We support the Performance Arts community in South Florida by fostering an environment where scholastic and independent groups can develop their programs to compete in a local and national forum.
The SFWGA envisions a world where our activity enriches the lives of performers, designers, and spectators. Our mission is to inspire, educate, energize, and support the members and instructors of the South Florida Winter Guard community.
Our Goals & Objectives
Ensure a safe, reliable, competitive performance environment for member units
Provide educational opportunities to instructors and their staff
Complement and augment local high school band programs
Develop partnerships with the local community and with other winter guard associations throughout the country
Be fiscally responsible with the management of funds
Our Core Values
Creativity - encouraging artistic expression
Joy - celebrating success and supporting others
Excellence - pursuing high-level achievement
Respect - treating others with dignity
Diversity - reflecting our community
Inclusiveness - creating an inviting environment
Collaboration - working together effectively to accomplish our goals
Board of Directors
The activities of the SFWGA are overseen by a Board of Directors consisting of both elected positions and advisory positions.
Elected Board Members
Ann Marie Smith
Vice President of Finance - Prepares the budget and financial records, State and Federal reporting, oversees banking transactions, Corporate Credit Card accounts, Accounts Payable, Credit Card Merchant accounts.
Vice President of Membership - Maintains membership records and manages membership activities. Facilitates the approval of Instructor ID badges. Chairperson of the Scholarship Committee.
Vice President of Merchandising - Manages marketing strategy and creates branding campaigns.
Advisory Board Members
Judging Administrator - Recruits and assigns contest judges. Develops and coaches aspiring new judges. Liaison between SFWGA directors and judges for score and commentary clarification.
Classification Committee Chairperson - Reviews performance and score metrics and verifies that units compete in the appropriate class.
Hall of Fame
In the history of Winter Guard in South Florida, the activity has continuously grown and evolved. From our humble beginnings as an activity for the marching band auxiliaries of two high schools, we have grown into a performing arts activity for thousands of students each year, becoming one of the largest winter guard circuits in the country.
What started as a military-style color guard activity, marching in formation with uniformed rifle tosses and drop spins, has been transformed into spectacular performances. Today, little resembles the Winter Guard of three decades ago. And, throughout the course of our history, there have been individuals who have dared to step outside the box, redefining the world as they knew it, introducing new and uncertain performance dynamics, and laying the foundation of our commitment to continually re-invent ourselves.
The South Florida Winter Guard Association is proud to give tribute to those who have dared to step up and stand out.
Gene Remillet started this long journey as a highly visible, integral and contributing color guard parent during the early 1990’s while his daughter performing. He then went on to continue to contribute with that same devotion as he volunteered with the SFWGA serving as Vice President for an amazing 21 year tenure. During this time Gene continued to support all the South Florida winter guards to ensure they were in a successful and positive environment so they could all flourish as he did as an active and engaged parent at Coconut Creek High School
Gene has been a strong and steadfast leader through many evolutions of the South Florida Winter Guard Association over these last two decades. He has seen tremendous growth and unspeakable silence. It’s largest membership and then it’s most difficult; the cancellation of 2020 then followed by the smallest pandemic season of 2021. His support of the many groups, students, instructors, parents and anyone who was involved in and or affiliated with the SFWGA is quite evident. Gene’s dedication and time commitment to the winter activities continues to this day as he supports from the announcers table for all to hear.
Shannon Berkstresser has contributed to the SFWGA as an instructor and director for more than 25 years. Shannon's early work with JP Taravella "Genesis" took the group on a rapid ascension from A-Class, through Open Class, and landing firmly in WGI World Class.
Shannon brought a unique style of show design to the World Class performance floor, featuring classic programs like "Mommy Dearest," helping to put South Florida on the Scholastic World map. Shannon's contributions extended beyond the scholastic realm as he created and led nationally competing Independent programs as well, including Quintessence, Southern DecaDance, Vella, and Premonition.
Returning to his roots in a scholastic program, Shannon took the lead of the fledgling but highly motivated Jupiter High School winterguard, where he propelled it into a nationally competing program. 25 years of hard work and pushing the limits of creative design have landed him as the Director of West Broward High School.
He has taken what was already a World program at West Broward, and collaborating with some of the best designers in the US, produced programs like "Amy," "Downtown" and 2019's "Midnight Radio," blending traditional WGI performance techniques with what cannot be denied as a South Florida performance style, demanding the attention of World Class programs across the country.
April Gilligan-Martinez has been a part of winter guard in South Florida for over 25 years. Often described as the standard by which all guard shows are measured, her design concepts have been integrated across the national winter guard landscape.
Her early accomplishments with Braddock High School wove a contemporary winter guard design with performances that brought a distinctive latin flavor into the national spotlight. What would eventually become known as the "Miami" sound, shows like "Subway" laid the foundation for a generation of new winter guard concepts.
