Michele (Gustafson) Dershimer started her Color Guard journey in South Florida after being exposed to the winter guard activity while in Pompano Beach High School’s band program. Her senior year and the following year she marched with The Alliance Winter Guard of Miami, performing at WGI and making finals one of the two years she was with the program.
Her incredibly inspiring instructors, Tony Florio, Ralph Viray, and Amy Brett, just to mention a few of the regulars, taught her to love performing. Along with many of her South Florida friends, she traveled to St. Petersburg on the weekends to march with The Suncoast Sound Drum and Bugle Corps (1983-1986), acquiring more knowledge from influential instructors Michael
Raiford, Karl Lowe, and Jim Mahoney.
Jon and Cathy Kersten became her mentors and forever friends during these early years, inviting her to teach Coconut Creek High School’s winter guard and then she followed them to Central Florida where she continued working with the Kerstens at Lake Mary, Lake Brantley, and Winter Park High Schools. The three also became very active with the Florida Federation of Color Guard Circuit (FFCC), serving on the board and mentoring others in various capacities. In 1985 and 1987, Michele joined The State Street Review, winning
WGI both years as a sabre under the remarkable tutelage of Sal and Luanne Salas, Scott Chandler, Tam Eastwood, Marlieta Matthews, and Carol Abohatab, to name a few.
In 1986, Michele began directing and choreographing her own program at Lake Howell High School and named the group Imagination. Traveling back and forth to Wisconsin, Jon Kersten was essential in helping keep Imagination strong as they made A class finals in 1987. In 1989, Michele and Jon formed the first Independent Winter Guard, Beyond Imagination, in the FFCC. This independent group allowed many of the young graduates from central Florida to come together and showcase their individual talents. Many have gone on to be great contributors to our wonderful activity: Adam Sage, Barry Artis, Shawn McKaig, Scott Beck, and all three of the Kersten girls, Jennifer, Sandra, and Stephanie. Cheryl Wimberly also helped choreograph and served as a wealth of inspiration for Michele.
From 1990 thru 2005, Michele was the director and choreographer for The Lake Mary High School color guard, making WGI finals in scholastic class A and Open for ten straight seasons, (A class Gold Medalists in 2000 and Open class
Silver medalist in 2002). Those years were the epitome of her career, and she is so grateful for the friendships and loyal dedication of those who worked with the program over the years, Wil Dershimer, Mary McWilliams (White), Vincent Thomas, Tony Florio, Regina Byrns-Knabe, Erin Brown, Jon Kersten, Mandy Bumgardner, Tom Knabe, and other graduates of the program who came back to help. Michele judged indoor and outdoor seasons for various organizations from 1984 thru present day, including being a movement and an equipment judge for the FFCC.
In the summers, besides teaching band camps, Michele worked for Cathy Kersten’s Music in Motion for over twenty years and for The Bands of America Summer Symposium from 2003-2011. From 2005 through 2008, she contributed and consulted with The 27th Parallel, an independent FFCC member guard from Stuart Florida under the direction of good
friends Bill and Maureen Sapienza. She feels blessed to have known, worked with, taught, competed against, and learned from those mentioned above, plus so many others.
Close to her heart are the recognitions of Imagination and Beyond Imagination as FFCC championship titles awarded each year and of course being inducted into the FFCC Hall of Fame’s inaugural year, 2010.