It wasn’t exactly under the best of circumstances that Jordan Kaiser found the inspiration for 7th Regiment’s recent team-building initiative.
Last summer, while touring with a drum corps at the World Class level, Kaiser had her cell phone stolen.
For about a week until it was recovered, Kaiser said she found herself stumbling upon some surprising realizations — including how little she truly knew about her fellow corps members.
“I didn’t realize that I was always on my phone until it wasn’t in my hand,” she said. “And I was like, ‘Wow, I don’t know anyone.’ And I kind of spent the week moping, but also trying to make friends and trying to find people whose phones I could use to call my mom, stuff like that.
“And unfortunately when I got the phone back, I just went back to the way that I was,” Kaiser said. “I was in my phone the entire time.”
Fast forwarding to this summer, Kaiser returned to the organization in which she marched as a member from 2012 through 2016, 7th Regiment, to take over as their social media coordinator.
After the first couple of days of the corps’ spring training rehearsals, she started to notice similarities to her own experiences in some of the members when it came to how they spent their time off the field.
“By day two, the meals were kind of quieter than they were the first day,” Kaiser added. “I noticed that the same groups of people were sitting in the same seats, doing the same things, scrolling through their phones, chuckling, and if they thought something was really funny, they’d show it to the person next to them.”
Thus, the corps’ #BlueandBlackout — a play on the corps’ color scheme — was born. Essentially, Kaiser, alongside operations manager Bianca Doone, had the idea to have all of the corps members take a break from technology by turning off and turning in their phones for a day.
Doone brought the idea to corps director Kevin Lowery, expecting him to be hesitant. He was much the opposite.
“I thought he was going to say, ‘No, that’s dumb,’” Kaiser said. “He loved it, and we ended up doing it.”
Remember that box from before? It was for something called #blueandBLACKOUT. All participating members handed in their phones for the day to experience drum corps without technology. We hope that this will help our members see things #InaDifferentLight!! pic.twitter.com/eLMDtB9cWU— 7th Regiment (@7thRegiment) June 26, 2018
However, when the idea was first announced to the corps members during a full-corps meeting the night of June 25, there was some initial uncertainty, as color guard performer Shannon Gilhuly attested.
“People kind of just accepted it, because we knew it was happening,” Gilhuly said. “So at first there was a little hesitation, but definitely as the day went on, we really got into it.”
Prior to their breakfast the next day, members took selfies and set them as their lock screen wallpapers, for the sake of identification, before placing their cell phones in a box at the beginning of their food line.
Over the several hours that followed, staff member began to notice some positive differences almost immediately.
“I saw a lot of color guard members with a bunch of brass player and drum line members. I didn’t see this intermingling prior to that day,” Kaiser said. “Bianca and I were walking around and just observing, like it was a science experiment. Bianca said that she noticed that the meals were louder, because everyone was actually talking to each other.”
From the perspective of Gilhuly, as a member, #BlueandBlackout opened her up to meeting people from other sections and social circles over meals. She mentioned that, in the days since, she’s continued getting to know those people because of those initial interactions.
“We’re a smaller corps, so I definitely recognize people by face, but I didn’t necessarily know all of their names,” she said. “I sat with brass, battery, pit members, and i just had some of the greatest conversations ever, because no one was on their phones, tuning out of the conversation. Everyone was engaged.”
In the short time corps members were asked not to access their phones, there really only ended up being one issue with the lack of connectivity — somewhat of an insignificant one in the grand scheme of the exercise.
“It was actually kind of funny, I was talking to one of the pit members, and she was lamenting that they couldn’t tell what time it was because they always rely on their phones for that,” Doone added. “Other than the little bit of chaos with that, I think the whole day was just a lot more entertaining, to watch their interactions during meals, and I think it was really beneficial to the corps.”
And even when the blackout came to an end and phones were redistributed to their owners, Doone noticed the level of socialization throughout the corps carrying over into the following days.
“I definitely saw that even after we gave the phones back, and the next day, we saw that they were still intermingling, and maybe not staring at their phones as much during meals,” she said. “I thought overall it was a great experience for everybody.”