While her design concepts brought well deserved recognition, April played a vital role in the development of many new winter guard instructors. Many of those whom she mentored are now accomplished Directors and Designers in their own right. Some of April's greatest contributions to the activity are in the realm of the independent ensembles. Her work with Team Miami and Braddock Independent laid the groundwork of establishing how an independent winter guard organization should function.
April remains to this day an advocate for the independent performers and a consultant to many winter guard programs. Her experience and her continuing roles as Designer, Instructor, Consultant, and Judge, continue to keep the South Florida community at the top of their game.
Kathy Porter began her affiliation with winter guard in the parent booster organization of the Coconut Creek High School World Guard in the early 1990's. While serving as "guard mom" for 9 years, Kathy also began her involvement on a larger scale, serving as Secretary and Vice President of the SFWGA, and in 1999 was elected as President.
During her 18 year tenure as President of the SFWGA, she has seen the organization through challenging times, as well as incredibly prosperous times. In 2003, she was instrumental in bringing the Percussion activity into our weekly contests, and in 2015, facilitated the very first WGI-affiliated Winds competition in the world.
Under Kathy's leadership, the SFWGA doubled in size, bringing a highly structured, competitive performance platform for 85 schools and independent ensembles from 8 South Florida counties. In 2015, the SFWGA proudly claimed 2 Gold Medals, 2 Silver Medals, and 9 Finalists in WGI World Championships.
When Percussion and Winds decided to exit the organization in 2017, Kathy again spearheaded the restructuring the SFWGA back into a financially sound color guard only circuit with one singular goal: to provide an exceptional experience for our students by attracting the most talented judges, instructors and designers to our circuit.
Scott Hughes is the director and founder of the World-class STRYKE Percussion Ensemble, the Pageantry Arts Concepts organization, and was the driving force behind the creation and integration of the percussion activity into the SFWGA.
He has been a member of the SFWGA Executive Board for over 10 years, and is often thought of as the voice of the percussion community. He has been an inspiration to thousands of performers, many of whom have gone on to teach percussion ensembles of their own.
Tim Lee has served in every aspect of the winter guard activity, including performer, instructor, director, show design, and costume design. His innovative designs have been instrumental in programs like Santaluces HS, Stoneman Douglas, Cypress Bay, and the Alliance of Miami, and have pushed the edge in costuming and drill design.
As a Director, he led Santaluces High School to claim the WGI Gold Medal in 2007. As a Designer he continues to work and inspire many programs in South Florida including Taravella HS, Cooper City HS and in 2022 designed Gold Medalist FIU Gold. He also worked with Sam Terrell and Nova HS as a Mentor and helped that program achieve a gold medal in the class in the SFWGA.
Neil Jenkins began his music career as the Band Director of St Cloud High School in 1968. Seven years later he relocated to South Florida as the Band Director of Miramar High School. Neil was one of the founding directors of the SFWGA, and laid out the groundwork and foundation of what you see today.
In 1989 Neil took over the helm of the band program at JP Taravella High School, which soon became one of the most respected high school band programs in the nation. Under Neil's leadership, the winter guard program propelled into World status with Taravella Genesis.
Neil continued to manage the program through changes in leadership and direction, and ultimately claimed the WGI Gold Medal for A Soldiers Silent Night, an entirely different kind of winter guard show featuring live violin orchestration. Under Neil's leadership, the Taravella marching band was invited to perform in the first inauguration of President Barrack Obama.
Neil has been honored by the John Phillips Sousa Foundation and was inducted into the Legion of Honor. In 2010 he was selected as Broward Arts Teacher of the Year. Neil is currently the Executive Director of the Florida Bandmasters Association, on the Board of Directors of the SFWGA, and is an active adjudicator in the areas of marching, concert, solo and ensemble assessments.
Dean Broadbent is a former performer with the Connecticut Hurricanes and the Cadets of Bergen County. His teaching experience includes the Boston Crusaders, the Cadets of Bergen County, Danbury HS, Norwalk HS, St Ann's, Braddock Independent, the Southern Knights Guard from Brighton England, and he holds three DCI World Championship titles.
Dean was an elementary music teacher before accepting the Assistant Band Director position at Flanagan High School. Challenged with the task of developing the winter guard program, he quickly launched Flanagan on a path of rapid successes, producing shows that gripped the imagination of winter guard, such as Crash, Post Secret, Hopelandic, and Project Innocence. His winter guard program at Flanagan expanded to involve dramatic coaches and theatrical experts to redefine the expectation of a performance. He turned pageantry into education by requiring performers to study and research the historical aspects of the show they would be performing.
During Project Innocence, performers met with one of the actual prisoners, and had open discussions about his experiences, that they could relate to in their performance. Dean has pushed the performance boundaries of winter guard, showing audiences across the world what winter guard could be, setting the standard by which other programs are now often measured. Flanagan has been the SFWGA World Class gold medalist for eight consecutive years, a four- time WGI medalist, achieving the WGI Gold medal and World Championship in 2008, and again in 2012.
