Getting to Know the Corps: Phantom Regiment


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Phantom Regiment is a Drum Corp International two time world champion based in Rockford, Illinois. Although the corp’s head quarters are some hundreds of miles away from my home town high school, we share some very rich history with Phantom. Our junior high band director and marching instructor, Mr. Joe Huls, was a 5 year veteran with the corp. Mr. William Pitts, whom graduated from my very own Carrollton High School, was a 3 year veteran. Finally, we have Mr. David Warren whom also graduated from Carrollton High School, was also a 5 year veteran.

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Mr. Joe Huls toured with Phantom from 2000 to 2004 as a part of the soprano line. Mr. Huls was named member of the year in 2004 and was selected to play the corp’s solo in “Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral”. Upon hearing Hul’s involvement in the corp, this lead to my first exposure to drum corp, opening my eyes to this amazing world. His constantly silly nature, signature “wailin”, and love for screamer solos has driven me to go higher and higher (All you real SOP nerds will get the pun XD). Click here to watch Mr. Huls lead a goofy stretch (beginning of video) and play his solo for the corp age out ceremony (near the end).

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Mr. Will Pitts was the drum major for Carrollton High School, going on to conduct Phantom Regiment in 2005, 2007, and 2008. Will also received member of the year in 2008. On top of his achievements, he led the corp to Drum Corp Gold in 2008, beating the Blue Devils by 0.025 points. Will continues to compose for Spirit of Atlanta and Phantom Regiment, including countless other groups out side of drum corp. Click here to watch Will Pitts conduct the corp in finals, with a little surprise at the end of the show ūüėČ

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David Warren also conducted for Carrollton High School, moving on to conduct Phantom in 2012 – 2016. David Warren received the Jim Jones Leadership Award, each year awarded at Finals to one corp member from the top 12 corps that show unparalleled leadership. David Warren is now studying at Berry College and is the low brass instructor for the Sound of the Seven Hills, Rome High School Band (Shout out to the screamer from Rome, we’ll have that competition next time). Click here to watch David’s GoPro run through from one of Phantom’s practice runs in the 2015 season “City of Lights”.

As always, thanks for your time, and I’ll see you again soon! SUTA!





Corp Spotlight: The Star of Indiana (Blast!) – Forever A Legacy

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The Star of Indiana, founded in 1984, took the Drum Corp World by storm. Beginning the corp’s reputation with being the first and only corp to finish in the top 12 in their first year of competition, The Star of Indiana rose to stardom to rival the reigning champions of Drum Corp, including Santa Clara Vanguard and The Blues Devils. The corp snagged the championship title in 1991, just 7 years after their first season. The corp was disbanded in 1993 so they could tour the world on a different, indoor stage, leaving the DCI world with a gold, silver, and 2 bronze medals.

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After exiting the field of Drum Corp, The Star of Indiana went on to form the indoor group¬†Blast!. After an unsuccessful year in England,¬†Blast! moved to the United States, where the group was met with outstanding support, receiving a Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event and an Emmy Award for Best Choreography. The group boasts awe inspiring shows, including shows widely popular among DCI nerds such as “Malaguena” and “Blue Rondo A La Turk”. To get a true taste of this amazing indoor group, click here to view “Malaguena”, my personal favorite.

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Blast!‘s new concept of the DCI world has encouraged a hefty following, including trombones as an independent section and placing percussion in compartments at the rear of the stage. The shows are brought to life by the enthusiasm of the group, with members performing in the audience at times. For example, during “Malaguena”, corp members play and spin right in the middle of the audience, preforming crazy acrobatic spins, and show casing the most difficult solos that I’ve ever seen in the world of Drum Corp. This amazing corp is set to continue tours on a Broadway stage rather than a grass field in the near future.

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Another group to spawn from the disbanded Star of Indiana was the mini corp set to preform in the DCA chapter, Star United. This mini corp boasts outstanding achievements in the shadow of it’s mother corp. Star United won the Mini Corp DCA Championships in 2006-2012 and 2014-2016, even obtaining the first and only perfect score in Drum Corp history, a perfect 100.0.

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Although only participating 7 years in Drum Corp International competitions, The Star of Indiana left a lasting legacy in the form of Blast! and Star United, continuing the tradition of excellence and perfection. As always, click here to view the full 1991 Star of Indiana show that placed 1st at DCI championships. Thanks for stopping by!


Corp Spotlight: Bluecoats 2014

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Known to many Bluecoats fans as the year of “Orange is the New Bloo”, The Bluecoat’s 2014 production “Tilt” solidified their rightful place among the top corps in the world, placing 2nd overall in finals; up 3 places from the prior season. “Tilt” centered around the idea of tilting everything on the field, including the field itself! Using a massive orange tarp and orange ramps as their props, the corp tilted and adjusted every little detail of their show, even how they held their horns.

The show begins with marimbas playing a vertigo inducing run accompanied by a trumpet soloist. The corp, starting at the back sideline, do a series of acrobatics to get to their instruments at the front of the field, the opening chords are powerful, with tilts and curves introduced everywhere in the corp’s sets, ending the opener with a tilted block set.

