Phantom Regiment January 2004 Camp Review

By Tom Moore

Last May, I did a review of my visit to the Phantom Regiment April camp. It was really fun for me because that was the first drum corps camp I had ever attended. It was also significant because I had really started to forge some strong bonds in the Phantom Regiment organization and I was building on them.

Now, with more than 8 months, a whole bunch of good memories and the magical 2003 Harmonic Journey show added to the mix, I was ready for more. I mean, what better way to ring in the new year and warm the winter chills than to be with friends in Rockford and get a sneak preview of what is shaping up to be an amazing 2004 for the Phantom Regiment? So here’s my account of a phantastic trip out to Regiment-land. I apologize in advance if the amount of verbiage causes your computer to crash or your eyes to hurt. OK. Not really. Actually, this is a recap of my entire experience,which includes a lot of non-drum corps events. So please indulge me. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 1

I left the aftermath of a New Year’s Eve party with friends in Washington, D.C. and headed for
Baltimore-Washington International Airport. I was
surprisingly coherent given the revelry of the prior evening. I was helped by the fact that the airport, compared to every other time I’d been there, was quiet. After an easy flight to O’Hare and a simple drive westward, I arrived at my hotel, ready for some drum corps.

The evening started with a visit to the new home of corps director Pat Seidling and his lovely wifeAttica. Pat and Attica’s “kids”, in addition to the members of Phantom Regiment, consist of two spritely dogs, a rat terrier named Jake and a Jack Russell terrier named Buster. They’re the kind of dogs that stand at your feet and jump up to your chest. I must’ve made a great first impression on Jake because he was as affectionate as dogs can be. Buster, though…well, he’s aptly named, because my first introduction to him was when he jumped up and gave me a nip on the keester. Apparently he’s suspicious of
strangers! I thought to myself that Buster had all the charm of a prima donna drum corps staffer at a judge’s meeting. Pat rushed Buster away, and gave me a treat to give him, and then brought Buster back. So, I give this dog that just literally bit my butt a treat and he was my best friend. Again, I thought of a prima donna
drum corps staffer at a judge’s meeting.

Pat and Attica were hosting Pat’s friend Marcello
Bonvenuto, who was visiting from Brazil. Marcello is a trumpet player and band director of one of a
relatively small handful of marching bands in Brazil. He was here to experience a Phantom Regiment camp and learn a few things to take back with him. Pat, Marcello and I got a sneak preview of the “On the Road with the Phantom Regiment 2003” DVD that I’ll talk more about later. All the while, Buster was my best friend, enjoying his bone while he let me pet him. In fact, towards the end of the DVD, my relationship with
Buster went to the next level as he went to town on my arm. I admit to being flattered by the attention – after all, I’ve been working out at the gym and do have nice arms, and Buster is a nice dog – but I simply don’t do those things on the first date. I sure wasn’t going to pull a Britney Spears and rush into anything! I let Buster down easy and we parted as friends as Pat, Marcello and I left to meet Greg Newell at a local watering hole for a brew and some dinner and, of course, New Year’s Day football.

It was nice to see Greg again, and we all had a nice chat about a number of things – how the organization was progressing, how the new equipment and food trailers were coming along, how strong the talent level was, the plans for a Huntington, West Virginia “second home show” for which I will handle publicity, and the progress of the Countdown to Fifty campaign (I described this in my April review. I’m pleased to
report that it’s coming along very well!). Pat had to leave our gathering for some “shepherding” duties. He picked up a horn player from Japan who spent the evening at his home. After he returned to our group, I left with him to pick up Luke, a contra player from Tampa, who just got into town from the airport. On our way back to Pat’s place, the three of us stopped by Phantom Regiment World Headquarters to check for last minute travel snafus which invariably come up to delay
members’ arrival at camp. While Pat checked his
messages, Luke and I found ourselves steeped in
Phantom Regiment history – the photos on the walls, the yearbooks, the awards. It was really cool.

We got back to Pat’s place, which now resembled a
small hotel, and I said my goodbyes for the night and departed for my own hotel. I did not say goodnight to Buster.

