• Sara Rudin

2: Laura Rodriguez - Entrepreneurship and Teaching Baton Locally

Updated: Feb 26

Website: https://www.encoretwirl.com/:

We are honored to hear from a good friend of mine from college, Laura Rodriguez.

Laura works with Monache High School Majorettes & Colorguard and has opened her new studio, Encore Performing Arts, with Stacey Arellanes in Porterville, California.

She graciously agreed to be my very first interview for the Baton Twirling Project Podcast. Click the link above to listen to the podcast, or check out the show notes below

Laura, we had a great time talking with you! Thank you for all your amazing tips, advice, and story!!

Keep in touch with Laura and Encore Twirling here: https://www.encoretwirl.com/

Show Notes:

Baton Twirling Project: What’s your current role in the Baton world?

Laura: Currently I teach a high school Majorette and Colorguard team choreographing for their indoor percussion shows or just in general. I’m really involved with the high school marching band, and outside of that I started to coach Baton, Flag and Pom privately. I work with the high school Colorguard Majorettes Team and I’ve just recently opened my own Baton Twirling studio, Encore Performing Arts.

Baton Twirling Project: What would you say is the most exciting part about opening your own studio?

Laura: I really have a passion to give back to the community. I’ve been coaching for 10 years with my marching band. A lot of people would ask me for lessons for younger students that were gonna come up to our high school and slowly I got the confidence to open it up and offer something in our community.

I was standing with my high school at our last parade and I noticed that the Baton Twirling teams in our town had really really gotten small in size. I realized that the market is wide open to offer a program that is all ages. That kinda gave me a little boost of confidence to take the dive and follow my dream. I’ve always been Twirling since I was 10 years old. I’ve never put my Baton down. It’s just time to take it a step above from being just having it be a hobby that I do to really making it a business.

Baton Twirling Project: I hear that so much now and you see it everywhere. Where there’s only a few giant groups throughout the United States. One of the major reasons for doing the blog is giving those coaches who are doing things and getting people who are teaching it and getting people more comfortable to teach. So that’s awesome that you started your own group.

Laura: I was fortunate enough to grow up in a town that, I may be wrong but, had the first marching band in CA. Marching bands are popular in my home town, and they’ve always had Majorette teams. I think that’s where Baton Twirling took off in our town, and it was just a local thing. There were some groups that would go to competition and every once in a while there would be some solo students that really traveled but everybody kinda stays local.

It’s just been embraced by our community but at this point it’s like, “Oh there used to be big Baton groups.” Now they're smaller, and what’s more popular is cheerleading or dance studios. I’ve really want to show the community how much of those other elements from dance and gymnastics and everything kinda come together for Baton Twirlers. That’s just something to look forward to - building it back up to what it used to be and getting our groups out there to competitions so that the scene can grow.

Baton Twirling Project: If somebody were saying, “Oh I want to start a Baton Twirling group, but I don’t have the money, or I don’t have a place to do it.” What advice would you give that person?

Laura: In many ways it’s free to start because the coach themselves has the skills to teach. Right now, I’m teaching at a park. It’s summer time. It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s not the dream yet of walking into your studio that is magically is within your budget. It has high ceilings and air conditioning. Because of that, I think people shouldn’t be afraid to just start at a park, or if they’re in bigger cities, maybe contact their Parks and Rec or the Boys and Girl’s Club in their community and see if there’s a place that is already there as a gym for the youth in the community, and then pay an hourly rate. For me that’s not really an option.

Baton Twirling Project: What would you say you’re biggest accomplishment as a Twirler?

Laura: My biggest accomplishment was that I have given back a lot to the community in bringing Baton Twirling back. I’ve had a positive impact at my high school, and there are students that I get really close to. I know that I’ve impacted them in positive way when they go on and graduate. For me that’s the most rewarding thing out of being involved with Baton.

Baton Twirling Project: What advice would you give to someone who is trying to find a youth sport or they’re trying to figure out if Baton Twirling is for them?

Laura: One of the things that I think can be intimidating to young kids or somebody that’s just beginner is that you might see somebody do a really advanced trick and you just feel terrified. How are you gonna learn to do that? My advice would be that it’s okay to take your time to get introduced to a Baton before you have this unreasonable expectation of throwing a five spin or double or illusion toss at first.

You have to be patient with the sport because it’s unlike anything else. It’s not something that you grew up doing in your playground at your school. It really is completely new to you, and it can be really rewarding, but it takes that patience to develop a skill. I think that there’s a lot of value in that. I think as a coach you have to be very patient and encouraging to your students and as a student you just have to know that it’s a longer journey to get to a really advanced level. You just gotta take it one step at time.

Baton Twirling Project: One of my favorite things is cliche’s about Baton. What would be one the cliche’s about Baton Twirling that you find funny every time you hear it?

Laura: Every time that I see a movie that has Baton Twirlers, and they’re only doing Pancake, or they’re only doing Figure 8 with the boots and the high step march, I just wish that.... oh if we could just show how much the sport has evolved. The biggest cliche is that it’s a very old school Majorette with the boots. And I love it … I love vintage pictures of Majorettes and like I said I grew up in marching bands. I wish that at some point we could have a more current and modern representation of our sport.

Baton Twirling Project: Have you ever forgotten your shoes or your Baton or something important to a Baton lesson?

Laura: No! I have not. I think that I was just always really, really into it, and really excited to go to my Baton lessons. Everything from my entire outfit from head to toe was planned probably the night before. My bag was prepped. I knew exactly which socks and shoes I was gonna wear to practice.

Baton Twirling Project: Have you ever had just a terrible performance to the point where the judge has to create extra boxes on your scoresheet to capture all the drops?

Laura: Oh absolutely! Yes, yes I’ve had that in solo routines. I’ve had that in two-baton routines especially. I think we all hear it as advice from our coaches and peers, and now I repeat the same advice to to some of my students, is sometimes it’s not a day for rolls, sometimes it’s not a day for big tricks, some days you just have a bad twirling day. The more serious that you get about competition, I think it’s all about that preparation and how you practice.

In hindsight I wish that I could make up for some of those bad performances by preparing more and really drilling it. That I should have no drop routines in rehearsal before I get out there. One of those was at Nationals and I can still remember and I cringe when I watch my old videos. I don’t even want to share that video with any of my current students. It does happen to everybody and I think it’s just one of those things to take in stride and if you love Baton then you’re gonna take that bad performance and you’re grow from that in some way.

Baton Twirling Project: What is your favorite thing about Baton Twirling so far?

Laura: My absolute most memorable memory of all time Twirling is marching out at the Arizona Stadium for the very first field show that I ever did. The Pride of Arizona starts with a pre-game, and the Majorettes are standing right in front of the drum line. I just remember looking up, seeing the stadium and the crowd all wearing red and blue. The stadium held more people than the population of my hometown. That’s my best memory of looking up at those big stadium lights and all those people. Just taking that moment in and performing for such a big audience. That’s my absolute favorite, favorite memory that I can still remember everything. I still remember the routines. I wish I could go back to that.

Laura and Sara at a football game in college

Sara interviewing Laura for this podcast episode

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