets standardized rules and criteria, provides educational clinics and resources, and manages competitions on a regional, national, and international scale.
WGI Sport of the Arts is an organization producing indoor color guard, percussion, and winds competitions. As a non-profit youth organization, WGI also serves as the governing body for the indoor color guard, percussion, and winds activities. There were more than 36,000 participants at the regional level, and more than 12,000 participants at the Sport of the Arts World Championships this past April.
WGI was founded to draw together the growing winter guard activity, standardize rules, and provide leadership and guidance. Now there is an international organization that offers:
At the conclusion of a competitive season that starts in January, guards and percussion ensembles come together to compete within their respective divisions at the WGI World Championships every April. To qualify for competition, both guard and percussion groups must perform in at least one WGI regional contest during the season. The World Championships are usually held in Dayton, OH, however, every few years Championships are temporarily relocated: San Diego, CA (2004), Milwaukee, WI (2001), Phoenix, AZ (1997), Buffalo, NY (1990), Nashville, TN (1982), Syracuse, NY (1981), Cape Cod, MA (1980), Madison, WI (1979), and Chicago, IL (1978)
WGI offers scholarships every year. One member from each color guard or percussion group, performing at the Championships, qualifies to apply. More than $500,000 has been awarded to WGI participants over the years. The scholarship money is collected through raffles, World Championship program sales, and donations. Recipients are announced at the end of the night at the World Championships.
The visual art form of color guard incorporates spinning flags, rifles, sabres, and other various pieces of equipment, while performing to a selection of music, classical to contemporary. Movement is also featured and integrated into the equipment work. WGI began with only 30 participating color guards. Today, it has grown to over 400 guard and percussion groups.
WGI classifies color guards into two divisions: Scholastic and Independent. Scholastic guards are made up of members from the same high school. University guards are classified in Independent Class. Independent guards often do not associate themselves with any one school, university units being the exception.
WGI goes on to divide these two divisions even further into classes. There are three classes in each division: A Class, Open Class, and World Class. A Class is for beginner to intermediate level ensembles. Open Class is for those better than A Class, World Class is the highest, reserved for experienced and superior color guards. Independent World Class is the only class with no age restrictions. Performers in the Open class age out at the age of 23 and performers in A class "age-out" at 22 years old, and can no longer compete in those classes after their twenty-third birthday twenty-fourth birthday, but may continue performing with the Independent World Class. Any guard from outside the United States do not have to abide by the age restrictions for A and Open Classes.
In 1992, WGI oversaw the development of the second division, indoor percussion. Only six groups competed the first year, and that first year Clovis West High School from Fresno, California won the Championships. Indoor Marching percussion ensembles perform a musical selection while also featuring marching drill patterns and tying in artistic visual effects. Indoor Concert Percussion ensembles perform in a standstill setting.
In addition to regular instrumentation of the percussion section of a drum corps, instruments such as the drum set, and electric bass and keyboard are often used in the front ensemble but aren't marched. Narration is used much more than in Drum Corps as well.
Like the color guard division, indoor percussion saw such a rapid growth that there became a need for multiple classes. As of 1999, eight classes have been created to accommodate indoor percussion's rising popularity. The concert classes are designed for scholastic percussion ensembles who do not feature marching in their performance.
As WGI Indoor Percussion began to expand in the mid-1990s, the unit classification system fluctuated until the new millennium. Some early, but no longer active, classes include:
Created in 2014, this unique form of the marching music activity can include anything found in a concert band or orchestra, as well as color guard and percussion performers. Winds is considered the final extension of the WGI organization and completes WGI's support of the total band program.
WGI classifies Winds into two divisions: Scholastic and Independent. Scholastic ensembles are made up of members from the same high school. University ensembles are classified in Independent Class. Independent ensembles often do not associate themselves with any one school, university units being the exception.
WGI goes on to divide these two divisions even further into classes. There are three classes in each division: A Class, Open Class, and World Class. A Class is for beginner to intermediate level ensembles. Open Class is for those better than A Class, World Class is the highest, reserved for experienced and superior ensembles. Independent World Class is the only class with no age restrictions. Any ensemble from outside the United States do not have to abide by the age restrictions for A and Open Classes.