On Wednesday, January 4, the marching arts community suffered the loss of a great woman and one of the original founders of WGI, Shirlee Whitcomb.
A lifetime resident of Walnut Creek, California, Shirlee graduated from University of California Berkeley. She was one of WGI’s most enthusiastic voices and dedicated her life to mentoring hundreds of instructors and judges finding a voice in the activity. Shirlee served as the WGI Education Director for many years and most recently held the position of Director of Color Guard Development. Outside of WGI, Shirlee was well known in the drum corps community as one of DCI’s first female judges.
SCV Winter Guard Director, Denise Bonfiglio had this sentiment to share in remembrance of Shirlee:
“I’ve known Shirlee all my pageantry career. As a performer, I could not wait to hear her tape when she judged as she always told it from the heart; when it was good, it was the best, when it wasn’t good, she was always a positive critic. When I began judging, she was my teacher and my mentor. She listened intently, she was hard, she was specific, and she made me work hard at my craft. Back in my early 27 days, Shirlee was visiting Don Angelica in NY, and they both came to my apartment for a meeting with my dad and George Zingali. George had an idea that was risky, however, he wanted to pitch it to get their thoughts. George marched, spun, sang, danced and ran around acting out how the production could work. At the end of his presentation, Shirlee gave him a standing O and convinced him to take the risk, and go for it! That was Shirlee, she pushed all of us to be creative, to take creative risks, not to hold back, and believe that it can be great if you do your homework.
Shirlee was a strong believer of the SCV Winter Guard program. I spoke with Shirlee several times before the decision was made to re-activate the Vanguard Winter Guard. Shirlee would often judge the SCV Winter Guard at local shows and be super excited when something was great, and super supportive when it wasn’t her cup of tea. She forced us to think of options, and opened other doors creatively in the context of what was presented. When something was good, she would push us to find options to make it great!! That was Shirlee, always pushing us creatively!!
I will truly miss her warm and loving personality, her creative and critical thinking, her nonstop passion for pageantry, and her love for creativity that pushed all of us to be our best. Rest in Peace Shirlee, your legacy will live on forever.”
To read more about the life and legacy of Shirlee Whitcomb, head over to WGI.org.