Lanah Kopplin will be contributing columns to DCI.org each Tuesday. Here's her third installment. I just can't seem to stay away from Rockford! Once again, I spent my Saturday down at Rockford College, this time helping out with Phantom Regiment's second annual marching band competition. This star-studded event included appearances by Dave Cooksey, Tony Hall and DCI Hall of Famer Gene Monterastelli, as well as the usual cast and characters that make up Phantom Regiment. After the resounding success of the competition, all of the volunteers were treated to dinner. This is where my story really begins.
When we got to the restaurant, the members congregated together at one table, while the staff, support staff and administration all congregated around other tables. It was just like any family reunion, with the "parent" and "kid" tables. However, I declined the invitation to sit with the members and opted to sit with the "big kids." The way I see it, I get to spend my entire summer with the members, both on and off the field. However, I've never really had an opportunity to just sit down and get to know the other side of the organization. These are the unsung heroes of drum corps. These are the people that work endlessly behind the scenes to make it all work. From feeding 200 hungry mouths, to paying the bills, Phantom Regiment would not exist without their selfless devotion. I spent the first part of the evening getting to know the support staff. Even after spending three years of tour with them, the extent of my knowledge of some of these people was limited to names and faces. After all, up until that night, the extent of our interaction was a brief "Thank you," and "You're welcome," when getting lunch, or a "This part is too baggy here," when getting fitted for uniforms. Now, not only can I place a name with a face, but I can also put a personality and a story behind each. Every single person that helps to support us has his or her own background and reason for coming and staying with Phantom Regiment. They all have a personal narrative, and a wealth of experience that is just waiting to be passed on to the next generation. Saturday night, I was able to gain some insight into this world. These people are no longer just faces in the souvenir booth, but rather friends and extended phamily to me. I think my favorite conversation with these people was hearing about the Santa Clara Vanguard/Phantom Regiment pillow fight through their perspective. As one of our wonderful support staffers put it, "It was lights out, we were outside, and all of a sudden we hear feet pounding, people screaming, and see cameras flashing. We thought it was best not to investigate, and continued with our conversation." Only in drum corps ... Later on, I was lucky enough to converse with some of the teaching staff here at Phantom Regiment. It was great to hear about the summer from their perspective, and learn what it's like on the other side of my bell. Because staff members are usually quite busy working on ways to make our show better, it's often difficult to find time to sit down and get to know them as people as well. It was a great opportunity to get to know their opinions on things other than how to articulate a note, or clean a set of drill. Surprising to some, these people actually do have a life outside of drum corps! I loved being able to connect with these staffers in a setting outside of the drum corps context. I now have a much greater understanding and appreciation for them and all that they do, both on and off the field. It's inspiring for me to see examples of hard work and dedication being transferred into careers and life beyond the top level of scaffolding. As the night drew to a close, I was able to get to know people who don't necessarily tour with us. These are the ones that work hard during the off-season to help raise money to fund our corps, or to promote our public relations, or deepen our connection with the community. When the summer ends, their job begins. These are the people that no one ever talks about. There are countless threads on Internet forums debating caption heads, or staff changes, or even who's directing what corps. But no one ever talks about those behind the scenes, and gives credit where credit is due. There are so many ways to support a drum and bugle corps, and ensure its continued success. There is more to running a corps than just putting together a show concept and then seeing it to fruition. These are the selfless heroes that might remain anonymous to the world, and be perfectly content with it. Hearing their stories and getting to know about their lives was another moment of inspiration. Never before had the importance of giving back, and supporting drum corps in any way possible, been made so apparent to me. It was an eye-opening experience for me to see just how many people work so hard to make sure that members such as myself are able to experience the joys of drum and bugle corps. In the course of just a few hours, I was able to connect to Phantom Regiment in a way that I had never imagined possible. Getting to know the personalities that drive this organization in all of its facets has brought me much closer to this corps on all levels. Phantom Regiment truly is my phamily, and I could never imagine being anywhere else. To everyone involved with the Phantom Regiment organization, past and present, I have only one thing to say: SUTA! Lanah Kopplin is a third-year euphonium player in the Phantom Regiment, and previously spent a year with the Pioneer. Lanah is a political science major at the University of Wisconsin (she's a Milwaukee native), and will age out in 2005. Past columns by Lanah Kopplin: A new column by the Phantom Regiment's Lanah Kopplin Drum corps friendships