Fleszar takes talent to a national level with Drum Corps

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Fleszar is the second Baldwin student to successfully audition for the Cadets drum corps, a nationally recognized marching band with a color guard of only about 30 people.

Kevin Hutchinson and Amanda Booth

After four years in the Baldwin color guard, senior Payton Fleszar is taking her skills to the national stage.

Fleszar is the second Baldwin student to successfully audition for the Cadets drum corps, a nationally recognized marching band with a color guard of only about 30 people. Her noteworthy achievement has been made possible by her dedication to Baldwin’s color guard.

“A lot of (the color guard work) was mental, rather than physical. Like pushing through all of the hard weather, attitudes, drive – basically finding the motivation to stay there and work to get better,” Fleszar said. 

Fleszar is a section leader in the color guard, and she helps to teach and improve younger members. 

“She’s good at teaching the freshmen and eighth graders how to pick up flag for the first time,” Julia Graham, another member of the color guard, said. “She’s a very good role model.”

Fleszar’s acceptance into the Cadets drum corps didn’t come easy. The group is part of Drum Corps International, a marching band organization that hosts stadium shows throughout the U.S. and Canada. Fleszar attended two audition camps before being accepted; now, she’s involved in a major commitment that continues beyond high school.

“She won’t actually walk at graduation – she’ll leave for their band camp,” Marissa Virgin, Baldwin band director, said. She will “spend the summer with them learning their show. Then they will go on a national tour, so she will perform in stadiums throughout the U.S.”

Fleszar plans on attending the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science. Though the school doesn’t have a color guard, she expects to join an independent Winter Guard or start coaching in her free time. 

Students can stay in the Cadets drum corps until age 21, but Fleszar doesn’t anticipate this. “As of right now I only plan on doing DCI for one year due to the financial aspect, but there’s always the possibility I’ll change my mind depending on my experience this summer.”

Even before this year’s Cadets tour begins, the commitment is significant.

“You practice from the beginning of June, about seven days a week, for 12 hours (daily).” Fleszar said. You do this “for about a month before you go on tour, July to mid-August.”

If I didn’t have a lot of my coaches there motivating me I probably would have never done it”

— Payton Fleszar

According to Virgin, Fleszar is thoroughly prepared for this opportunity. 

“Payton is a really hard worker. She’s a great dancer.” Virgin said. “She’s an all-around well-rounded performer.” 

Fleszar credits her performance to her Baldwin coaches, who constantly pushed her to improve. 

“If I didn’t have a lot of my coaches there motivating me I probably would have never done it.” 

Others in the band agree. 

“The coaches have helped her a lot with learning new skills and helping with technique, and building up confidence and the work ethic.” Graham said. 

Through the Cadets drum corps, Fleszar will return to Baldwin after graduation. On Aug. 7, Baldwin will host a Drum Corps International show, and the Cadets – featuring Fleszar and Baldwin alum Sam Marsteller – will perform. 

“I think it’s a testament to the marching band program and the color guard program.” Virgin said. “They’re establishing the skills that they need to be able to continue on in this activity and perform at a higher level.”

Though her time at Baldwin is coming to a close, Fleszar is excited to continue performing and refining her craft. 

“It’s very nerve wracking. There is a lot of pressure, but it is also really exciting. I am glad that this is something I have the opportunity to continue.”