Shining under the stadium lights

Touring the country in a bus, sleeping at schools and performing at stadiums such as the Rose Bowl, Stanford, and the Georgia Dome with 100,000 eyes staring down at you from the stands in Lucas Oil Stadium is how this soccer player spends her summer vacations.

For freshman Tylee Low summer’s include riding across the country in a tour bus for color guard and this semester she joined the soccer team at Pierce.

Low, 17, is a forward on the Brahmas, but outside of Pierce she is a member of the color guard for Pacific Crest, a team in Drum Corps International.

“It’s like the major leagues for marching bands,” Low said. “There’s high school, college, and then DCI. I perform on one of the middle ranking, world-class groups.”

Low discovered color guard and drum corps her freshman year of high school. Initially a member of the band, Low saw the opportunity to drop her clarinet and pick up a flag for the color guard, and leapt at it.

“I did marching band for the first part of my freshman year, and I realized there were also girls who got to dance and spin flags, the color guard,” Low said. “I thought to myself ‘Why am I going to wear this ugly band uniform that doesn’t fit me, when I can go and wear a pretty dress and makeup, and dance around the field, and look cute all the time.’”

But it wasn’t just about looking cute for Low. With the help of her uncle, she trained and improved her skills. This was a true test of dedication, as she was playing soccer at the same time.

“I picked it up really quickly, and I wanted to progress faster than other people,” Low said. “My uncle did color guard so he taught me how to do rifle, which is the second highest line.”

Low’s uncle trained color guards in the Army, and he taught her the intricacies of the technique that she didn’t learn at school. This added training helped Low earn a spot on Pacific Crest’s color guard.

“It says a lot for Tylee to be able to make a spot in a world-class corps and perform at such a high level,” Pacific Crest Executive Director Stuart Pompel said. “There a very few people on the entire planet that can do that.”

Corps members spend the summer on the road performing. This summer they left on June 4 and returned Aug. 14. The one hundred and fifty members on the team, aged 16-21, pack into a bus and ride across the country, having to sleep at the schools or venues they later perform at. An idea that might sound fun at first, but the stress from the travel and constant go can get to anyone, and Low’s teammates are glad she’s there.

“She’s [Low] really fun,” Pacific Crest teammate Frida Macias said. “She’s a great person to be around when we’re all feeling down.”

The performances the corps puts on are not small. Pompel describes them as “blockbuster performances,” one hundred and fifty members moving with precision and choreography. The final culmination of the summer came in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts and host to multiple NCAA Final Fours.

“You walk in from the tunnels and you can’t really see anything besides the field and the ground level,” Low said. “Then you get closer, and you see the seats just keep going and they don’t end, and people are filling the front rows.

The first thing they tell you is, ‘Don’t freak out, you’ve done this before.’ But there’s 50,000 people staring at me over there. And of course I catch myself in the jumbotron.”

Learning a routine in five minutes and performing it in front of 10,000 people in a couple hours can be stressful, but the fast-paced style that fills her summers helps Low out on the soccer field for the Brahmas.

“It helps you deal with pressure and adapt quickly to things,” Low said. “I can see this person’s here. I know they’re going to come mark me and I need to figure out a new way to do things. It opens your eyes to see more of what’s going around you.”

Low has been out on the soccer field since she was 3 years old, originally as a way to spend time with her mother and older sister. Over the years Low’s love for the game grew, and she saw the strong familial bonds that sport can bring.

“I learned that I could make a lot of friends through sports,” Low said. “When it came to high school there was a whole set of athletes and everybody just loves each other.”

Coach Adolfo Perez sees promise in Low’s game.
“She hasn’t fully grown. She’s one of our younger players,” Perez said. “She’s going to be a tremendous athlete.”