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#TwirlerTuesday with Amelia Mugavero from the University of Illinois

The next twirler we are featuring for #TwirlerTuesday is Amelia Mugavero, feature twirler at the University of Illinois! Read about her experience as an Illini and what the future holds for her after graduation! If you're interested in being featured, email cmbtwirl@sullivation.com!

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CMB: Tell us about yourself...
AM: My name is Amelia Mugavero and I am the senior Feature Twirler for The Nation’s Premier College Marching Band, The University of Illinois Marching Illini. I fell in love with the sport when my mom put a baton in my hand at the age of four. I am originally from Dallas, TX and started twirling at a small dance and baton studio in Garland, TX. My mom was a twirler growing up and pushed me to take private lessons and to twirl on teams through the United States Twirling Association. I started twirling on the team, Dixie Diamonds, based out of Louisiana and was able to be on the USA Team for three International Cup competitions in Australia, Florida and Canada.
I was also the feature twirler for my high school band, John Paul II High School which made me fall in love with twirling on a football field. I auditioned all over the country my senior year of high school and was a top finalist for several positions including Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. I decided to go to the University of Oklahoma my freshmen year and auditioned for the position there, but God had a different plan. After not earning that position we discovered that the University of Illinois Marching Illini was bringing back their feature twirler position after nearly a decade hiatus! I fell in love with the school after touring the campus and auditioning for the position. After I was accepted into the school, the Marching Illini Band Director, Professor Barry Houser, called me to offer the position as the band’s feature twirler. It has been truly a dream come true. 

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CMB: Favorite memory being a part of your college marching band
AM: I look back on these years with the Marching Illini as truly the best years of my life. From taking pictures with the little fans that come up to me at the games, to getting to twirl with my dad on the field for Dad’s Day, there are many moments that have stood out through the years. The band and I have performed in the Chicago Bears stadium, the streets of Dublin for The St. Patrick’s Day Parade, as well as New York, where we brought in Santa Claus as the featured band in the Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York last year. 

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However, the moment that I will cherish the most is my first game as feature twirler. As I stepped on that field for pregame with my 375 band-member marching band family, I remember tearing up and realizing that I was finally home. 

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CMB: Finish this sentence... "One time at band camp..." 

AM: I took out my batons for the first day of my first band camp and started twirling and warming up off to the side. Little did I know, I ended being a major distraction! All of practice the entire band stopping occasionally to watch me, because at the time, the band had never seen a twirler so up close. Therefore, Professor Houser came up to me and asked me to do an impromptu performance just so he could get on with practice! 

CMB: What is your favorite accomplishment in your twirling career and tell us what it took to achieve that dream?
 
AM: My favorite accomplishment in my twirling career has been being able to not only represent the Marching Illini on the field, but also on the Miss Illinois stage the past two summers. At the Miss Illinois 2016 pageant this past summer, I earned the talent preliminary award for my baton twirling routine and was first-runner up overall! Ultimately, this took a lot of discipline and constant hard work to make sure I was mentally and physically prepared to handle the stress of the pageant. However, not only did I practice my twirling routine every day leading up to the pageant, but I had to practice how to interview and communicate my thoughts as clearly as possible. What I enjoy is not only being able to showcase the amazing sport of baton twirling in the Miss America Organization, but also being able to speak and show that a girl with a baton can speak her mind too! I am currently Miss Springfield and have been able to twirl and speak all over the state, allowing me to be an ambassador for the sport of baton twirling to entirely new and different audiences. 

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CMB: What advice do you have for high school-aged twirlers in deciding a school to go to?
AM: Never give up! If you feel in your heart that it is a dream worth pursuing, then go for it, despite the fear of rejection. For any senior picking a college, I am not exaggerated when I say the process for a twirler is as stressful and crazy as it gets. Not only was I trying to graduate and balance academics, but I was also spending my weekends traveling all over the county for auditions. One weekend I almost missed my Senior Prom! When I decided on a school that also didn’t want me as their twirler, I felt like my dream was over. However, I didn’t give up on that dream when I saw another possibility that just so happened to be 1500 miles away! Illinois ended up being the perfect fit for me. Therefore, don’t be afraid to take risks and go for your dream because you never know if you were meant to do that all along! There is always a silver lining. 
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CMB: What is one thing that you always have to do before a game starts?
AM: I always say a prayer before a game. I usually do it before I lead the band in our formal march-out to Memorial Stadium. I just say a quick sentence like, “Thanks God for giving me this amazing opportunity. Keep me safe and healthy and let’s have an amazing show!”


CMB: If you had to live on one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
AM: That’s a tough one! Being from Texas, I could live off of chips and guacamole all day every day. Oh, and tacos!

CMB: What advice do you have for other college twirlers?
AM: My best advice is, though twirling is a major part of the job, the other part is being an ambassador. Just like a drum major or band director, a feature twirler is constantly in the lime-light. Therefore, always smile and be kind because you never know who is looking at your every move. I cannot tell you how many little kids I have taken pictures with at the games, and the joy and smiles on their faces is what truly makes an impact. I have had many girls pick up a baton and start twirling just because I took time with them at the game. That’s the most rewarding feeling to be able to inspire the next generation. 

CMB: When you were a young twirler, what college twirler(s) did you look up to, where did they twirl and why did you admire them?
AM: Being a part of a national twirling organization allows you to be friends with twirlers all over the country. I looked up to many college twirlers growing up, but one has stood out in particular, the former University of Texas Feature Twirler, Alexa Bourdage. Alexa and I were paired as secret pals during my first International Cup Competition in Australia, allowing us to form a bond that would change my life and dreams forever. Through her words of encouragement and friendship, Alexa ended up becoming my mentor and big sister. She ended up getting me on the UT football field for several games and inspired me with her grace and showmanship in all her performances. Therefore, she was my main inspiration to become a college twirler. 
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CMB: What are the next steps for you, inside and outside of twirling?
AM: Now that I am graduating, I look forward to the next chapter in pursuing a career in Broadcast Journalism. I hope to also compete for the title of Miss Illinois once more after becoming first-runner up last year. Though my time is soon ending as a feature twirler, I am excited to see the position take national attention and become an established tradition with the Nation’s Premier College Marching Band - The Marching Illini. I look forward to joining the sisterhood of many talented Illini twirlers before me, and I also cannot wait watch the twirlers after me share in the amazing experience of performing in Memorial Stadium with the Best Band in the Land. 

CMB: Anything else that the fans of CollegeMarching and CollegeTwirling should know?
AM: I love how baton twirling is getting more and more attention through college marching bands and many other organizations outside the twirling world. However, there would not be any twirlers without college marching bands. I truly consider the Marching Illini my extended family and I encourage any twirler blessed enough to be in a marching band to show gratitude and never take the opportunity for granted. It goes by way too fast!

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