Jacksonville State University has always been known for their outstanding performing arts programs. This is no exception with Center Stage Winter Guard.

Center Stage has been an award winning tradition of Jacksonville State since 1998 thanks to founder and co-director Rodney Bailey. Bailey has a large history with color guard performing arts. His credentials include 11 seasons directing Center Stage along with directing winter guards across the country spanning as far as Arizona. He is also the color guard coordinator for The Marching Southerners. Bailey, along with the members of Center Stage anxiously await the unveiling performance of their 2016 program, “As it is in Heaven.”

Center Stage’s top tier performances are always a spectacle to behold. This is due to Center Stage’s secret weapon: originality. “One thing we pride ourselves on here is that we try not imitate anyone,” says Bailey. “I want to make sure that what I do is as unique as possible.”

This strive to set themselves apart shows, as Center Stage’s 2016 program is “probably the longest program that we’ve ever tried to do here,” according to Bailey, with a performance time of over 5 minutes.

Center Stage is not just a household name, however. The performance ensemble also prides itself on their wide-spread recognition in the Winter Guard International circuit. Center Stage has spanned all 3 divisions of WGI, performing in Independent A Class, Independent Open Class, and Independent World Class.

It is this prominent presence in the WGI community that caught the attention of freshman Savannah Couch. “I discovered [Center Stage] my sophomore year of high school, and they were my main deciding factor of coming to JSU.” Couch, having 4 years of experience in high school winter guard enjoys the practice and performing environment of Center Stage because “they hold you at a higher standard. It’s like we come together as one big family.”

Even once the last toss is caught, it doesn’t end there. Performing with Center Stage can bring forth amazing opportunities for those who are passionate about the performing arts. Just ask Ellie Kennedy. Kennedy, a second year veteran of Center Stage, performing in 2014 and currently 2016, was able to educate others who enjoy winter guard. “Bailey informed me of a position for a choreographer at Helena High School in Birmingham. I got to work with them last year and again this year for the ’16 season.” Being a member of an organization like this opens up many teaching opportunities.

Center Stage prepares to perform their first show at Fort Oglethorpe High School on January 30th. They are also scheduled to perform at the Nashville Regional, Pensacola Regional, and Atlanta Regional, along with looking at competing the WGI World Championships held in Dayton, Ohio.

Brett Thornburg
Special to The Chanticleer

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