Friday, January 2

I awoke on Friday morning to find that all of Rockford – indeed the entire Chicago area – was blanketed in a dense fog. It would wreak havoc on members’ flights into O’Hare and Midway later that day. It was surreal.

I had breakfast at a place called the Illinois Machine Shed restaurant. It’s dedicated to the American farmer. There’s farm equipment and memorabilia all over the place, and the servers wear overalls. The food’s great. However, there was so much meat on my plate that I had to ask the server for some angioplasty to go!

After my failure at “all things in moderation” I
headed to the PR office, where I spent the better part of the day researching media outlets and publicity opportunities for the Huntington, West Virginia show, which will take place at Marshall University’s stadium on Sunday, July 12. Phantom Regiment will be sponsoring this show. I’m delighted to have been asked to assume some sort of role in this, so as Pat was running all over the Rockford area getting things
ready for camp and picking up kids who arrived early, I did some research to help with publicity for this show. Then, office administrator Mindy Marner and I went shopping for some food items for camp weekend. If you’ve ever gone into a grocery store and purchased 200 hamburger rolls, 12 dozen donuts and a dozen gallons of milk, you know how conspicuous it can feel. Some smart-aleck made a comment about all the bread in
my cart and said “nice buns”. First Buster, then this joker. I was developing a complex.

I arrived at Winnebago High School, which is west of Rockford in a town called, of all things, Winnebago, shortly before 6:00 p.m., when members were to begin arriving. We brought the food items in and then realized that we did not have access to any refrigeration at the school. In my April review, I talked about how one of the primary responsibilities of running a corps is to be able to think on your feet and engage in creative problem-solving. After exhausting all possible options, we agreed that we didn’t need a fridge at all – we had Mother Nature (northern Illinois in January) and an equipment truck. Problem solved.

The members arrived at the school in batches as driver and volunteer extraordinaire Bob Joosten, who’s been with the corps longer than some members have been alive, used the corps’ school bus to cart members from a central drop-off point. Due to the weather, Bob made many more trips than anticipated and many members didn’t arrive until Saturday morning.

Members greeted each other enthusiastically as if they were running into long-lost friends. It was quite a site to behold. It made me think that one of the true wonders of the activity is the camaraderie and lifelong friendships that result from all that hard work.

Notwithstanding the weather and its impact on
attendance, camp began promptly at 8:00 p.m. The guard rehearsed in a small gym, while the percussion rehearsed in a middle school gym across the parking lot. They had their own building! Being a brass guy, I hung out in the “cafetorium” (it’s a cafeteria/auditorium) and listened to the brass. The staff spent well over an hour going through pretty intense (at least from my seat!) breathing exercises
designed to produce the best possible sound. I
thought, these are the things that make a real
difference and give Phantom Regiment its trademark
sound. In some ways I sensed that this stuff was
almost more important than learning the notes in the show. You could definitely tell the difference in the sound when the members played their horns using the techniques found in the breathing exercises. A simple chord was loud, glorious, sonorous and every other good “ous” you could come up with. Yup, I was getting a charge just sitting there listening to chords and

After the breathing exercises, the hornline broke into sectionals to work on Movement II of the show, the ballad Oblivion. I moved from room to room as the sections worked on this piece. But I didn’t fully feel its power until the full brass ensemble block that closed the evening’s work. I’m at a loss to describe this piece. For me, it tops The Lord’s Prayer from 2003 and I’ll bet that by June it will also top Canon in D. The piece includes a euphonium solo that tugged
at my heart every time a member played it (there were about 4 different players). It was so mournful that I felt sad. The entire piece is so lush. From my admittedly amateur perspective, the piece evoked feelings of anguish and sorrow coupled with Latin bravado and attitude. I imagined how the color guard would interpret this piece and got chills. I remember watching the faces of my fellow spectators and a few
staff members and they looked like they were in
heaven. As I write this I’m getting so psyched to see how this will sound this spring when I go to my next camp. It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for Phantom Regiment ballads. This might be the best one yet. No joke.

