Karen and Warren Newell
Back in 1989, Warren Newell, a band director from Otsego, Mich. (he's now retired), wanted to see his son, Greg, a baritone player, perform with the Phantom Regiment. But rather than travel to a far-off locale that year, as he and his wife had done all through 1988, Newell instead decided to put on his own drum corps show, and "Beauty and the Brass" (held this year at McCamley Field in Portage, Mich., on Monday, June 16) began. "After following so many shows in 1988 while Greg was marching, my husband and I decided we could run a show as well as any we had been to, and asked our band boosters if they would help. We also asked if Phantom would perform. From that moment on, we did it for the love of the corps and "Beauty and the Brass" was born," said Karen Newell, who with her husband Warren, still helps out with ticket sales and promotion of that show. This is the 15th year that "Beauty and the Brass" has been held. "We've had to move the location a couple times, but we hate to see the show fold, so we keep working to keep it going," Karen said. The Newell family's fascination with drum corps began "a million years ago when my husband and I were going out one night and passed, weird as it is, McCamley Field in Portage, Mich., where a VFW show was being held. We ended up going to watch instead of doing whatever we were supposed to be doing," Karen said. The family's love affair with drum corps was dormant for a few years, until Greg was in high school, and the Newells went to a finals show in Madison, Wis. "Of course we were hooked, again. Greg decided he wanted to be in a corps and actually went to a couple of Star of Indiana camps before his senior year. Since he wanted to be drum major of his high school band, he opted not be in corps that year, and waited until he was at Michigan State before joining Phantom Regiment in 1988 and 1989," Karen said. Perhaps because of their family's involvement with the activity, the Newells often take a personal approach to "Beauty and the Brass" ticket sales. "We thought it was really neat that our first call for a ticket this year was from a man in Pennsylvania. He travels to 25 to 30 shows a year. We love to talk to those who call for tickets and find out how they heard about the show, if they have someone in a corps, etc.," Karen said. "We've been on both sides, as a parent and a show sponsor. Both sides are very gratifying when the corps are on the field. So many people who go to the shows have never been behind the scenes and don't know what goes on. When it's explained to them what the 'kids' do on a daily basis all summer, they are in awe," Karen Newell said. "Beauty and the Brass" is sponsored by the Portage Northern Bands. To order tickets or for more information, call 269.385.2505.