Spinning Back with Adrian Bazua

Spinning Back with Adrian Bazua

By Jase Peeples

Ask any winter guard member to tell you about the WGI World Class performers who have captivated, inspired, and motivated them to push beyond their limits since they became involved in the Sport of the Arts and you’re likely to hear a rousing tale of artistry, athleticism and amazement. These are people who didn’t simply entertain each time they took the floor; they changed a young person’s outlook of the activity and gave them a new awareness of what could be achieved through hard work and dedication.

As a member of Indio High School’s trend-setting Scholastic World guard in the early 1990s, Adrian Bazua had already captured the attention of many aspiring performers before he went on to inspire an even greater number of people as a marching member of several Independent World guards including State Street Review and the Blue Devils.

Since his days as a performer, he’s continued to inspire even more marching members as an instructor for such legendary guards as Fantasia, Santa Clara Vanguard, and James Logan High School.

WGI recently caught up with Bazua to talk about his experience both teaching and marching with a number of WGI’s most iconic groups and the positive impact color guard has had on his life. 

Tell us a little bit about your life before you became involved in color guard.
I was very much involved in sports before color guard.  My father was very athletic. He played baseball and football growing up and was an overall sports fan. I played baseball and football as a young kid.  My father was also a percussionist as a kid, so there was a musical/performance influence from him at a very young age.  Once I entered middle school, I joined the marching band. That’s when performing arts came into my life.

How did you discover the activity?
I experienced color guard in 1986 for the first time.  My middle school (Thomas Jefferson) was a parade unit. We had a tall flag team and an award-winning drill team.  However, the very first winter guard show I experienced was the San Jose Raiders, Patty Hearst.  Talk about being blown away! I remember standing next to Lee Carlson at that show – not knowing he would be my first ever color guard instructor – and watching his reaction to the Raiders show and thinking, I’m glad I’m not the only one that thinks this show is amazing!  That was a life changing moment for me.

When and with which group did you begin performing?
1990, Indio High School. I had been a part of the drum line up until that year.  After the drum line program was not available to me, I decided to audition for the winter guard program at Indio HS.  I do have to mention that I am very thankful to my cousin Margaret Tapia, (whom had marched in Indio’s color guard during the early/mid 1980’s) for being the first person to expose me to color guard. She used to watch me during the summer months and she would spin her rifle in the backyard while I watched.  I remember her letting me try to spin the rifle as well during those years.  I do remember thinking how awesome is this…and, can I do that?!
Who knew!

You’ve marched with a number of organizations over the years. Which groups were they and what years did you perform with each of them?
Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Indio, CA – 1986 – 1988
Indio High School, Indio, CA – 1989 – 1992
State Street Review, Madison, WI – 1993
Kingsmen Winter Guard, Anaheim, CA – 1994
Blue Devils Drum & Bugle Corps, Concord, CA – 1994, 1995
Blue Devils Winter Guard, Concord, CA – 1995, 1996

Which of the shows in which you performed was your favorite?
My favorite program I performed in was “Summertimez” 1996 Blue Devils World Guard. That year was just an overall fun experience and an amazing group of performers and staff to work with.  Thank you, Jay Murphy, Scott Chandler, Stanley Knaub, TJ Doucette and all the members for the memories of a lifetime!

Is there a particular show that you felt challenged you the most during your time as a performer?
The show that challenged me the most was in 1993, State Street Review’s “Alice in Wonderland.”  I was fresh out of High School and I thought I knew it all. Boy, was I wrong. For the first time ever in my color guard experience, I was challenged beyond what I thought was possible. However, with the guidance and education of the amazing staff, I was able to achieve what was being asked of me. I was fortunate to learn from the great, Sal and LuAnn Salas, Carol Abohatab, Tim Glenn and Tam Easterwood and many other wonderful instructors.

What motivated you to pack up and move across the country to march in State Street Review in 1993?
They’re such an iconic group. I remember watching WGI videos of them from the late 1980s and trying to do some of the rifle work in my backyard.  When I had the opportunity to see them at WGI in 1992, I knew that was where I wanted to be.  It also helped that my good friend Cristy Zamora and color guard captain from Indio High School packed up and moved across the country the year before I did. Seeing her on the floor with this iconic group, I remember feeling very proud to know her and saying that I wanted to experience that as well.

Indio High School was known as an iconic Scholastic World guard in the late 80s/early 90s. How do you feel when you look back on those years now?
Pure joy! I’m very fortunate and thankful to have been a part of those years. What an amazing experience that was, not only for me, but for the countless others that marched during those years. Thank you Lee Carlson, Karl Lowe and Jimmy Mahoney! What an amazing staff to have as your first instructors.

