So this past week has been pretty busy. Spring training can be boring and monotonous, so we try to add in some “bench-mark” events to keep it moving along, and this past week we hit quite a few of those.

Sunday saw us marching a parade in Leaf River, just south of town. Leaf River is a village of 400 people with a Lions Club that is a very loyal sponsor of the corps. The parade is always fun, and no less this year. Then, we were off to play a concert and have a picnic in the back yard of alumni, booster and Board member Dana Pelan. That is always just a cool, cool day! A great concert, good food and a little volleyball before we hit it hard again Monday. A BIG thanks to the Pelan family.

On Tuesday we had the move from Rockford College to Winnebago Schools – time for some real gym floor sleeping, as well as access to a stadium with lights so we can get some solid ensemble time done each evening. Winnebago is a great place – it’s a small town just 5 miles west of Rockford and the entire K-12 school district is on one campus. The administration and faculty are great to work with and the whole town gets behind us. We have a grassy, tree-shaded area to park the food rig, 3 gyms for rain days and plenty of fields. In return for such hospitality we loan the school our drums for the fall, as the band doesn’t have a full set. A nice win-win, eh?

Tuesday evening we played the annual Concert in the Park at the Sinnissippi Band Shell in mid-town Rockford. Always a fun event, with several thousand in attendance and the members (especially the new ones) love it. It’s just fun to get in the uniform, get on stage in front of a crowd and let loose. As a unique addition to the show, our percussion sponsor Pearl Drums arranged for rock drummer Mike Mangini to join us on stage. You wouldn’t think rock drumming and Phantom Regiment make a match, but it really was a fun gig and Mr. Mangini is a cool guy.

On top of all this, we held our Snare Drum Camp this past weekend, which just keeps growing each year. The students get intense time with our drum staff and even some time in the Regiment drum ensemble rehearsal. Then this Tuesday evening our Drum Major Camp kicked in (it just wrapped up today). A fun touch is that each year we select – as a total surprise – a drum major camp student to step in front of the Phantom Regiment brass line and conduct a tune. This year we choose two students to lead the line in “Canon in D”. You should have seen their faces. How cool is that?

Another event that the members look forward to was the “Corps History Night”, which we did Monday evening. Each year I bring in 50 years worth of videos, ask a few long-time alumni to attend and help me tell the story of the corps. If I must say so myself, it’s a rather inspirational evening. This year, instead of me yabbering, we debuted the 50th Anniversary Corps History DVD. This is an amazing product that has been two years in the making and will be available for sale by July 1. It is a 2-hour documentary with interviews of Regiment personalities like Jim Wren, Dan Farrell, Bob Lendman, Dave St. Angel, Mike Cesario, Dave Kisting, Tim Farrell and Ron Shulz ( to name just a few). Lots of photos and film footage too, including color footage from the very first year of the corps! The members really enjoyed it and I am excited to get the final version on the shelf.

Rehearsals have been going well, and we did our first full run-thru last last night. Lots more to add, to change, to grow with, but for sure the show is “on the floor” as they say. It is an intense show. That’s the only word I can think of. Intense. Come by Sunday night to see it if you wish. It will change and grow as the summer progresses, but I think you’ll enjoy what we are right now also.

The membership…well, I can’t say enough about this year’s corps. Just real cool young people. Hard working, committed and very, very talented. Plus they have a great sense of humor balanced with a focused sense of determination. Hanging with them is the best part of this job, no question about it. The member leadership is rock solid. I think our next generation of leaders, staffers and support staff is secure.

Next week we’ll basically just hit it hard, no camps, and no distractions. The excitement grows as the member buses and staff buses roll in over the course of the week and we hand out the tour itineraries. The members are already discussing who their seat partners will be and all that!

The support staff is, as always, working hard and being the heart and soul of this corps. Lot’s of flags to make (Adam Sage flags are not easy to make, believe me!), had to re-build our tuba shelving to fit the larger horns, cook crew cranking out 4 big meals a day, the medical team of Donna Oakes (RN), Dr. Dan, Dr. Amy and Dr. Oakes are keeping the sore ankles iced and making sure all are healthy and cared for. Robin and her souvie crew are busy loading boxes, and more boxes, and more boxes. Tour managers Brandon Stansbury and Brandt Crocker are invaluable aides for me, as is my man Rick Valenzuela. (The joke is I am trying to make myself obsolete. I think it’s working!). Dan Farrell and his staff team are just so cool to watch work together as a team. It’s a great vibe here and I am certain this summer will be memorable.

I hope you can catch us on the road. 50 years is no easy feat, and it’s humbling to get to be even a small part of it. It’s also humbling to know that at 50 years old, we are as healthy as we have ever been. That’s due to the loyal alumni and boosters. I hope you will cheer this generation on as we start our journey towards another 50 years.