Jeff Bridges anchored the marching band and music programs in South Florida for over 30 years. His drill work was found in countless marching band shows across the state, and in numerous winter guard programs. Jeff designed percussion and DCI shows for the Florida Wave, the Colts, Crossmen, Glassmen, and Teal Sound.
Jeff was one of the Founding members of the SFWGA, and served as its president for a total of ten years. His design vision helped shape the winter guard activity we know today. His leadership in high school band programs and his understanding of the winter guard activities created the foundation on which many band programs have expanded to include winter color guard and percussion ensembles.
He was an active adjudicator in both marching band and percussion contests, and worked with SFWGA groups, as well as additional ensembles in north and central Florida. He was a member of the SFWGA Classification Committee, which reviewed all performances to ensure appropriate classification and fairness of competition.
Jeff was instrumental in the formation of an "A-Class" advisory committee for WGI, and spearheaded its creation to bring national attention to the unique needs of the A-classes across the United States. He served on the WGI A-Class advisory committee beginning with its creation in 2010, and continued to be a champion for the causes of high school guard and percussion groups at the national level.
The SFWGA has set up a scholarship in Jeff's honor to help those marching members that choose to participate in both winter guard and drum corps. See the Jeff Bridges Memorial Scholarship.
Jon Kersten was one of the founding instructors of the SFWGA, as well as the Florida Federation of Color Guards Circuit, and remained an active color guard and percussion judge, not only throughout Florida, but across the United States. Jon was designer and producer of numerous collegiate bowl half-time shows. He was the chief designer for Music in Motion Productions and choreographed numerous television commercials and music videos.
Despite his success in the business world, Jon never lost site of his roots, deeply imbedded in high school music and band programs. He is a former director of the Drum and Bugle Corps, and the designer and percussion instructor for the Florida Wave. He was a founder of the Florida Federation of Judges Association, which provides consistent judging and evaluation standards for winter guard and percussion contests across Florida.
While Jon's first love was Cathy and their family, his second love had to be the Florida Marching Band Coalition, or as it affectionately known through high school band programs, the FMBC. The FMBC was Jon's culmination of his dream to create a standardized format for marching band festivals across the state. The judging criteria that Jon set, is in use throughout Florida, the mid-West, Louisiana, and other areas of the country. During each school year, the FMBC hosts over 30 marching festivals across the state, including locally, competitions at Flanagan, Lely, Park Vista, Hialeah, Palmetto Ridge, Boca Raton, and Santaluces.
Throughout his lifetime, Jon is credited with the design of over 700 marching and indoor ensemble shows, achieving numerous national titles and awards in DCI, WGI, and BOA. His high school marching bands have been finalists over 50 times, in six states, and have accounted for 13 state championships.
Ralph Viray arrived on the scene in 1984, and according to a fellow instructor, immediately started shaking things up. Within a few short years, he had implanted nationally competitive color guard programs at Plantation HS, Spanish River HS, and the World Class Dynasty at Coconut Creek HS which lasted until 1999.
He was instrumental in the beginnings of the Alliance of Miami and the founder of Quintessence Independent. Ralph was, first and foremost, a creative artist known for calling his booster parents at 3:00 AM to come outside and paint his newest idea for a floor design or see his latest costume idea.
Ralph was an integral activist in the movement from military drill to full blown dance maneuvers. When Ralph arrived in South Florida, winter guard performed in military-style band uniforms, but Ralph saw the potential of costuming to go with the new types of body movement. And then, he introduced spandex, and the activity hasn't been the same since.
Ralph was one of the first to make use of props to enhance the theatrical aspects of the performance, including a 12 foot waterfall, 14 foot trees, and a complete set change on rolling wheels. He pioneered the then-controversial use of floor tarps, painted with scenes of lakes and foliage, to enhance the design elements of a show. Above all, Ralph loved the activity, and he loved the performers as his own kids.
In 1986 a Sun-Sentinel reporter asked Ralph what he thought drove his success. He said, "I ask the kids what they want to do, where they want go with it, and what they are comfortable with. This is their activity. And then I put together a show that is a combination of their personalities."
The organization was established in 1980 by several high school band directors to continue the marching band drill team experience into the winter months. The fledgling organization was aligned with and patterned after the newly formed Winter Guard International which had been created three years earlier to establish world-wide standards for indoor color guard judging and competition.
Throughout the Decades
In 1980 a group leaders felt our community desired competition at a level higher than that of FBA. In South Florida a group of young, creative, forward thinking humans developed the South Florida Color Guard Association, (later changed to the South Florida Winter Guard Association, LLC). They single handedly covered all of the necessary roles; show designers, circuit contributors, judges, announcers and sometimes even performers.
This first decade of Winter Guard brought the fastest evolution of our activity. It started in the most traditional sense and leaned into a military style of performance. But by the end of the 80’s South Florida had captured the hearts of the nation with its forward thinking, movement and excitement based themed programs.