River City Regiment has big plans for 2004 season

by Michael Carlson, DCW staff

There comes a time when a group must take a step back in order to proceed two steps forward. This type of organizational maneuver provides the opportunity to regroup and solidify the organization without losing forward momentum. At the close of last season, Sacramento’s River City Regiment realized they needed a pause to reflect on who they are and their vision for the future.

“At the end of 2003, there were organizational changes to the board and the operations committee due to personal commitments, which led to the departure of several key members that were here when the corps started. Glenn Disney, the founder of RCR, moved to the Board President position.

This was a good move for Glenn as it allows RCR to work toward his long term vision for the future,” explains Director Tracy Freeman. “As a result of those changes, the board and operations committee, along with the creative staff, took a step back and evaluated where we were and where we wanted to go,” he added.

The adjustment to direction and goals, however, brought turnover in membership. The four-year-old corps suddenly found itself on a very difficult road. Fortunately, they discovered their efforts to       survive through the upcoming season gave them the building blocks for a stronger future.

“We revamped the goals for the immediate future and are building a three-year plan that will be updated annually. In addition, we changed the focus of our show for 2004 to allow the audience to enjoy familiar drum corps tunes and we tapped some well-known drum corps arrangers in the Sacramento area for expertise and input to the show,” said Freeman.

“RETROFIT 2004” is a fitting title for the music and attitude this year.  In the past, the music of RCR has been a fusion of jazz and neo-classical. This year, however, is straight-ahead jazz using the arrangements of Jim Ott and John Zimny.

“Bill Collins on our staff has ties back to the old Commodores organization and was very close to Jim Ott. He was able to acquire some of Jim’s scores for us to play as part of our standstill/mini corps repertoire . . . we will be using Jim’s arrangement of Spanish Fantasy in our 2004 show.”
John Zimny, known for his work with the Freelancers and the Chicago Royal Airs Alumni Corps, has also assumed the duties of the Sacramento corps’ brass caption head.

“We are pleased that John has agreed to work with RCR. He is a great addition to the staff, not only for his musical arranging abilities, but his knowledge of the activity and his instructional talent. John is bringing out musicality and performance of the brass line.”

Zimny’s arrangements include You Are the Sunshine of My Life, Minuano and he co-arranged the closer, Tower of Power Suite, with Bill Collins.

Although the Sacramento corps is one of the smaller competing senior corps, they pack volumes of excitement throughout their 11 minutes on the field. As a result, they have built up a solid following of fans that are easy to hear in a crowded stadium.

“We want fans to be able to walk out the stadium after a show, or after seeing us perform at standstills, and be able to hum our music. We want them to tap their feet while listening to us. We are here to entertain and have fun as an organization,” Freeman continued.

The corps returns for its third annual appearance at the very popular Sacramento Jazz Jubilee. “We love the Jazz Jubilee and they love drums corps,” says Freeman with a smile. Last year the corps gave nine performances over a four-day period.

“We have some jazz tunes that we play/jam at the Jubilee and we have a standing event on Monday morning at their largest venue (Cal Expo) to provide jazz and play God Bless America.”
Last year the Santa Clara Vanguard conducted a weekend camp at a local high school and performed on Monday morning with the senior corps at Cal Expo. To close out the short standstill, the two corps got together on stage for a heart-warming finale.

Freeman went on to say, “It was really moving to see the older folks in the audience stand up and sing to the two corps playing God Bless America, not to mention the goose bumps I get when I see combined horn lines belting out GBA.”

This spring the Sacramento group will sponsor a “Battle of the Screamers” competition, open to the crème de la crème from junior and senior corps. The contest will have two categories of competition — soloists and quartets.

“Well, that was an idea brought to the corps by De [Smith] (vice president of the board) with the idea of giving horn players a place to show their wares,” explains Freeman. “Percussion lines have the WGI forum all winter and the horn players are learning the book for the upcoming season. What better place than a battle of screamers to see how well they are prepared for the 2004 season . . . besides, soloists love the spotlight,” the RCR director proclaimed.

The competition is scheduled for Saturday, May 22, from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM at California State University – Sacramento. Further information can be found on the corps’ Web site, www.rivercityregiment.org.

Other staff changes this year include Dan Hudson as the brass caption head, who along with Paul Marr is writing the percussion book, and Rodney Smith is writing the pit arrangements. In addition to his duties as percussion tech, Jason Kelley is taking on the additional role of staff coordinator.
“Dan has worked several top-12 DCI corps and is currently splitting his time between RCR and the Freelancers winter drum line,” according to Freeman.

Cecile Freeman returns as guard caption head and has four local guard technicians (Bruce Hugeley, Betty Ford, Colleen Mendoza and Melinda Gong) who are hard at work building on last year’s performance level.

Paul Mendoza and David Trujillo comprise this year’s visual staff.

“Paul will be writing drill and David will be teaching drill and marching technique,” says Freeman.

So, what’s on the road ahead for RCR?

“We will continue to attract local talent and build a strong infrastructure while giving talented   people an opportunity to perform. We are currently scheduled to do 11 shows in California this year and a couple of standstills and parades. A five-day tour to Southern California with the division II/III corps before the head to Denver will cap our season off.”

There is also a chance they will send a mini-corps to the DCA Championships this fall.
But, “with everything that has transpired . . . I am staying focused on this summer and meeting the short term goals that will ultimately lead to a significant representation by the corps at DCA in 2005,” concluded Freeman.

The challenges of a few months ago are now pages for the history books. River City Regiment is an organization of creative passion and a definite focus on a brighter future.