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The show continues into a intermediate section between the intro and drum break, using dissidence in their chords combined with interesting section/individual parts to enhance the show further. The end of this section is signified by the corp’s famous “Bloo!”, tilting their bodies in sync with a chord shift. Next the drum break begins, utilizing the props and choreography of their members to take this drum break to the next level, featuring quads teetering on ramps and snares being rocked forward and backwards by guard members. The drum break ends as the entire battery lines up on the front of the orange tarp “sideline” with an energetic last hit before settling down for the ballad.

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The Bluecoat’s ballad featured the song entitled “Hymn of Acxiom”, which so happens to be my favorite ballad piece in a DCI show. The hymn starts out soft, gaining more and more momentum, before bursting into a beautiful chord with the entire hornline lined up on the orange sideline. There are simply not enough words to describe the feeling you get when you hear it for the first time. As the ballad draws to a close, the snare line begins the transition from the ballad into to the shows closer.

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The closer consists of a variety of different textures, including contra and trumpet features, and more outstanding brass hits. The show ends with the corp using a piano to shift the pitches to create an unbelievable effect, capping the show off with one last brass hit and a corp member running and jumping off one of the ramps into the arms of the colorguard. Although the corp finished 2nd, this show goes down in the DCI books as one of the best shows in Drum Corp history.

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This ends out corp spotlight! As always, click here¬†to view the “Tilt”. I also highly recommend watching the lead trumpet player and soloist Ben Gunnarson’s final practice GoPro run here¬†to gain a different perspective on this amazing show!


Corp Spotlight: The Academy

The Academy, founded in 2001, began as a small division II corp. Fifteen years later, Academy has finally made it to the distiquished honor of being a “Top 12” corp. The 2016 Academy show, “Drum Corpse Bride”, finishing in 11th place,  upheld a massive improvement to their 2015 season, where the corp came in at 15th. This post will highlight some of the best moments and general layout of the Academy’s 2016 production. Let’s get to it!

The Academy’s show, “Drum Corps Bride”, follows the marriage of man and woman, beginning very cheerfully. The mood quickly turns darker, as the woman is suddenly cornered by death, where the man is too late to save her. From here, the man attempts to stun his guilt, imagining her as a dancer. The man then seems to be called by death as the music gets faster, until he too is taken. The music turns to a softer side, as the transition of life to death, until finally the man and woman meet again in the afterlife, embracing each other. In my opinion, the Academy’s show was extremely captivating, truly deep, and stirred many emotions inside me. The Academy definitely deserved their place among the top corps in the world with this beautiful show.

The Academy’s show had quite a few special moments to help drive this production into the top 12. First, the corp took its time to take the field, quickly forming a heart and playing a magnificent brass impact to start their show. These impacts litter the first half of the opener, including a trumpet feature to reinforce the idea of the dead woman dancing. Pit members dressed as skeletons then enter the field, climbing atop grave stones and playing their “ribs” with the snare line to create a unique feature. Immediantly following the feature, the brass line creates a cross and gears up for a massive brass hit. The production meanders on until the music speeds up and becomes more harmonical, or more clashing, as the man begins to approach death. The man then dies as the corp lays down among the grave stones, playing the same chord as when the woman died.

The music grows subtle, as the corp transitions into a ballad. Pictured above, a corp member then retrieves a flugelhorn and begins to play “Unchained Melody”, a beautiful solo work. The music does down, as the corp repositions on the field and the woman is finally reconnected with her lost love. The graves return to chairs, and the woman and man dance into the middle of the field. The corp members follow suit, playing the lovely melody that the show started out with, filling the rows with the rest of the corp forming a heart. Absolutely one of the most stunning shows I have ever seen.

Thanks for stopping by! As always, please click here to view the entire Academy’s 2016 production!

Marching Drum Corp: Behind the Scenes

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Lights. Camera. Action! To many new drum corp fans, this is the only aspect of Drum Corp they see. In this post, we’ll venture into the forgotten, arduous rehearsals and late nights to see how our favorite shows come to life. Let’s get right into it, shall we?

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Let’s take a look at the audition process to get into a top corp. First, new members have to attend what’s called an audition camp, given that they are in the age range 16-21, which is the mandatory age limit. These audition camps are weekend long camps usually located at high schools across the country, including right here at Carrollton High School. These camps at first are where members can go for a day and get feed back from the corp’s staff for their auditions. Camps then turn into weekend camps once a month at the location of the corp’s headquarters. These camps will be filled with a measly 300-400 participants out of the thousands that first began their journey. After these camps, members will receive one of 3 things: A contract, a callback, or you are cut.

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Congrats! You’ve been accepted into your dream corp! Now it’s time to sell your soul to the devil. This journey across the country with your new family can cost up to $4,000, while also giving up your entire summer, with the regular season starting in May and ending in August. When you come to accept these final steps, you are officially ready to start your drum corp journey. The first thing to look forward to: Dawn to dusk practices, every day, for weeks on end until tour time.

