By Pat Seidling

Sure, folks south of Paducah may wonder why we’re so excited about being outdoors in February, but come on, it’s northern Illinois and Saturday was near 60 degrees! Not to mention that at our last camp – a mere four weeks ago – it was 10 below zero and a foot of snow was on the ground. Yes, basics in the sunshine at a February camp is a rare thing indeed!

This past weekend we held our February camp at Keith School, snuggled in a beautiful wooded neighborhood in central Rockford. The brass, battery and pit were in for the weekend and, once again, we had nearly 100% attendance, with only 1 percussionist out and more than 70 brass in house all weekend.

The theme of the weekend was “There is no such thing as an unimportant day.” Yes, it may be the dead of winter, mid-terms are near and school demands overwhelming, and yes, DCI finals (not to mention tour itself) seem a lifetime away. But it is NOW that the real work gets done. This camp was about detail work. Lots of sectionals, lots of visual basics, lots of concentrated efforts on ensemble sections, lots of social bonding and work on the summer such as uniform fitting and physical exams.

Friday night began with sectional work – brass started off with Breathing Gym techniques and the drummers were given the drum solo section, which now completes their book. Barb G, Mary K and the wardrobe team continued fitting uniforms while Becky, Nadine and the food crew put together a snack for after practice. Barb S, Peg and Mouse had a nice welcome area set-up with souvies to browse and cookies to share. Friday night at camp is also a time to meet new friends and catch up with old – chatting and gossip went late into the evening.

Saturday morning came and it was straight to visual for the brass, while percussion continued in sectionals. Bob Smith and his visual team used the morning session to really attend to details, starting with a bit of “classroom” time, looking over drill charts, making sure that all are familier with various terms and know how to read a drill chart and write a dot book. They even took time to read through the criteria on the back of a field visual judge’s sheet to see exactly what it is that defines various achievement levels. They then moved on to work through movement basics and marching fundamentals.

After lunch the brass split up, with the upper voices heading a mile away to St. James School and the low brass staying back at Keith. Being in smaller groups allowed the staff to give serious attention to individuals during this basics session. The low brass were the first to take advantage of the unusual weather and spent the afternoon outside. Having been indoors since November, it seemed just plain weird to be standing on grass watching the corps rehearse!

Throughout the day the corps medical team – Dr. Val Kupferer, Dr. Tom Kupferer and Dr. Dan Richardson – gave physicals to all in attendance. This is an annual event, and it helps the members identify their physical strengths and shortcomings, as well allows the corps to make sure all are truly ready to take on the physical challenges of a summer of drum corps. Dr. Val and Dr. Tom are “former” parents and are always fun to have around, be it “doctorin” to the members or just sharing a few laughs! Dr. Dan … well, it just wouldn’t be Phantom Regiment without him, it’s that simple.

Saturday evening was back to music emphasis, though the battery did do a solid visual block with Bob and team, then spent the rest of the night in full line ensemble. Saturday ended with a brief meeting, then meatball subs and some more “hang time” with friends. A couple guard girls even made an apearance!

Sunday is always a fast day, but certainly the highlight for many as we put the music ensemble togather and work through the charts in a pretty detailed way. No exception this Sunday. It was 60 degrees by 11 a.m., and we really wanted to set up outdoors, but with the breeze and music stands still being used, it seemed more trouble than it was worth. So, with the corps arced up in the gym, the staff, led by Dan Farrell, Paul Rennick and Kevin Rabon, got to woodshedding through the complete music book.

Ensemble is also fun because so many friends, parents and fans show up, some we don’t see often, and today was no exception. We even saw Ali, Lindsay K, Nikki and Tara from the guard – a very pleasant surprise indeed!

I claim to be a bit of a drummer, but in no way count myself as a trained musician. At rehearsals I simply watch the team work. My music tastes and opinions are that purely of a fan. Now, with that being said, feel free to take this as an uneducated opinion from a proud fan, but … I think the music is absoluletly moving. “Oblivian” will certainly join the ranks of legendary Regiment pieces such as “Elsa’s,” Lord’s Prayer” and “Fire.”

Camp ended at 1 p.m., clean-up chores were assigned, and off we went. Loading was so much nicer today – in summer-like weather – than last camp, when just staying alive was a challenge! The old equipment semi is about to be no more, so we loaded into 3 differant trucks, and even got to roll out our new 53-foot trailer (that in 14 months will be transformed into our new food rig).

Goodbyes were said, driver extraordinaire Bob Joosten had the airport shuttles riders on their way and the school doors were locked. I drove the last of the loading crew to their bus stop and we hung out at Burger King until their bus came. As I type this, six members that are taking a Monday flight are in my basement family room eating pizza and watching the Legacy DVDs. I hope they left me a slice, and I’m going to make them watch the 1976 DVD whether they want to or not.

Our next camp is March 26-28 at Beloit HS, where we will be learning drill…and maybe even marching and playing a bit.

One last thing: drum corps is a special way of life, and after a camp ends it’s nice to reflect on all the special people that make this thing go. This year’s members are a pretty cool group of young people, and so are all the folks who drive, sew, sell, teach, cook, doctor and manage here.

Thank you all, and see ya in March. Pat