Joan Noble-Pruett returns as Flag Instructor for her twentieth year with the Marching Band. She is the director of the Michigan Winter Ensemble, and Assistant Coach of the Michigan Dance Team. Before coming to Michigan she was the color guard instructor for the Indiana University Marching Hundred. Joan is a graduate of Novi High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in English from Indiana University. She taught color guard with the Star of Indiana Drum and Bugle Corps and the Spirit of Atlanta and has worked with numerous high school programs throughout the United States. Joan lives in Farmington Hills with her husband Brandt and son Steven.
(from mmb website)
Q1: How did you first get interested in this activity, and what made you stay with it for so long?
A: I was literally born into the activity, having an uncle who marched, cousins who marched, a dad who marched, and then also my older brother. So, the first Drum and Bugle Corps show that I attended, I was four weeks old. I was born into it and it was just a part of our lives. Every summer we would go and watch drum corps shows, and in the winter we would go see competition indoor color guard. It became a question not of ‘are you going to march?’ but ‘where are you going to march?’
The reason that I stayed with it is because at a young age I fell in love with guard and it just became a part of my life. I just can’t imagine not doing it, and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunities to do it. So, that’s basically how it happened.
Q2: How did you turn your passion for spinning into a career?
A: That was very difficult. I went to school at Indiana to be a journalist and didn’t do all the right things because I didn’t take the time to do summer internships, because I was teaching. That always became the priority. It was always ‘Oh but I have to go teach’, instead of not teaching and doing an internship. I would travel to go teach. It never really turned into a career, technically, until last year when I was made full time.
Q3: Where do you see the sport of color guard going in the 10 to 15 years?
A: The activity of color guard, especially in the indoor realm, keeps expanding, keeps growing. My hope for it is that it’s going to be recognized further as a competitive art form. It is completely unique in that it is a sport and an art form, like ice skating. For Color Guard instructors to be able to have this become their career, as it has become mine here. As it becomes more recognized by directors, by administrations, by schools. 100 years ago, I say, you couldn’t get a job as dance instructor at a university. It didn’t exist. Now universities all over the country have programs in dance. This would be the steps, a movement in that direction, that I would really like to see with this activity.
Q4: Outside of color guard, what other interests or hobbies to you have?
A: I love love love baking! In my other life, if I were not a guard instructor now, I would have pursued a career as a pastry chef. I love to bake. I don’t like to eat it so much, which is why I like to give away all the Christmas stuff to everybody in the office, but I love how soothing it is to me. It’s very formulaic and methodical. You have to be completely focused on baking when you’re doing it, otherwise you’ll burn it. It’s not like throwing a bunch of stuff in a pot when you’re cooking and creating. Baking is more precise, and it requires attention to detail. I think that that’s why I like it so much. It’s my favorite way to destress.
Q5: Can you describe a typical day that you would experience in the fall?
A: *Laughs* Well, because I have a dual appointment with athletics as the assistant coach with the Dance Team, 2-3 days a week, a typical day is getting up at 4:30am-5:00am. I live approximately 45 minutes away from here, and then drive to Ann Arbor to be at Dance Rehearsal at 7:00am. We have dance from 7:00am-9:30am followed by team meetings and coach's meetings. On any given day we have, in the fall, athletics department meetings for football and we have athletics administrative meetings for our individual sports. Then I try to get to the hall by about 1:00pm to write. That all depends upon on how much drill has been done and handed down. Sometimes I’m waiting for drill, sometimes I have the drill, other times I get it all at once. But then I will write up until approximately 4:00pm, when we have either our Rank and Section Leader meeting, or we’ll have all the rank and section leaders on Monday, but flag leadership meets with me every day. Followed by band rehearsal from 4:45pm-6:15pm. On Tuesdays, we’ll tack on an extra hour for flag sectional, and on Fridays I’ll follow that up with challenges. So, it depends upon the day. Generally, though, in the fall, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday tend to be anywhere from 12 to 15 hour days. Mondays are not so bad, although we tend to have staff meetings those days and Fridays are challenges so…And Saturdays are game days! Sundays are usually open if it’s a game weekend. If it’s not, we have dance team rehearsal.
Q6: Have you experienced any setbacks, either in your career, in the marching arts, or just in general, as a woman, and how did you overcome them?
A: In Color Guard there tends to be more women, however, men are naturally prone, just because of their size and build, to being a little bit stronger than us. So, many of the so-called “greats”, tend to be men and it was only after the revolution in guard after the 80s, when we started incorporating more dance and movement, that women really started coming on a little bit stronger, from a creative standpoint, because of the movement involved. Sadly, I remember being passed over for teaching jobs, and it was because of not being as strong as a man, and I found that humorous. Which is why, to this day, I emphasize that guard is a physical activity and I push my students to all work out and be strong and understand that it’s a huge part of it. However, it’s the artistic part I like to think, perhaps selfishly, that belongs to us women.
Q7: What is the most effective daily habit you possess?
A: I don’t sleep in. And the reason I don’t is because if I do, I won’t wake up. But then sometimes I can’t get to sleep at night. I’ve pretty much got a body clock set where I get up everyday no later than six, because on days where I have dance I have to be up very early and days that I don’t have dance, if I don’t get up then I’ll sleep in and then I won’t be able to sleep and I’ll be up and then I won’t be able to get up at 5:00am the next day. So, keeping a strict bedtime schedule and sleep schedule is probably my one daily habit that I don’t mess around with.
Another habit I try to keep up with is running four times a week, at least. I try to workout/run 4 to 5 times a week to maintain energy. I really believe in that, obviously. *Laughs*
Q8: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
A: Okay I know its cheesy and that we would all say it, but my son. He’s far from perfect, he turned 17 today, and at times can be a 17 year old…boy. I love him more than life because he’s kind, he’s respectful, he’s got my temper, sadly, but that’s okay. He’s my everything and I love him, as most parents should with their kids. You hope that you will do better as a parent than your parents and their parents. I look at my son and every time I see him I see the future and that he’s a good kind person. His teachers have always said that, every parent-teacher conference we’ve ever been to, they’ve all said, ‘your son is respectful and kind and empathetic to others’. I have to say that he fills me with so much pride.
Q9: What do you wish you knew at my stage of life?
A: Oh this is easy because I tell you guys this all the time! Don’t take things for granted, enjoy the moments, but work for them because while it would be great to win the 250 million dollar lottery or whatever, if you earn the 250million dollars, it’s that much sweeter. I would go back in time and tell my 20 year old self to sometimes stop and breathe and enjoy things a little bit more, I sometimes have to stop and tell myself that now, but absolutely, it means something.
Q10: Its well known that you have participated in a lot of different running events, what has been your favorite one to participate in so far, and why?
A: There’s a run in Plymouth, The Wicked Halloween Run, and I love running it because as of this year, my husband started running too. I do it as a double, I run the 10k first and then the 5k afterwards, and my husband and my son run it, and we do it as a family now. The fact that I got my husband into this after 48 years, and my teenage son to do it, I think that one has become the most fun.
I am most proud of the run that I did at Disney this year. I did the princess run because, you know, I’m such a princess. I did the 10k and the half marathon back to back over the weekend, so 19.3 miles. I did that with pretty substantial injury and I was only 17 minutes off my best time, so I’m proud of that because it really meant that I had to push through and focus my mind and decide. Decide to make it all the way through. I came out of that running much better than I had anticipated!