The whole corps is together tonight. First time since…well…since auditions now that I think about it! Each winter camp is specialized – music, or visual – and with the guard running their own December camp and then off until after WGI, and the front line not in for the late winter drill camps, we haven’t seen the entire corps in one place since November. Tonight was a lot of fun for that fact alone. I’ve been here 5 seasons now, and a lot of the members have been here with me for most of that time. They inspire and motivate me, and just as anytime that one meets an old friend again, it’s nice. Tonight was nice.

This is also when nearly all the support staff folks come in – food crew, sewing crew, many of our drivers, of course the teaching staff and management team, and soon enough the souvie crew too. All have become friends I count on and have grown to care about, so it’s nice to see them again. This corps has always had a large support staff, and this year is no different: LOTS of folks around, and sadly we can’t take them all on tour, but at least there’s always room for everyone when we’re in spring training!

We hooked up the food truck tonight and served our first “food truck meal of the year” (due to facility restrictions and Illinois weather, we don’t use the food rig at any winter camps), that itself was fun and certainly cemented the idea that summer is finally here! Even though we could see our breath while standing in the food line…

This past week was a first-ever venture for us: a “pre-move in” event, where each section spent a week just on their own, in intense work sessions. Dan Farrell (program coordinator) and I were talking tonight and both agreed that it was a phenomenal success. Not only did great work get done, but the bonding within the sections and among their respective staff teams was truly special.

Last night the brass played a show for the guard, and in turn the guard performed bit for the brass. It was cool – just great kids sharing their talents with each other. Not only are we way further along than we’ve ever been at this time, but there certainly is a special “vibe” among the members.

The drum line rolled in from Texas a little after 6 pm today. Great bunch of guys (and 5 gals too!) and it’s clear they’re in great shape this season. Not only have they been at all the Rockford camps, but since most are in the Dallas area, they’ve also been drumming practically every weekend since January as a nearly-full line. It shows. Paul Rennick has long been one of the drum-world leaders, and now in his third season here this drum program is firing on all cylinders. I’m an old drummer; it was good to hear the line again.

I know I can be pretty swift with the hyperbole, and thus I could easily rave about how good, loud, fast, creative or genius-like the corps is right now – and maybe even yell that the whole world better look out. But…that’s not necessary and perhaps even a little beneath the dignity of what Regiment has stood for these nearly 50 years. Rest assured this year’s Regiment is as great as any before. And regardless, you’ll decide for yourself what you think, right? So, let me just share what we’re doing.

This week will focus on learning drill and putting it with the music. We’ll do that through June 5, then breifly re-focus on music in preparation for our June 7 concert in mid-town Rockford, then get back out on the drill field to get ready for Dress Rehearsal on June 12. We do have a parade Monday morning in Rockford and tonight we spent an hour or so making sure we knew how to march one of those parade thingys!

In essence, most days are up at 8 am, visual sessions morning and afternoon, ensemble work in the evening. Maybe a post-rehearsal meeting now and then, interspersed with a parade or concert or social time. That’s Spring Training in a nutshell!

On a side note, 2006 is our 50th anniversary. You’ll hear more about that this fall. Anyway, we’re producing a full-length DVD documentary on the history of the corps – nearly 2 years in the making by the time it’s done. You’ll see photos and film footage going as far back as 1956. Since January we’ve been interviewing many of the legendary folks behind this great corps – Jim Wren, Dave Kisting, Bob Lendman, Ron Schulz and Tim Farrell to name a few. Last night I had the pleasure of sitting through an interview with our old friend Michael Cesario.

I’m certain most of you reading this are familiar with Mike’s work and passion in drum corps. If not, just pop in a DCI DVD sometime. Mike was deeply involved for many years with this corps, going back to the early 1980’s and right on through our championship season of 1996. As he does with all the corps he gets involved with, Michael throws as much passion and energy as anyone ever could. He certainly did here for many, many years. It was great to hear him share a few anecdotes and to hear some background stories behind some of those seminal Regiment moments. I tell ya – hearing him talk through that 1996 “Defiant Heart” show made me want to run home and pop that DVD in right then! Thanks Mike – it was good to see you back in “The Rock” again!

Next week we’re sitting Marty Hurley down for an interview. Marty Hurley is a member of several Hall of Fames, and as a drum instructor during the 1970’s and right on into the early 1990’s, he led the way on integrating symphonic percussion writing while staying true to the roots of rudimental playing. The man behind Bleu Raeders only trip into DCI finals (thanks to his drum line), he then did the same for Belleville Black Knights. His addition here in 1976 made an impact that still resonates today. Not only am I thrilled to get to hear him tell some great stories, he’s also going to teach at our Snare Drum Camp and even spend some time meeting our current drum line!

I’m a drum corps history NUT, and being at a corps like Phantom Regiment, with so much great drum corps history attached to it, is like being a kid locked in a candy store after hours!

So…for today…the members are all in, working hard, having fun and looking good. And what really makes this so special is that our friends are here – even some of those from yesterday.

Another “Summer of Phantom Regiment” has begun!


Check out Pat’s earlier Spring Training reports at the links below.