How did you feel the first time you performed at WGI?
Anxious and nervous. I remember it was 1990 and being at the Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, NY. Naturally, I was nervous and I remember being on the floor and thinking the audience was really far away. I could not see anyone’s face. However, I will never forget the feeling I had after that performance.

How did that compare with the first time you performed at WGI with State Street Review?
The anxiety and nerves were still there. However, there was a feeling of happiness and confidence as well. I also remember feeling excited to perform for the first time with the State Street Review. An experience I will never forget!

Do you have a favorite memory from your years as a performer?
Too many to list. However, if I had to single out one, it would be the last time I came off the floor at WGI. I remember Stanley Knaub speaking with the “age outs” in 1996 and his one request was that we look back at the audience for one last time before we exited the arena. I did look back and I’m so thankful that I did that. There is nothing like facing and embracing the audience of the Dayton Arena when they’re giving you their appreciation of a job well done. This is a memory that I cherish and always carry with me.

Which WGI performances by other groups impacted you the most when you were a marching member?
The color guard geek in me is coming out right now and I want to list so many, but to list a few:
Union High School, any year they were out.
1987, 1988, 1989 State Street Review
1989 and 1993 Blessed Sacrament
1989, 1992 and 1993 San Jose Raiders
1989 and 1990 Blue Devils
1990 Millers Blackhawks
1991 Emerald Marquis
1991 and 1992 Choctawhatchee High School
1992 Blue Devils
1993, 1994 and 1995 Bishop Kearny

In addition to marching with a number of groups, you’ve taught quite a few as well. Which groups have you worked throughout your color guard career?
Indio High School – 1993- 1995 Indio, CA
Coachella Valley High School, 1992 Coachella, CA
Palm Springs High School, 1992 Palm Springs, CA
Cathedral City High School, 1993Cathedral City, CA
RCC Marching Tigers – 1994 – 1995 Riverside, CA
Fantasia Winter Guard – 1995 Riverside, CA
Glassmen Drum and Bugle Corps, 1996 Toledo, OH
Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps, 1997, 1999, 2000 Concord, CA
Blue Devils World Guard, 1996, 1997, 1998 Concord, CA
Clayton Valley High School, 2000 – 2004 Concord, CA
James Logan High School, 1995, 1999 – 2005 Union City, CA
Santa Clara Vanguard Winter Guard, 2010 Santa Clara, CA
Blue Devils Independent A Guard, 2014 Concord, CA

What was the biggest difference you discovered between teaching and marching?
Patience. I remember as a performer, you just did what was asked and it was up to you if you were prepared or not. However, as an instructor, you can only hope members have worked towards their skill and can achieve what is being asked of them.

You met your wife through color guard. How did the two of you meet and when did you know she was the person you were going to marry?
I met Lindsey Leibig in 1994 when I joined the Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps. We were not close during that year. However, as with any corps member you marched with, you knew them all from the day to day interaction that drum corps commands – especially when you’re in the same section. Lindsey and I started dating in the winter season of 1996. I had aged out of the Blue Devils Drum Corps in 1995 and had accepted a tech job with the Glassmen Drum and Bugle Corps the following summer. That is when I knew she was the one I would be with for the rest of my life. They say the heart grows fonder when you’re away from the one that you love. In my case, it really was true. The best decision I ever made was to marry Lindsey. She is the rock of our family, a loving and nurturing mother to our two beautiful children and still my best friend. 

What have you been up to since we last saw you perform?
I have been working on my career in restaurant management and more recently as the director of catering and banquets services for a large restaurant in northern California. Not to mention, my marriage to my beautiful wife Lindsey and our two beautiful children Leilani (5) and Kai (2). They keep us very busy!

Color guard is still a part of your life today?
Very much so. Color guard is in my blood and is what helped shape and mold me into who I am today. Both Lindsey and I are still involved in the activity. We both work with the Blue Devils winter guard program. They’re an Independent A class winter guard and such a fun group to work with. Even when we’re not working with any groups, our lives together will always come back to color guard. I do apply what I learned (and teach) in color guard to my everyday life.

What advice would you give to new performers?
Be a sponge and listen to your instructors. Remember, there is a difference between hearing and listening. As Karl Lowe used to say, monkeys hear and humans listen. Remember to apply the information. As with any life skill, if you want to be the best you have to practice better than anyone one else.

What wisdom have you gained from your teaching experience that you wish you could impart to young instructors at the beginning of their teaching careers?
Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about the young members in front of you. You need to educate and guide them towards a technique/style that works with your ideas and their talent level. Be sure to offer guidance towards a work ethic that will allow them to achieve what is being asked of them. Have fun. If you’re not having fun, then you’re doing it wrong.