Alumni Spotlight: Karen Gardner-Quinlan, Color Guard, 1993-1994

ImageKaren Gardner-Quinlan was a charter member of Pacific Crest. She performed in the color guard during our first year two years.

Born and raised in the Diamond Bar/ Walnut area, I didn’t have to go far to find Pacific Crest. In 1993 rumors began to fly around the Diamond Bar High School band room. Drum Corps? What is drum corps? Some of us had heard of it before, but none of us knew the opportunities that awaited us. I marched in 1993 and 1994 when the colorguard consisted  of 6-10 members. We bought our costumes and shoes and dyed them ourselves. Coming from a high school program of over 300, this was definitely a change for me, but something was different at PC. I think the thing that struck me most was the passion that those founding members had for their craft. Having people who were playing music and spinning equipment for the love of it was so much different than having people who needed credit for a class in school. That whole first year was exhibition, no scores, just judges tapes. We had to take that information and grow with it- and we did! The next year we were taking on the Mandarin’s in local competitions and our big “tour” was going to northern California one weekend.

I knew I was going to be a part of something new and exciting when I joined PC. We were a group that did things differently. We had opportunities to work and go to school and still participate in something we loved. I feel like the main thing I have taken away from Pacific Crest is ability to try new things and do things differently. When in college at the University of San Diego I was one of the founding members of Kappa Delta sorority on our campus. I currently work as a teacher at a charter school in Chula Vista (south San Diego). We work with kids who are mostly English Language Learners. The traditional educational system is not always right for my students. At our school we make decisions on programs, funding and try to be innovative to help our population learn.  I look at trying new things in a new way as a challenge I am willing to take thanks to my positive experience with PC.

For the past eight years I have been using my love of dance and music to teach my students on a daily basis. I use songs, chants, and movement regularly to help my kids understand what I am teaching. Two years ago I started a winterguard at my school to give our low income kids an opportunity to experience the arts. They didn’t compete, they didn’t have costumes, but they did have heart!!! Some of those 7th and 8th graders have gone on to the School of the Creative and Performing Arts at the high school level. I can only hope that they are able to surround themselves with people who love their craft as much as those people I met at Pacific Crest.

Going to shows from time to time only makes me love Pacific Crest more. I love to see the progress that you have made as a corps. You’ve come a long way in the past 15 years. This is why I continue to  give to the tour fund. I want others to have the same experiences I had. I want them to feel the pride I have while I watch the shows. I am proud to be a founding member of such a successful organization.