The pageantry arts have been a major part of Shawn McKaig’s life ever since entering the 7th grade at C.H. Price Middle School in Interlachen, Florida. Armed with a rented saxophone in hand and a consuming desire to achieve and impress others, Shawn attempted to create a new destiny for himself as a musician. Dick Wiseman, his middle school and high school band director, saw other talents within Shawn and thus encouraged a visual performing arts experience which allowed for a greater expression of his individual talents. Perhaps his own unique experience in music is why Shawn appreciates successful musicians with such gracious admiration.
Shawn began his colorguard and auxiliary journey spending countless hours practicing and performing for invisible audiences in his backyard as his favorite musicians performed nearby on whatever cassette player or radio was available. Having drum corps brought to his attention by the Wiseman family, including Kelly, his high school drum major, his appreciation of the pageantry arts opened up a whole new world of possibilities for Shawn to consider. Kelly was a member of the Suncoast Sound and Shawn was enamored. It became his most important goal to march drum corps and participate in this musical and visually collective art form while earning the classroom grades to merit elite graduation status.
At age 16, Shawn’s parents supported his efforts and allowed him to audition for the Suncoast Sound Drum & Bugle Corps, thus redefining where his future in the pageantry arts would take him. Early exposure to the likes of famed instructors such as Karl Lowe, Jim Mahonney, Mike Raiford, Deana Forester, Dave Rogiers, and the musical guidance of Robert Smith gave Shawn a grip on what remarkable effort could lead to within the pageantry and performing fine arts. Shawn performed for 3 years with the Suncoast Sound during which he shared the stage and marched side by side with current colorguard icons and friends such as Michael James, Adam Sage, Rob Jett, Michele Dershimer and so many more talented designers and directors of recent years. The Suncoast edge was both palpable and encouraging for performers and largely responsible for the success that many young instructors experienced in the years that followed.
It was never enough to simply achieve. In Suncoast, one would learn to achieve through the
challenges presented to them individually, support the achievement of others, and manifest
successful accomplishment for those that followed their lead. Suncoast Sound was a
remarkable testimony to the finest efforts in musical and pageantry arts education.
Following high school, Shawn marched several independent winter guards including Beyond, The Alliance of Miami, and Emerald Marquis Color Guards. Each of these experiences echoed forth new learning cycles and increased the depth of knowledge and appreciation that Shawn had for the performing fine arts.
Beyond colorguard introduced Shawn to the Kersten family and the unbelievable family values, consistency, and graciously receptive atmosphere afforded to members by Jon and Cathy Kersten. Under their tutelage, Shawn grew to appreciate the dynamics of individual worthiness and healthy learning objectives that embraced the learner with each training exercise and personal growth patterns that Winterguard required from performers. The Alliance of Miami, under the direction of Tony Florio, provided yet another amazing milestone for Shawn when he considered his own self-worth in the collective world of winterguard. Instructors, Mark Tatum, Michael and Maurice Long, and Patty Stetson continuously pushed Shawn to embrace new skills, mandate achievement from himself, and strive for superior accomplishment in the manifestation of his character and role commitment.
Finding himself yearning for the input and attention of the nation’s most consistently competitive traditional colorguards, Shawn left his Florida background and headed to New England. At Emerald Marquis, he was under the watchful eyes of Dale Powers, Denise Bonfiglio, Greg Legola, and George Zingali. All caution had been tossed aside to determine if he would be able to thrive in the challenging colorguard mecca of Boston, Massachusetts as well as survive the cold New England winter. Housemates, John Anderson and Mark Leonard, took Shawn in and escalated his personal learning in leaps and bounds. He learned to be self-supportive, he mastered the public transportation system, and made lifelong friendships that transcend all time and space.
In the years that followed, Shawn moved back to Florida, continued his education efforts,
graduated with high honors from Flagler College, and established himself as a local instructor with unique goals and agendas to be proven. Shawn taught and consulted with many guards in the Pinellas County area and continued his teaching efforts with the revolutionary Shaktai Performance Company from St. Petersburg, Florida. Working collectively with Ron Comfort, John Williams, and Cheryl Wimberly gave Shawn a unique perspective on the details of the Independent Colorguard format. Shakai was still young and developing its own character on the WGI landscape when Shawn joined the team. HIs appreciation for self-fulfillment of role, character mastery, and technical merit made him an ideal addition to this highly imaginative and creative grouping. Shawn’s insistence on superior equipment and body technique was noted and appreciated throughout the course of his 5 years with the program. Medaling locally, medaling at WGI, and advancing through the promoted ranks to Independent World Class finalist status were all accomplishments that this team discovered together. Every rehearsal brought a new lesson. Every member brought a new challenge. And every weekend at Harvest Temple gym brought new levels of discovery style learning and appreciation of the performers under his charge.
Following his initial experience with Shaktai Performance Company, Shawn found himself to be a sought after designer, choreographer, and technician with some of the most prestigious programs in our local circuit. While simultaneously investing in and actively teaching numerous programs across our circuit, Shawn accepted the challenge of WGI Board membership representing the Independent A Class for some 4 years as well as leading one of Central Florida’s most courageous and highly rewarded high school programs at Spruce Creek High School where he remained as director and asst. director from 1993 until 2022. Various coaching artists, administrative assistants, staff, instructors, and visionaries are equally celebrated by Shawn for their commitment to the program at Spruce Creek. 3 decades of innovative and inspiring high school field season and winterguard programs at the Creek remain among Shawn’s most prized accomplishments. Under his tutelage, Spruce Creek was a guard that always danced on the edge of what was currently accepted and often pushed a few boundaries with locals over the years.
Decades of members that have shared in and benefitted from the values, virtues, and accolades of this highlighted and celebrated family of programs are credited as the core reasons for Shawn’s commitment to the pageantry and performing fine arts programs within Central Florida. Spruce Creek gave Shawn the pageantry home he was always looking for, the challenge of creating new and exciting visual programs, and the unbelievably talented and charismatic voices of generations of young performers. “I’ve been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, I’ve danced on the Cliffs of Moher, and I’ve journeyed along the Great Wall of China..........all with Spruce Creek High School band and colorguard! I am sincerely lucky!” His programs offered while at Spruce Creek include multiple JV, HSA, HSO, and even WGI A class finalists, Synergy independent.
At current, Shawn is still teaching World History at Spruce Creek High School and judging
numerous assignments for FBA, FBA State, FMEA, and FFCC when needed. In addition, he is active and enamored with the singular greatest prize of his lifetime...........Eva Marie, a
grandchild born in 2015. She has Pop Pop’s full attention and also enjoys the pageantry arts!