by Judd Williams, DCW staff
July 30, 2003 — As the Phantom Regiment of Rockford/Loves Park, IL, heads into the home stretch of the 2003 season, DCW caught up with some of the instructors and members who are helping to make the “Harmonic Journey” a very memorable one with audiences across America.
As a contest reporter for the past nine years, I try to keep myself out of the story and just give you a decent description of what’s going on. This interview, however, was too much fun for me to keep myself out of it.
I marched with the 1992 Regiment horn line. With all great corps, there is a certain amount of continuity that must be maintained with the instructional staff to ensure a promising future. My three interview victims, uh, subjects, are all long-time devoted PR members-turned-instructors. I admire and respect each of these individuals and was honored to spend a few moments with them.
In his first year as brass caption head, 29-year-old Kevin Rabon has been with the corps over a decade and is now privileged to direct the horn line that recently won the brass caption at DCI Midwest in Indianapolis.
Drum Corps World: This horn book, written by J.D. Shaw, sounds really complex. What are some moments that a first time listener might miss if you weren’t paying close attention.
Kevin Rabon: I don’t think there’s anything to miss. Everything is so transparent. In the Canon opener, the body movements are designed and orchestrated so that the melody can be followed around the field, from the trumpets to the mellos and so on. It’s easy for the eyes and ears to follow what is going on. The segues and transitions work together really well this year.
DCW: Is this show strong enough to win it all?
KR: We’ve talked to Michael Cesario several times. He said “clean it, and you’ve got a shot.” You know something’s going right for you if he says that. Our guard is strong. Paul Rennick has led our percussion to a new level, also. Win or not, this year has been a lot of fun.
DCW: How’s the leadership of the organization these days?
KR: Our director, Pat Seidling, runs an incredibly tight ship. The people he’s hired and the way he runs the organization — very professional. When he says he’ll do something, that’s what he does.
DCW: Now Kevin, I have received an e-mail from Mike Miceli (trumpet player handling the corps‚ online journal this season) and he has asked if I have any dirt on you from your early days (Kevin and I were rookies together and lived in the same house before going on tour). Should I tell him what I know?
KR: Please don’t.
Next up was visual caption head, Bob Smith. A man of few words, unless he’s telling a euphonium player his step style stinks, Smith keeps his answers to the point.
DCW: What’s different in this year’s visual program?
Bob Smith: Lots of things. Mainly the body movement. We’re trying to take it to a new level, with ballet movements and aggressive poses while playing some really tough music. We’re maintaining our traditions, though. We still stand at attention in third position.
DCW: You were a marching tech on the field for many years. How has it been, standing on the scaffolding instead of being right in the kids‚ faces, telling them how they screwed up the last set?
BS: Oh, I still tell them if they screwed up the last set, I just have to do it with the microphone and keep it PG. There’s more responsibility up there, looking at the whole picture, but its still fun.
DCW: Do the kids still have a love/hate relationship with you?
BS: Before or after our morning death block?
An ominous, intimidating shadow passed over my shoulder and I knew who had come to see me: Darth, I mean Dan Farrell, program coordinator. This man was a member of the legendary baritone lines of the 1970s and has since taught most of the monstrous bellowing bari lines of Regiment lore.
DCW: Is there a big difference for you being a coordinator instead of a brass instructor?
Dan Farrell: When I was doing the brass, I worked mostly with the corps members. Now I spend the majority of my time with the staff — putting the show together, managing their day-to-day efforts. In ensemble rehearsals, I don’t really do that much, just set the agenda, help direct traffic and let the instructors do their jobs.
DCW: Do you miss being the baritone god? Being one-on-one with your section?
DF: I do. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had in drum corps was being the baritone instructor. When you take on more responsibility, there’s certainly a lot of satisfaction and fulfillment involved, but it’s not as much fun. Being a baritone instructor is a little carefree. You just manage your 20 guys, teach ‘em to play their butts off, get the job done and everything’s great. When it comes right down to it, what’s really fun is working with the corps members.
DCW: Could you tell early on that this brass section was capable of winning a caption award or maybe a world title?
DF: When we began to put the elements together and started to hear and see what we had, it was special. We could tell that we had done something right. When we showed up in Toledo and put it on the field, it was pretty magical.
As I prepared to head to the show site, I took a moment to chat with Taylor Criswell, a first year Regiment baritone player. I asked him if he enjoyed being a part of the Phantom Phamily.
Taylor Criswell: At the end of the day, we (all DCI corps) are all entertainers. But, with Phantom, wherever we go, the crowd knows who we are. People show up to just watch us rehearse, just because it’s Phantom Regiment. You get out of drum corps what you put into to it — and we put a lot into it.