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Do color guard members get paid?

Color guard members, also known as flag corps members, are a key part of many marching bands and drum corps. Their visually striking routines, synchronized spins, tosses, and dance moves add excitement and flair to performances. But do these talented performers actually get paid for their efforts? The short answer is sometimes, but often not.

The Role of Color Guard

The color guard uses flags, rifles, sabres, and other equipment to provide visual interpretation and enhancement of the music being played by the marching band or drum corps. Their routines are choreographed to match the music and require extensive rehearsal to perfect. While the color guard does not play music themselves, they are an integral part of the overall performance.

In marching bands, the color guard may also carry banners or flags representing the school or organization. In drum corps, these groups are more focused on the visual performance aspect. Color guard members need coordination, dance training, and the ability to learn complex routines.

High School Color Guard

Most high school marching bands have a color guard section. These students are part of the band program at the school. Like other band members, high school color guard members generally do not get paid. They participate as part of a credited course or as an extracurricular activity.

There are some exceptions where high school band boosters offer scholarships or small stipends to student leaders, drum majors, or color guard captains. But most color guard members volunteer their time in exchange for the opportunity to perform and represent their schools.

College Marching Band Color Guard

College marching bands are similar to high school in that color guard members are usually volunteering their time. Participating in the marching band and color guard allows them to stay involved in performance arts while in college without major time commitments away from academics.

In some cases, students may be eligible for small stipends or supplemental scholarships for being in the color guard or marching band. The funds are generally minimal, but help offset the costs of equipment, uniforms, travel, etc. Overall, college color guard members should not expect to earn significant pay.

Drum Corps Color Guard

Drum corps operate quite differently from academic marching bands. Participants in these intense performance ensembles rehearse and tour full time for an entire summer. As a result, most drum corps do provide some compensation and support for their color guard members.

The exact details vary by organization, but color guard members may receive:

  • A small stipend, typically $1,000-$3,000 for the full summer.
  • Meals and housing while on tour.
  • Travel costs covered.
  • Free or discounted tuition for winter training camps.

While drum corps do pay their color guard members, it’s important to note the stipends are low when considering the long hours and hard work involved. The primary benefits are gaining experience and being part of intensive performances.

Professional Color Guard Groups

There are some fully professional color guard ensembles that pay a real wage. These include color guards affiliated with professional sports teams and others that specialize in competitions, exhibitions, or entertainment work.

Salaries vary based on the group and experience level of members. Some examples of earnings for professional color guard performers:

Organization Pay Scale
NFL team color guard $25-$50 per game
NBA or NHL team color guard $50-$150 per game
Touring exhibition team $500-$800 per week
Competitive winter guard $200-$500 per competition

In addition to the per-game or per-event pay, professional color guards may receive benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, and union membership depending on the employer.

How to Get Paid as Color Guard Member

If you’re hoping to earn money as a color guard member, here are some tips:

  • Join an independent winter guard that competes and charges fees.
  • Audition for drum corps that provide stipends.
  • Apply to college programs with scholarships for color guard.
  • Try out for a pro sports team color guard.
  • Consider moving to a major city with professional performance group opportunities.
  • Build skills taking classes in dance, choreography, saber, flag, rifle, and improve your showmanship.

With a lot of talent and persistence, it is possible for passionate color guard members to find paid positions. But keep in mind the competition is fierce for a limited number of spots. Most color guard participants do it for the love of performing without any salary.

Costs for Color Guard Members

Participating in color guard requires a substantial investment in specialty equipment, costumes, travel, and other expenses. Here are some typical costs color guard members must pay out of their own funds:

Item Average Cost
Flags $30-$75 each
Sabers, rifles $80-$150 each
Uniforms $200-$500 per set
Warm-ups/jackets $100-$200
Shoes $50-$100
Makeup, accessories $50-$100
Entry fees for competitions $25-$75 per person
Travel to competitions Varies greatly

These expenses can add up quickly, especially for competitive independent winter guards. Many color guard members hold fundraisers or find sponsors to help offset the substantial costs.

Alternatives to Color Guard

If you love the idea of performing with flags, sabers, and rifles, but want to make more money, consider these paid alternatives:

  • Majorette – Majorette groups perform at parades, festivals, and other events. Members are paid per appearance.
  • Baton twirling instructor – Get paid to teach baton skills to individuals or teams.
  • Exhibition teams – Perform choreographed routines for sports games and special events.
  • Cruise ship entertainment – Get paid to perform on cruises around the world.
  • Circuses/amusement parks – Use your skills as a paid performer.
  • Modeling – Use your dance background to get work modeling and appearing in ads.


While color guard members are crucial to many performance ensembles, consistent pay is rare in this field. Most color guard participants, from high school to college to drum corps, do it for love of the art form and activity rather than for the money. Professional opportunities exist, but very few color guard performers make a living wage from their skills. Passion is important, as color guard requires extensive commitment and costs. For most, the chance to showcase their talents as part of an ensemble is a sufficient reward in itself.