River City Regiment performs at Sacramento Jazz Festival

by Michael Carlson, DCW staff

To most drum corps, Memorial Day weekend means long, hot hours of rehearsals. For the River City Regiment senior corps, however, it means more than nine performances within the span of four days.

In its short history, the local corps has become a mainstay of the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee. Throughout the day the corps fills the packed streets of Old Sacramento with sweet jazz standards and pounding new drum corps arrangements.

“I tell our folks that the purpose of these performances are to get past the notes and reach out and touch someone in the crowd — make them feel what you feel,” said Mike Phillips, RCR board of directors president and contra player.

Corps director Glenn Disney started working the senior corps idea in 2000. “I saw my first (drum corps) show in 1992 and thought, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have a senior corps in Sacramento?’ ” he said.

By 2001 rehearsals started, and by the spring of 2002 the River City Regiment was competing on the DCI-Pacific circuit. Disney said with a laugh, “For not having any previous drum corps background, I was able to take this from idea to corps within two years.”

And the secret to his success? “Having the right people in the right places is what does it,” he said.

The first year, however, was not without mishaps. The corps was originally called the Capital Regiment. “I knew nothing about drum corps and the other divisions. We had the Web site up and T-shirts made, and then I get this note from Rick (Bays). He was not mad, but made a suggestion that it would really help him out if we changed out name.”

Thus the name River City Regiment.

Last year the corps gained a lot of attention, not so much for being an exciting new senior corps, but for something they did on the field.

Phillips came up with the idea to recite the Pledge of Allegiance just before stepping off the line.

“I did it for two reasons,” explained Phillips. “First, to recognize the patriotic roots of drum corps — something I take very seriously — and next, as a statement regarding the Sacramento court case against using “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. But more importantly, it showed crowds what we stand for.”

The concept was a big hit with the audiences, who often shouted out, “under God” while joining the corps in reciting the American pledge.

“At first it was perceived as a political statement,” noted Disney. “But we received an overwhelming positive response from the crowds.”

Although limiting their first-year competition to six shows, the Sacramento corps showed a growing trend of closing the gap with the West Coast senior powerhouse, the Renegades.

To get RCR through its first competitive year some simple goals were established. First, set a high performance standard. Next, develop a collective personality that defined the organization. And last, provide an exciting performance that grabbed the crowd’s attention.

According to Phillips, “We exceeded our own expectations. Plus, we gained respect from the judging community. We showed them we can deliver a consistent quality performance and we listened to what they had to say. Also, we set a strong work ethic for ourselves that is paying dividends this season.”

The Sacramento corps has gone through a number of changes since last year, and all of them are positive.

“For one, the corps has doubled in size from last year,” noted Tracy Freeman, the corps’ visual designer and board of directors vice president. “And the color guard has tripled in size.”

Disney added, “Most of last year’s battery returned and will have a very strong program this year. Also, we have a dedicated instruction staff this year. Last year they had instructor duties as well as had to meet the performance requirements. The performance quality is still the same. We set high standards for quality and it’s still there within this year’s players.”

This year the corps is planning to step off the line with 26 brass, 15 percussion, 10 color guard and two drum majors.

Although flavoring competitive performances with neo-classical and jazz, the senior corps has an appreciation for all styles of music. But their primary direction, explained Phillips, is for “quality, challenging music whatever the style.”

This year’s production, “The Elements” opens with…

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