David Simon of the Phantom Regiment
David Simon is one of two field conductors for the 2003 Phantom Regiment. Simon, 20, is from Austin, Texas, and attends Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He is a sophomore studying biology as a pre-med student, but plans to switch to a music education major.^He is a French horn player and graduated in 2001 from Leander High School outside of Austin, Texas. This will be his third year in the Phantom Regiment, having marched the past two summers on mellophone. His hobbies include mountain biking, skiing and aquariums. Simon took the time recently to answer several questions for DCI.org. We'll talk with Joey Bielik, the other Regiment conductor, and other corps' drum majors, in upcoming interviews. DCI.org: How does it feel to be a drum major for the Phantom Regiment? Simon: Incredible. For a while it was really surreal -- I came home from auditions and it really didn't hit me for a week or two. Now that's it's soaked in, I think I realize more and more every day just how much responsibility there is with the job. I'm very excited about this though, because that is precisely why I wanted the position -- to be able to make a bigger difference from within the organization.       DCI.org: Did you always strive to become a drum major? If not, when did you decide to
become one, and why? Simon: It was around 10th grade that I really decided I wanted to be drum major for my high school. Until then, I was just having fun marching, and I really enjoyed concert band. But I soon figured out that marching band is an important group activity where a significant amount of social development takes place, and I wanted to try to be able to get involved in my band surroundings and make a difference -- so I auditioned for the most influential leadership position. Then I got into drum corps. I absolutely LOVED marching and playing with Phantom Regiment, and it was very hard to decide to move from the field to the podium. But it's the ultimate destination for drum majors, getting the opportunity to perform with a group at DCI finals. DCI.org: In the winter, how do you prepare for the summer's drum major responsibilities? Simon: Well, it starts with SCORE STUDY. We try to take advantage of the "off-season" (even though school is pretty busy itself) by becoming as familiar as possible with what we'll be conducting. As the season draws nearer, we'll start putting together reminders for corps members of things they need to begin thinking about. We've also got to make sure we're in shape for uniform fittings that happen right after the holiday season -- ouch! DCI.org: How would you describe the drum major audition process? Simon: At Regiment, for the past couple of years, we have been doing something a little different. Instead of a flat-out "audition," where you might get up, conduct something, say a few words, and then wait for results, we have structured our audition weekend as a sort of conducting clinic. We spend lots of time conducting several exercises, and we get critique and suggestions from former conductors. We also spend time discussing various aspects of being in the position, and we really get a better feel for what we're getting into. Through observing our conducting in the group sessions, and evaluating what we say in a series of interviews, candidates are narrowed down until the two conductors are chosen. I am very pleased with the process for a number of reasons. It allows people who might just be "looking for the experience" of the audition to really get something out of it. It also gives the audition administrators ample time to become familiar with everyone's technique, instead of a one-shot deal where the pressure would be much greater. In addition, this puts the focus on conducting technique. Phantom Regiment conductors have traditionally focused on baton use and musical style. This helps to support the classical nature of the literature performed. Lastly, it's very important to note that Phantom Regiment opens its conducting auditions to anyone, whether they have marched with the corps or not. This enables the corps to pull from a larger pool of potential conductors, and gives opportunities to those who have not yet marched in Phantom Regiment or drum corps in general. DCI.org: Besides the Phantom Regiment, what are some of your other interests? Simon: It's important to form an appreciation for the arts in general, so I try to get out to do things like see exhibits, watch ballet, or hear a symphony orchestra. I like to keep aquariums, but it's proven a little too time-consuming during college to keep up anything very exciting (being gone all summer makes it difficult, too). I LOVE to snow ski, swim, and just lounge around the house, too. And recently I've gotten hooked on mountain biking -- it's a real rush to fly down a steep hill knowing you really couldn't stop if you wanted to. DCI.org: How would you describe the leadership and management of the Phantom Regiment? Simon: I am really impressed with the management skills of Pat Seidling. He isn't just a good manager, either. He is really great at motivating us with ideas of what it means to become more and more professional, in everything that we do. We are continually tightening down on our behavioral standards, our rehearsal etiquette, and our "image" for the public (But he also has made sure that we are having FUN, too). The rest of the staff over the past couple of years is also showing signs of strengthening cohesion. DCI.org: How would you describe the Regiment members? Simon: I love the opportunity to respond to this one. I am very sure that every corps has those members who are very dedicated to it, and love everything about it. It's unfair for me to say this without having marched at any other drum corps, but I do believe that Regiment's membership is one of the most dedicated and loyal to the spirit of the corps. I have heard so many members tell stories of how moving it has been to perform with the corps, and how unreal it is to actually to be a member of such a "legendary" group as Phantom Regiment. The fact that so many people continue to express interest in being part of the corps speaks volumes about what our members are really after -- to take part in Phantom Regiment. Here at Regiment we have a special vibe that is centered on the legacy and tradition of the corps and its unique classical association. Perhaps one of the most telling indications about the "Phamily" atmosphere we all take part in is the continued love and support our alumni show for the corps. We never go anywhere without someone in an old, faded Regiment member jacket coming up to get their fill of being around. Our support staff has long waiting lists of people waiting just to get to come on tour -- waiting lists to get to volunteer A LOT of time and money just to stay a part of Phantom Regiment. There is just something about the way Regiment accepts and nourishes its membership that keeps me, and many, many other people, coming back.    DCI.org: How would you describe your own leadership style? Simon: I think that the most essential leadership quality is setting a positive example and being an effective member of the corps. I don't think you can make anything good happen if you don't have your own attitude 100 percent geared towards making the corps as good as it can be. This is why I always strive to make sure that I approach everything I do for Regiment in a careful, positive manner, knowing that the minute I get weak and slip an inch backwards, the rest of the members might slip backwards as well. Basically, my "style" is to always try to do the right thing -- and in those situations that will always come up where the "right thing" isn't a clear choice, I rely on my instinct to tell me what is best for the corps. DCI.org: During the winter, do you guys (Simon and Joey Bielik, the other Regiment field conductor) keep in close contact with each other? Simon: We have off and on e-mail contacts. Usually it's mostly just when there's an issue to be resolved or some information to know. I really do look forward to the summer, when we can really get to know each other better, which is of course essential to working as team. For right now, though, we both have pretty tight schedules as music majors. But when something comes up, we definitely communicate fully so that we're always on the same page. DCI.org: What during the summer are you looking forward to the most? Simon: Oh wow. Very tough question. I am really looking forward most of all to those moments (I get a few each summer) when it's actually quiet, like after a show, and I get a chance to just think of how awesome is the whole idea of drum corps. I reflect on how crazy things get in rehearsals and how they come together in the evening; on how many different people with different personalities are working together to make something out of nothing. I also think about all of the people who are moved by drum corps and who spend time and money just to hear and see us -- it's an amazing thing that something like music can bring so many people together -- it just makes me feel great. It's sort of refreshing to the soul. I am just looking forward to the opportunity to have those moments again, and to feel that "buzz" of drum corps in the air.