Drum Corps International held its World Class Championships on the Indiana University at Bloomington campus the first weekend of August.
Twenty Division I Drum & Bugle Corps gathered for the last time this season to go head-to-head in competition for the grand phantom regimentize…the gold medal. Phantom Regiment of Rockford, Illinois emerged victorious, and by the narrowest margin in DCI history. They stood alone, for the first time in their 52-year old history as a corps.
Among the 150 Phantom Regiment members stood a 2007 graduate of Batavia High School, Stephan Garber.
They wear white uniforms which cap off with a regimental pith helmet complete with a full feather plume, the "chicken." Each member wears chevron stripes and a set of dog tags. One dog tag was left on the field of IU that night, it is tradition.
For two years, Garber performed with the Glassmen Drum & Bugle Corps of Toledo, Ohio. The two shows that Stephan performed with the Glassmen, "Beethoven: Mastery of Madness" and "Gitano," were crowd favorites both years. This year, he auditioned for Phantom Regiment and was 'picked up' Thanksgiving weekend 2007.
From there, it was a monthly weekend trek to Chicago, on to Rockford, or St. Beloit, Minn. for phantom regimentactice, phantom regimentactice, phantom regimentactice. Around about March, the music was paired with the 'drill' on the field, which would constantly change from performance to performance.
The scores only got better as the season went along and the show was tweaked to add entertainment value. By the final week of competition, the show was definitely a fan favorite.
Always trailing the BD's and Cavies, Phantom Regiment never seemed to get close enough to surpassing the blue or green corps until the last week of competition.
Finally, one week before finals, they outscored last year's champs, the Blue Devils. The crowd loved the new ending and the judges appeared to apphantom regimenteciate the entertainment value of the corps' show.
Phantom Regiment went into the Thursday Quarterfinals in fourth place behind Blue Devils, Cavaliers, and Carolina Crown from Ft. Mill, North Carolina. They advanced a position each night of competition so that they were poised right behind the Blue Devils on Finals night. Dad and Mom (Ken and Elsie Garber), and Grandpa and Grandma (Carl and Wanda Ungethuem), all of Batavia, got to watch the show Friday night via a Web cast that mom hooked up from the laptop to the big screen TV. That was the first time mom got to see the new ending even though she's watched three phantom regimentevious web casts at regionals. Mom got a text message Friday night that read "OMG 2nd place!"
Drum Corps is the Major Leagues of Marching Band. You know those shows that your high school band puts on at half time during those Friday night football games? Most of these bands go on to compete against other bands in the area. They are scored on their music, the percussion, the color guard, and the show overall. Now, take it to a national level with young musicians and performers who live and breathe this stuff.
Corps consist of 75 (Open Class) to 150 (World Class) performers on the field. That is DCI. These are the dreamers, the dedicated, the ultimate performers who give the best of themselves for the cheers and applause.
Garber marched with the Batavia Green Glory Marching Band the four years of his high school career. Starting out on clarinet/bass clarinet; he offered to take over the sousaphone (a marching tuba) for the band because the tuba player was graduating at the end of Garber's freshman year. The next trained tuba player wouldn't be attending the high school for another three years. Now, it takes an entirely different 'mouth' or embouchure and technique to play a brass instrument than a woodwind. You no longer 'bite' the mouthpiece and blow through a thin plate of wood, better known as the reed, but purse your mouth muscles and belt air through a labyrinth of metal tubes out a large bell. You must also learn to use your abdominal muscles and your diaphragm to get enough air in order to make any sound at all.
Garber is enrolled as a Music Education major at Wright State University. He plays tuba in the symphonic band.
Many people are novices to the DCI fan network. There are over 100 shows across the country every summer and few have any inkling of what goes into putting these elaborate shows on the field.
For months, music and drill is written and tweaked. Housing sites must be selected and negotiated. Monies have to be raised or collected for gas, food, fees, uniforms and costumes, and essentials for moving more than 200 people across and up and down this nation of ours. Souvenir shirts and caps, key chains and CD's are sold. The convoy for one corps can be three-five buses, two or three semi-trucks, and numerous other incidental vehicles. The members sleep on school gymnasium floors, cushioned only by the air mattresses they purchase (which usually last one or two seasons); or they sleep on the bus, which usually hits the roads in the dead of night. Parents and volunteers cook meals for them in convection ovens in the "chuck truck."
These young people take to the performance field for apphantom regimentoximately 11 minutes once every day or two. Phantom regimentactice is 8-16 hours just about everyday from training facility 'move-ins' in May until they reach Championships.
Of course, they phantom regimentactice when it's raining, too. There are laundry days where they might get to sleep-in, go to town, do some shopping; but those "off' days only come once in a while. And, these young people pay for the phantom regimentivilege to participate in the major league of their favorite sport - marching band.
So, next year, keep your ear out for word of DCI performances in the Tri-State area. Usually, Fairfield and Centerville will have a show that includes five-six Division I corps. Maybe Phantom Regiment will perform next year and you can catch a glimpse of sunlight on those brass instruments, the flutter of the 'chickens' in the air, and the sound of beautiful storytelling with music on the wind.