Phantom Regiment gears up for exciting summer

by Kelly Bitter, DCW assistant editor

Photo By Ron Walloch

May 24 marked the beginning of Phantom Regiment’s spring training schedule for the 2002 drum corps season. Memorial Day weekend was spent rehearsing at Rockford Christian School in Illinois and performing in parades in Loves Park and Rockford. The corps also sent 35 brass players to Chicago for a performance on Memorial Day, and the entire corps gave a concert at Harlem High School in Loves Park May 28.

On May 31, the corps moved to Beloit, WI, where they will remain until they depart on tour June 12.

The corps has been lucky enough to have good weather for most of its spring training, having had only two rain-out days (as of June 4) as opposed to the usual four or five from past years. Fortunately, the corps’ facilities at Beloit Memorial High School are well equipped for indoor rehearsals with a field house, an auditorium and gymnasiums.

According to Corps Director Pat Seidling, the corps’ biggest asset this year is the attendance rate, which has been at 100 percent at every camp, not counting the high school students who have to go back and forth between rehearsals and school. The corps still has alternates who have stuck out the winter.

Photo By Ron Walloch

One thing Seidling wants to focus on this year is making sure the visual package is up to par with the musical package. Seidling said although the corps is usually “consistent across the board,” last year’s show was stronger musically than visually.

Second-year member David Simon, 19, said the fact that the corps doesn’t sacrifice musical quality for visual aspects is one of the things he likes best about the corps. The corps’ classical repertoire and style of playing were the reasons he chose to join the Phantom Regiment.

“It’s more like an indoor setting,” he said. “They don’t want you to make ridiculous sounds on your instrument. It’s all about playing with style and finesse.”

Simon said this year’s show’s style is a little different than last year’s, with more “in-your-face” loud sections and drill movement, but the corps hasn’t lost it’s focus on the music.

“Right now we’re trying to find a delicate balance between how much you can move and still play well,” Simon said. “At Phantom Regiment I think the goal has always been first to play well. It’s all about the music, and the drill enhances what you play, so we’re trying to find the maximum we can do (combining the drill and the music).”

Brass caption head Peter Bond said rehearsals have been going well, and he cites the coordination of the brass staff as a factor in that.

“Everybody’s making an effort to be on the same page and stress the same things educationally,” he said. He said the brass instructors need to use the same language — or “buzz words” — to teach the music so they don’t contradict one another and the members will get a consistent message.

At this point in the season, Bond said it’s important to teach the basics of playing in order to set up for success later in the season. Once competition gets fierce, technique can’t be changed as easily.

Bond said he’s happy with the talent and “teachability” level of the members. He said that sometimes the more talented kids are difficult to teach because they’re less open to new ideas. At the same time, sometimes the kids who at first glance are not as talented can be taught, and the result can be a more consistent performing group.

This season, Bond is trying to create a little bit of a different sound that parallels his own experience.

“I’m a professional trumpet player, so I want to bring to bear some of the things that have helped me in my career,” he said. The goal is to create a unique, vibrant, colorful and dominant brass sound. Although the brass staff had a near-100 percent turnover since last season, there are several Phantom Regiment alumni on the staff. Bond said they want to reinforce the corps’ tradition as well as break new ground this year.

The musical aspect of the corps isn’t Phantom’s only success story so far this season; drill designer Johnny Sanchez said visual rehearsals have been successful as well.

“We’ve got a really talented corps this year and everyone’s working hard and they’re focused on where we’re going,” he said. “We’re all enjoying it.”

This year’s show is in four parts, or sketches, by Dmitri Shostakovich…