During the evening I got to see a lot of the people that make Phantom Regiment so special to me. Dr. Dan Richardson, a PR legend, couldn’t have been more welcoming. I saw Cathy “Mouse” DeZarn, who most of you know from the souvenir truck, and Peg Ripley. I also spent a bit of time talking with Barb Glasscoe, who’s been coordinating uniforms and the sewing crew for
years. She’s a great lady. And I’m not just saying
that because the plumes that I and my cohorts made
last year were so well done that they’ll be in use
again in ’04! I reconnected with volunteers whose kids are in the corps, like Lee Bowers, George Hundemer and John and Connie Garbacik.

After ensemble finished, the percussion and guard came into the cafetorium for a brief meeting with Pat Seidling. Pat went over the schedule for the rest of the weekend and discussed the fact that the staff would make a few more cuts on Sunday to bring the size of the corps down to a realistic level. Sure, it was a bit of unpleasant reality, but the corps has the good fortune of having many more talented folks audition than it can accommodate. Pat’s talk was honest, sincere and constructive, all the while pleasant and tactful.

At about 11:30 p.m. the meeting was over, and I left for my hotel. Tomorrow would be a full and exciting day.

Saturday, January 3

I arrived at the school ready for a full day of music and fellowship. Speaking of music, my first duty was to go back into Rockford to find the first euphonium parts to the first movement and make copies. After what seemed like an eternity, I found the music and promptly jammed the copy machine. Yes, the corps was going to go to hell in a handbasket and it would be my fault! Once I averted that crisis, I make my way back to the school to find the corps still doing the
Breathing Gym exercises. Good, I thought, I’m not
holding things up.

The corps broke into sectionals to work on Movement I of the show. The guard was bused to a dance studio in Rockford to work on some movement and learn parts of the show. There are three movements to the show. The second is Oblivion, as I mentioned before. The first consists of excerpts from Buenos Aires Hora Cera and La Muerte Del Angel. I wandered through the school
listening to the different sections. Each section had what seemed to me to be a very difficult part, with lots of runs and notes, lots of syncopation and challenging rhythms, lots of accents and style to infuse into already complex parts. The music seemed like it had a groove, an attitude. It’s Latin, but certainly with a classical feel to it, and definitely Phantom Regiment. Phans who were somewhat surprised by
the music choices and feared that it would represent a departure from what we’ve come to love and expect from this corps should rest easy. This is distinctly Phantom Regiment.

Dr. Dan introduced me to Freddy Martin, who founded Spirit of Atlanta and now has a son in the Regiment. He was in town visiting the corps and spent a little bit of time working with the trumpets and the mellophones that day. I must say it was a real treat to talk with Dan and Freddy about the corps. Two drum corps legends – it was an unexpected highlight of my visit to camp. Just before lunch, Barb Glasscoe presented me with a CD of the source music. During lunch I listened to it and got very enthused thinking about how the pieces would sound put together and rearranged for brass and percussion. Parts of what I heard I actually didn’t like very much, but it made me realize that the genius of a lot of drum corps arrangers is that they can listen to music not only in its original state but also hear it for how it would sound with 70 horns and 30 percussionists. I confess to not being much of a fan of Wild Nights in its original form. I loved it when Boston did it in 2001 and loved it even more when J.D. Shaw and Paul Rennick arranged it last year.

Speaking of lunch, I trekked into Rockford for the
splendor that is Beef-A-Roo. I guess I owe an
explanation about why I harp on Beef-A-Roo. It’s not just because the name sounds a little silly at first. It’s because, as fast food goes, it’s simply the best I’ve ever had, and it’s unique to the Rockford area. Second, it’s become somewhat of an institution among Regiment members, so I wanted to indulge in what forms a part of their experience. Third, and most importantly, the owners, Dave DeBruler and Jean Vitale, have been and continue to be huge supporters of the corps. They’re both on the campaign committee for the Countdown to Fifty and take an active role in
supporting the corps. I work in the non-profit sector, and I understand how critical generous corporate support is, so the least thing I can do is plunk down a few bucks when I’m in town to support their business, but highlight it in my journal. So, the next time you’re in the Rockford area, stop on in to a Beef-A-Roo restaurant.

