By Chris Weber Primed and ready to start the 2004 touring season, the Phantom Regiment is anxious to be on the road and performing. The corps has been rehearsing in their hometown of Rockford, Ill., at Rockford College, since Friday, May 28. View photo gallery Multimedia interviews with this story:
Kara Hoeflinger, Phantom Regiment conductor
Nikki Turner, color guard veteran
Megan Simmons, first-year guard member
Jennie McDonald, guard vet
Jon Carney, brass rookie "The two-and-a-half to three weeks of this spring training can be pretty rough," said Bryan Teague, a fourth-year tuba player. "During this part of the season we have to remember that this isn't exactly real drum corps. Drum corps is performing shows as well (as rehearsing) -- this is just the hardest part, and after this things will get a little bit easier."

The Phantom Regiment, at a morning rehearsal last week on the campus of Rockford College. Note brass arranger J.D. Shaw, lower right, in loud shirt and tiki sandals.
The Regiment is currently working through a full-day, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. rehearsal schedule. According to drum major David Simon, a large portion of the rehearsal time is done in individual sections to work on strength-building and endurance to prepare the members for the rigors of their approximately 11-minute show. "We are preparing for a more challenging production this summer so we've been doing some things in rehearsal a lot faster than we have compared to last year at this point in the season," said Simon. "The challenge level is going to push people beyond where I think they expected to go, but I think this group is ready for it." Phantom Regiment's 2004 program is titled "Apasionada 874: The Music of Astor Piazzolla," which some critics have labeled as a departure from the typical feel of the corps' shows. Cory Boise, the bass drum section leader, agreed. "We're taking a step in a different direction with this show and it just rocks. Some of the long-time fans might be a little turned off at first because it isn't so much the classical route, but once they see us they'll realize it's still the same Phantom Regiment. We're just trying new things." Brass arranger J.D. Shaw called the show concept an extension of the corps from the past. "We've been doing classical music for so long, and this music you can't really say what it is. It's not Latin, it's not jazz, it's not classical and at the same time it's all of them," Shaw said. He added, "This show is a marrying of so many different ideas. I hear about a lot of people turned off because they think we're playing 'Latin.' But this isn't anywhere near what typical drum corps fans think of Latin music." Based on Argentine folk melodies and tango rhythms, Shaw described the music as a sensuous, deep and almost depressed blend of music stemming from the rough condition and poverty of the South American country. "Portrayed through the music, there's hope, there's loss, there's passion, there's hurt, there are broken hearts, there's a lot of anger, but it is still an anger that grooves and an anger that you can dance to," he said. Until their first competition performance on June 18 in Menasha, Wis., Phantom Regiment will keep plugging away, learning and perfecting that music. "This year the talent level and the determination is definitely higher," said Simon. We set a standard for ourselves last year that was higher than we had before. Now we're trying to run with where we left off." And Matt Naylor, a fourth-year baritone player, has an accurate prediction of things to come from the Regiment's show this season: "It's going to be fast, it's going to be loud and it's going to be intense."