Forever Family

A photo of Diamante Winterguard.
Being guard captain at Diamante Winterguard has provided leadership skills and a comforting home.  

We’ve all heard the sayings, “Diamonds are forever,” and “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” and I wholeheartedly agree.

At Diamante Winterguard in Ontario, California, I have found a forever family that has supported me through the lowest lows and the highest highs of my past four years.

It truly means so much to me that my directors, Mario and Brandi Ramirez, trust me to represent their program—one that not only takes pride in pushing the boundaries of creativity but also provides a home for all of its members.

A photo of Keila Crook.Love at First Sight

Because many of my high school instructional staff came from Diamante, it was the first Independent World Class winter guard that I saw live. Even as an uneducated, inexperienced freshman, I felt that Diamante was like no other winter guard I had seen, and to this day (less uneducated and less inexperienced), I stand by that belief.

After watching Diamante perform in 2009 for its first season in World Class, I knew that one day I would want to be a part of the program, but I never would have imagined myself as a leader of that team.

Mario and Brandi have trusted me to be a guard captain in their organization for the past four years. During these four years, Diamante has continued to advance its choreography and design. In 2019 the guard finished in third place for Independent World Class in WGI Sport of the Arts World Championships. With each year getting better and better, I too as a leader had to grow.

Life Lessons

I have learned so much from being in this position, especially the importance of punctuality. In fact, I arrive to rehearsal at least one hour before everyone else—including the directors. I have a reputation for being too early, but it is a quality that I will always instill in myself and in my present and future students.

I have also become more meticulous and organized. For Diamante, I have a five-inch binder with a notebook, insurance forms, and the season calendar as well as all 42 members’ contracts, medical forms, equipment checkout lists, clothing sizes, and airplane frequent-flyer information. When some detail is needed, all I need to do is open the binder, find the tab with the individual’s name, and pull it out of a sheet protector. The binder is a pain to carry around all the time, but it really does come in handy and helps keep everything very organized.

Along with these basic qualities of leadership, I have learned a few things through trial and error. For example, I realize that sometimes problems will occur, and when they do, your staff and team will look to you to quickly find a solution. When you have that sense of, “It’s handled,” the rest of the team will know that things will be OK. Don’t get frantic and stressed out, even if that is exactly what you are feeling on the inside. Stress does not solve anything, and that is something I am still continuing to learn today.

Also I have found that there is a line between being a captain and a friend at rehearsal. You need to be someone that your team members feel comfortable coming to when there are issues. You need to be stern when necessary but not overbearing to the point where members are unwilling to voice their concerns to you.

Last but not least, you need to stay motivated and lead by example. If you show up to every rehearsal ready to take on any challenge, excited to learn new things, and always with a positive attitude, the members will follow—especially when you’re on hour 10 of rehearsal, your feet and lower back are killing you, and all you want to do is lay down.

Beyond Blessed

When I watch Mario design, choreograph, and otherwise let his creativity flow, you can see passion exuding through his fingertips. His style is like no other and yet so recognizable. And as for Brandi, she is unstoppable. She not only cleans the entire ensemble, but she also adds nuance and enhances the overall design. She spends countless hours with individual members to make sure they never leave a rehearsal without feeling comfortable with their individual show. These two put together are the definition of a power couple.

When you have mentors that emit such passion, love, and dedication to their craft and to the members alike, you want to come back for more—and that is what I experience at Diamante.

After every Sunday rehearsal, the team goes out for a “family dinner” and continues to bond and create countless memories. Brandi will make her way around the tables just to make sure she interacts with everyone and gets to know them a little more while Mario is cracking jokes loud enough to make the entire restaurant laugh.

Mario and Brandi are not just our color guard directors; they are people who never shy away from helping members outside of rehearsal. They have helped me with the process of getting a car, referred me for teaching opportunities, and have been my family when I had nobody else to turn to.

Diamante is a home and a family like no other. I am beyond blessed to be part of this amazing organization and call myself a Diamond Doll. Diamonds are forever, and so is my winter guard family.

About the Author

Keila Crook has been a captain of Diamante Winterguard since the 2016 season. She was previously in the color guard at Alhambra High School, Pasadena City College (PCC) Ayanna Winter Guard, and the Sacramento Mandarins Drum and Bugle Corps, all in California. She currently is a tech for Ayala High School, Paramount High School, and the Sacramento Mandarins. She is a student at PCC, majoring in psychology.

Photo courtesy of WGI Sport of the Arts.
Photo of Keila Crook courtesy of Brendan Clavel.

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