UNI color guard member marches to her own beat

Sylvia Townsend, a freshman at the University of Northern Iowa, can still remember the exact moment when she decided that she wanted to do color guard. She was in eighth grade, and a group from Des Moines Lincoln High School came to her middle school to perform. Sylvia saw the girls waving their flags, and she says, "In that moment, I knew I wanted to be something different, something special."

Sylvia's efforts to learn the art of color guard were probably a little different than those of her peers, because unlike the other students, she struggled to hear the music. Sylvia has had a hearing impairment since she was a little girl. Although she now has hearing aids to assist her, learning and performing routines can still be a challenge.

"Usually, people memorize the routine by listening to certain points in the song, but in my mind, I have to visualize the routine by count," says Sylvia. 

Sylvia's hard work and talent have paid off, and she is now a valued member of the UNI Panther Marching Band's Color Guard. Her fellow color guard members see her as a great addition to their team.

"Personally, Sylvia has taught me a lot about overcoming your challenges," says Breanna Flater, a UNI color guard member. "She doesn't let the fact that she has trouble hearing affect her being in color guard or doing anything else for that matter. She always has a smile on her face and brings so much joy and laughter to the color guard."

This year, the UNI Panther Marching Band is the largest in the school's history. The band is made up of different majors from all across campus, including those who are still deciding, like Sylvia. She's considering a major in education, but for now she's concentrating on her role in the Panther Marching Band.

"My favorite part about performing in the Panther Marching Band would be that moment when we are performing in front of hundreds of people and my heart goes crazy. I feel good about it when we complete a show because it means I did it; I strive to do my best," said Sylvia.