What a very special summer this was! Friends keep asking me “Glad you’re home?”. Well…no, not really. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely missed my wife, and I missed my dogs too, but this summer was really one of those a guy didn’t want to end. In my 32 years on the road only a few have been like this, but it’s true. On finals night – call me selfish – but I really didn’t want to dismiss the corps.

Why? I suspect most would say it must be because of the incredible competitive success of the season. Top 3 “with a bullet” as they say. True, that was exciting, we’ve worked hard to get the corps back to that status. Remember, Phantom Regiment has been in finals 32 consecutive years, and fully half of those we’ve been in the top 4, and in nine of those years we’ve been in the top 3. It’s not new territory for this organization, but it has been a while. Top 3? Yes, that was all nice, but not the reason 2005 was so special.

What made it all so special were the members.

Absolutely, positively the best group of young people I have ever been honored to tour with. That’s a big statement, I know. I hope we can say that again next year, and the year after. I bet we will, because a great membership like this sets the tone for years to come – by the example set to the youngest members and by setting the standards and expectations that will now be known as “just how we do things here”.

I sensed all along that this would be a great group – the maturity and experience level on the field was pretty deep. But something special was added in: the Phantom Regiment members this season bought in. They bought into the staff, the show and the team. They bought into the rules, obligations and standards that the corps (heck, society) expects. They bought into the responsibility they have to Phantom Regiment’s legacy and history. They were selfless, they worked as a team, they cared for each other and they simply enjoyed drum corps. It was a pleasure to behold. Thank you, Regiment. SUTA.

It takes a village. That statement couldn’t be more true than in drum corps. Great corps have great people behind them, and Phantom Regiment has never had a shortage of good people. This year was no exception, except maybe just more-so.

Let’s start with a teaching team of true professionals. All amazing artists and master teachers now at the top of their game. To see them all quickly become great friends was so cool…even the morning staff meetings were fun! The laughs and smiles could kick-start each day better than even a cup of Starbuck’s best. The respect they held for each other and their sincere desire to give the members the best possible opportunity for success was inspiring and humbling. Like the 2005 membership, this staff team has set a tone for many years of greatness here, of that I am certain. I can’t wait for the first camp!

The support staff…what can be said that hasn’t? Keeping these kids well fed, in clean and well-tailored uniforms, delivering them safe and sound to the next town, making sure their health care needs are met, making sure we’re funded and the doors stay open, keeping the fans and alumni informed, in touch and in great gear – you all did it, and did it with heart. I stood back one day and watched the corps at meal time. Here’s what I saw: Members walk up to the food truck and are greeted with a smile – and by name! – at the serving window, while the drivers sat in lawn chairs and shared a good word as each went by, the sewing crew was searching out members who needed tailoring while one of our doctors was checking up on that kid with a sore throat and the souvie crew was loading up to head to the stadium early. I get a phone call from a Board member checking in to see how the tour was going and an alumni and a booster both just stopped by to wish us well. Now THAT’S a family! How could these kids go wrong with a huge family like that behind them?

So…if you drove, cooked, sewed, sold, sent in money, fixed equipment, wished us well or did anything that insured that the members of Phantom Regiment had the best possible experience this year, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Icing on the cake? It had to be the fans in the stands. From dress rehearsal on one could sense that the fans were digging the show. From the various website posts to the many emails and letters full of praise to the growing crowds at each show and all the way on to that standing ovation during grand finale on finals night – the fans made this season fun! You all made getting out on that practice filled each morning so much easier! On behalf of the entire organization, in the most sincerest way, we want to thank you for your enthusiastic support. We hope we gave you your money’s worth!

Also on behalf of the entire organization, let me publicly thank the people, companies and organizations that helped make sure Phantom Regiment made it out for this incredible season:

Our endorser partners, thank you: Pearl Corporation, KING Brass/Conn-Selmer, Inc., Adams Percussion, Stanbury Uniforms, Zildjian, The Band Hall, Directors Showcase, Remo, Inc, Innovative Percussion, TreeWorks, Shure and JBL, StickTape.com and GuardTape.com. The best gear, no doubt. Trust us on this one.

Thank you Booster Club members, members of the Board of Directors, the contributors to our annual campaigns, the Ambassador Program supporters and the Alumni Association – you make ALL the difference.

To our local community, especially the Rockford Register-Star, Leaf River Lions, Rockford College, Beef-aroo and Backyard Grill, Process Graphics, the Kiwanis Club of Rockford and the many businesses who support our efforts, we extend our sincere thanks. Rockford is our home, and we work hard to bring a good name to this great community.

To the schools who support us at home and on tour – thank you! The many band directors, principals, custodians and athletic directors who welcome us into their buildings or trust us with their students (be it as members of the corps or at our educational camps or marching band show)…you are truly valued. Your friendship means a lot to myself and your efforts are a big part of our success. Thank you and please know that you are appreciated!

We wish to extend our sincere gratitude to the staff and volunteers of Drum Corps International. So many of you have become good friends and we know all of you work out of a sincere love for this activity. Thanks for making sure this generation of young people get to have this experience. It’s probably hard to sense sometimes, but you are appreciated. To my colleagues on the DCI Board, thank you for your mentorship, patience and friendship.

On a personal note, I need to thank Tim Farrell and Dan Farrell for standing beside, behind…and occasionally in front of..me. A wise and good friend once said “leadership is humbling”, and believe me, I’ve been humbled a lot these past years, and maybe moreso this year than any. It’s a crazy job and one’s humanness is out there for all to see. Tim and Dan, you guys are the unsung heroes here. Thank you.

Now..I fear I may have missed someone along the way here, for that please accept my apologies – and I hope this all didn’t come off as patronizing – because it could not be more heartfelt or sincere. Phantom Regiment is proud to have your support. The 2005 season will go down as one of our finest – and it’s all due to 137 very special young people and a whole lot of dedicated adults.

Sooo….what’s in store for 2006? In many ways, just more of the same. We certainly seem to have our design and teaching team in place now. Don’t look for any juicy gossip or news as to staff changes here…you won’t find it. These folks are the best in the business. To steal an over-used sports page cliche, “all the pieces are in place”.

The membership seems excited for another year (most share my sentiment about not wanting the season to end!) and the applications are rolling in at an all-time fast pace. After a serious look at tackling a European tour in 2006 we’ve decided to stay in the USA for our 50th anniversary. We’ll surely go “over there” someday, but these next 12 months will see us staying in the colonies. Come check us out, won’t you?

Hey, two new DVDs coming this winter…another “On the Road” celebrating the 2005 season, and a very special 50th Anniversary production that includes interviews of many Regiment greats (Jim Wren and Marty Hurley to name just two)and footage and photos going back to that first corps of 1956.

This is cool: our drum line will be a featured act at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in early November in Columbus, Ohio.

The show? Well…we promise not to make you wait any longer than you need to…but you’ll have to give us a little more time. Each of the last 8 years we have topped the previous one, and I think we have our finger on a great one for 2006. You’ll just have to keep checking into Regiment.org now, won’t you?

Thanks for a great 2005. And on second thought, I am glad to be home, because the 2006 tour is only nine months away!