After lunch, the brass section continued with
sectionals and, just before dinner, assembled to do some ensemble work on Movement III, which consists of excerpts from Tres Minutos con la Realidad, Imagenes 676 and Adios Nonino. This is one amazing movement of music. It’s a lot like the Ostinato/Canon closer from 2003. Lots of motion, lots of frenzy, a building tension and then, almost out of nowhere, a stunning melody from Adios Nonino. It was already powerful
stuff. Come summer, the crowds will be on their feet. It was so reminiscent of the 2003 closer, which to this day still gives me goosebumps! I was imagining what the visual program would look like with this passionate music. Hmmmm.

During the afternoon, I got to see a whole bunch more people that make Phantom Regiment so special. Barb Schantzen, who works in souvenirs, arrived. So did volunteer coordinator Barb Janowski, who brought a heaping plate of some of the best Christmas cookies ever made. Becky Nelson, who’s in charge of the corps’ food operations, was there. So was Matt Leide, who
handles the corps’ member sponsorship program. It was worth the trip out to Illinois just to see these people and the other folks I’ve mentioned. Hearing the music and seeing the members was the icing on the cake.

After dinner, the corps assembled in the gym for a
movement block. Jude Boughton first worked with the corps on some basic movement exercises. The corps will again be using a lot of movement this year to complement the music. After the exercises, the corps did some basic marching techniques. I winced in pain just from watching euphonium players hold their horns up for the length of time they did. I guess it’s
important to develop arm strength to be able to hold up a horn for so long! During this time I had another nice chat with Dr. Dan. He explained to me that the term “apasionada” means a passionate moment, and that the entire show is built around passion – I was imaging how passionate it’d be in June, July and August. Judging by what I heard, it’ll be fantastic. I
also pressed him for information about what the “874” in the show title means. I’ve got my own theories, and I’ve seen many others. Let’s just say that it’s a well-kept secret.

The corps then took part in a 15-minute run around the gym. As the place was beginning to have the aroma of a 15-minute run, I left to catch the end of the meeting that Pat was having with assembled parents. After the run, Pat had a meeting with the corps, describing the tour, the progress of the off-season initiatives and
the impending weather. Since I had an early afternoon flight, and it was supposed to snow, I wasn’t going to be at camp on Sunday, so I said my goodbyes and went to my hotel. I got to O’Hare early the next day and caught an earlier flight – and avoided any serious delays due to the snow. Just the same, I was sad to miss Sunday’s rehearsal and sad to leave my friends behind. And I was sad I’d miss the Sunday night SugarBowl party at Pat’s house. He’s an LSU alum, so I
would have loved to share the victory with him. But then again, I don’t know if I’d be ready for a second date with Buster!

I hoped that my visit would cure me of my drum corps itch. To the contrary, I’m so much more excited about this year that I can’t wait until I’ll be in town again. There are some really special things happening in Rockford this year! As I was waiting in the airport to see if I could get on that earlier flight, I started thinking about “apasionada” and my passions. I suspect that I’d have a similar experience with any corps, but I’ve really developed a passion for the Phantom Regiment organization. Not just the product that the corps puts on the field, but the
organization, the family. Here’s a person from
Pennsylvania, geographically inconvenient to Rockford, to say the least, with a lot of interest, a little talent, and some time. I asked to be involved and I’ve been. I’ve been put to work. I ve been made to feel welcome and valued, I ve had a blast doing it, and I do it on behalf of great kids who work their tails off to have the experience of a lifetime. It’s addictive
and so special, and I’m lucky to be a part of it in my own small way. I always wish I could do more and that geography and finances don’t get in the way. The folks in the phamily know how I feel about them and I’m looking forward to seeing them in April, if not sooner.

I rushed home from the airport and put my copy of the corps’ 2003 DVD into my player and had a blast, well into the evening and well past my bedtime. It’s a great product and I encourage anyone who loved the 2003 show and wants a unique memento of it to order one from the Phantom Regiment online store. It’s worth every penny!

Well, I’ve rambled enough about my experience this
January. It was a great time, and I’m certainly
anxious to see the progress the corps will make by
April. To the entire Phantom Regiment Phamily, thanks so much for a great visit!