Drum Corps International
Founder of Winter Guard International passes away
Lynn Lindstrom congratulates a Cavaliers color guard member during the 1979 WGI World Championship in Madison, Wisconsin.Photo by: Drum Corps International

Founder of Winter Guard International passes away

by Michael Boo

A lifelong supporter of Drum Corps International and an indispensible catalyst behind the formation of the Winter Guard International organization, Lynn Lindstrom passed away this week at the age of 76 after a battle with cancer.  

Lindstrom grew up in the Chicago suburbs, earning a degree in education from Northern Illinois University. She taught physical education at high schools in the Chicagoland area and southeast Wisconsin for several years.

In the mid-1970s, Lindstrom was a color guard instructor and business manager for the Racine Kilties and a drill instructor for the Des Plaines Vanguard drum corps. Her husband George became director of the Kilties. The two went on to form the Memphis Blues Brass Band Drum and Bugle Corps in 1979.

Throughout her career within the marching arts, many remember Lindstrom for her unwavering support of the participating students and her focus on furthering their education and success.

“I was from out of town, so they put me up in their home, along with many others,” said Robin Wofford, drum major of the Memphis Blues in 1980 and 1981. “Later, when I was a struggling young band director in the area, she and George came in and helped us establish a winter guard circuit, just for the sake of growing the activity. They were like second parents to me, always there to talk about life.”

Even before their Memphis Blues years, in 1973, Lindstrom became involved with the Blue Knights Drum and Bugle Corps, working with husband George, who at one time served as executive director of the organization.

She stayed actively involved with the Denver corps ever since as head of Ascend Events. For more than 30 years Lynn and George managed a multi-event series including Drums Along the Rockies and Corps Encore as part of the annual DCI Tour as well as the Friendship Cup Scholastic Marching Band Competition. She served as chairperson for Drums Along the Rockies since the mid 1980s.

“This is such a loss for all of us,” said Mark Arnold, Executive Director of the Blue Knights and Ascend Performing Arts. “Lynn’s contributions positively impacted so many. Her focus was always upon the young people we serve. She was the silent titan who made it all happen.”

Countless thousands of those involved in the marching arts will perhaps remember Lynn best as one of the founders of Winter Guard International and for her 24-year-long term as WGI’s executive director from its first Championship in 1978 through 2001.


The first WGI organizational meeting was held during the 1977 DCI Rules Congress weekend, attended by representatives of 13 winter guard associations. They agreed that Lynn, then the director of the Midwest Color Guard Circuit, would lead WGI during its first year.

There were only 34 color guards in one competitive class at the first WGI World Championship, and Lynn took an extremely hands-on approach to get the fledgling organization off the ground, even sewing the very first WGI Champions flag awarded to the winner herself.

“While the founders had lofty ideas and ambitions to bring color guards together from across the world, Lynn was pivotal in making it happen,” said WGI co-founder and DCI Hall of Fame member Marie Czapinski. “She found the sites, made all the travel and housing arrangements for the visiting units, communicated with region directors, and put together a top-notch team of staff and volunteers to launch our dreams. Her integrity, devotion and true love of our activity touched the lives of thousands of participants.”

By the time she retired from WGI, more than two decades past her initial time commitment for the inaugural season, more than 300 color guards were attending the events across six classes. In 1992, with George at her side, WGI added the indoor marching percussion event that quickly became so popular, the percussion competition had to move to its own World Championships weekend.

Reflecting on why she took on the responsibility of launching and leading WGI, Lindstrom said, “I used to march, and I know how much it did to me, and I always said back then that I would try to do something so that other people would have the same opportunities that I had. I can relate to what the kids are getting out of it because as a young person I got a lot out of it.”

In honor of her tireless efforts, Lindstrom became an inaugural WGI Hall of Fame inductee in 1992.

Surviving Lynn is her husband George, her children Ryan and Shelley. Funeral arrangements are pending.