For about five minutes Saturday, Brandon Runyon, 16, a high school drummer from Oswego Ill., got a taste of what it's like to play in the Phantom Regiment snare line. He liked it. "Where I come from, we have a big marching band program but there's a different emphasis with these people," Runyon said, "a hard-core emphasis that I really love." Runyon attended the second annual Phantom Regiment Snare Drum camp at Rockford College. For $225, he and 52 other young drummers were the beneficiaries of personal instruction from legendary drummers such as Paul Rennick and Marty Hurley. Hurley was the corps caption head in the 1980s and 90s, and Rennick is well-known for his leadership as caption head of the Velvet Knights, Carolina Crown and now Phantom Regiment and the North Texas Drum Line, an elite college line for decades.
"We try to cater specifically to snare drummers," Rennick said, "rather than all the instruments, so we can do it on a higher level." Pearl provided 50 snare drums and Innovative Percussion provided sticks. "We hold it at a time of year when the entire corps is here to give them an added experience of seeing a group play at a really high level," Rennick says. "There's a lot to learn by watching up close." The young drummers' eyes grew wide and transfixed as the 2005 Regiment drum line ripped through complex warm-up exercises and about half of the new show, which is based on music by George Gershwin such as "American in Paris." The Regiment snares played everything from fast rolls to flam-drag/"cheese" combinations. Rennick told the campers they, too, can play on that level if they put in the time and effort and follow the program laid out throughout the weekend. Some of the campers are just beginners, Hurley said, and have a lot to learn. "They need to know that the rudiments need to be reflexes," Hurley said. "It's basic skills, technique and trying to mark time and be able to do all those things. For instance, just paradiddles on and off the beat and staying in step." But a few campers sent in by Rennick to play warm-ups with the 2005 line blended right in. "A couple of kids are returning (from last year's camp) and it's really noticeable that there is 100 percent improvement," Rennick said. "One of the kids was warming up and he looked pretty good. So it works. We give them a very thorough exercise program that explains how we do things here and they can take it home and it apply it to their high school lines." Runyon said: "The diversity of experience, getting to meet all these people, I've had a lot of fun doing this. The instructors are amazing." About 60 drum majors attended the camp for conductors. Two veterans of the camp were selected to be this year's Phantom Regiment assistant drum majors.
Brandon Runyon (orange shirt) at the Phantom Regiment snare camp.