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The rehearsals for these top corps are grueling. Essentials include gallon water jugs for each member, including a river of sunscreen. On top of the heat, exhaustion can set into unprepared members, with rehearsals lasting between 10-14 hours, with the only breaks being meals and 5 minute water breaks. Only a single day in a week or two is allowed to be an off day. You might be asking yourself “why on earth would any one want to do such a thing to themselves?”. Any corp alumni can tell you that through all of the blood, sweat, and tears, the experiences and relationships built during the season are life changing. Corp members also get to preform in front of audiences consisting of tens of thousands of eager fans, with hundreds of thousands streaming the performances.

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You’ve made it through the first weeks of the ridiculously demanding practices to finally be on the road. Instead of straight weeks of all day rehearsals, you now mix in shows and events around the country. At these shows, you will have to complete your final practice before taking the field. These warm ups, which are commonly referred to as “lots”, are the hidden gems of drum corp. Fans are allowed to be up close and personal with the corps as they warm up, with many corps playing corp songs as a tradition. Here is a list of examples for your enjoyment!

This concludes our behind the scenes look at drum corps. I hope you enjoyed as always! For an even closer look at corp members rockin’ it out on the field, click here for a head cam video of lead trumpet and trumpet soloist for the Bluecoats, Ben Gunnarson.

A Run Down of the Top 3 Corps from the 2016 Season

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The Drum Corp 2016 season was definitely full of surprises, complete with a nail biting finals night. In this post, I will discuss the top three finalist corps, with a description of each corp’s show. Finishing in third with a score of 97.088, was the crowd favorite: Carolina Crown. Coming in at second place with a score of 97.250, The Blue Devils. The 2016 DCI champions, for the first time ever with a score of 97.650, The Bluecoats.

Carolina Crown

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Carolina Crown’s show “Relentless” was based off of Shakespeare’s Hamlet,¬†taking place on the western frontier. It depicts a man tricking and killing many innocent travelers with anger in his heart. This is truly a show of heartbreak and vengeance.

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Carolina Crown’s performances demonstrated their brass and and visual appeal superiority, placing first in both areas on finals night. The show was overall very powerful, sporting a powerful intro, an intense bar scene, an emotional ballad of “Hallelujah”, finishing with an over the top moment of truth at the end with the corp’s signature “Crown Set”, where the corp forms a crown with a heavy brass hit. This was personally one of my favorite shows of all time, click here to see their entire show.

The Blue Devils

The Blue Devils preformed a show called “As Dreams Are Made On”, based off of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The show is filled with emotion as it follows a man and his daughter cast out to sea, saved only as they are washed upon an enchanted island’s shore.

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The Blue Devils, showing consistently outstanding high brass, colorguard, and General Effect, were able to snag second place with an amazingly clean finals performance. The show begins with a fascinating visual effect, before displaying their dominance in high brass. The show then moves to a trombone/percussion feature that fit together perfectly. The show finished with an inspirational closer. For a closer look, click here to view their entire show.

The Bluecoats

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The Bluecoats performed their show, “Down Side Up”, in turn completely turning in the classical drum corp uniform type for a slick white body suit, yellow for guard, complete with a blue squiggle. The Corp’s show contained ramps, an outstanding number of trumpet/trombone solos, and a variety of music from the modern era.

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The Bluecoats, edging the reigning DCI champions, The Blue Devils, showed a different side of drum corp shows; implementing sound effects, well positioned microphones, and a  new aggressive flair to their show. The show begins with a percussion/visual appeal introduction, followed by a number of brass showcases. The show then moves to an unconventional ballad, really letting loose with their high brass and trombones. I can only describe the closer with one word: Legendary. Containing everything from outstanding brass hits to breathe taking visuals. This was truly the year of the Bluecoats. Click here to view their entire show in all its glory.

Welcome to Drum Corp Haven!

Hello! Welcome to the fascinating world that is Drum Corps International! For those of you not familiar with Drum Corps International, or DCI, it is the competitive and professional aspect of marching band. Drum Corps are made up of brass, percussion, colorguard, and drum majors. In this post, I will break down each aspect of what makes up a corp, along with a list of corps that are still competing.

Drum Majors

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Drum majors are the “conductors” of a corp. The drum major counts the corps off, leads them onto and off of the field, and gives the corps a visual for tempo, as well as breathe locations and “impact moments”.


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A corp’s brass line is what makes up a bulk of the corp’s sound. The brass line consists of, traditionally, trumpets (soprano voice), mellophones (alto voice), euphoniums and baritones (tenor voice), and contrabasses (bass voice), although trombones, french horns, and jazz trumpets called “flugelhorns” are commonly used by soloists or even whole section features.


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A corp’s percussion is made up of two sections. A “battery”, which is the percussion group made up of snares, tenor drums (quads), bass drums, and occasionally cymbals, is the group that marches on the field with the corp’s brass and colorguard. The second percussion group is commonly referred to as the “pit”, which is made up of marimbas, xylophones, keyboards, drum sets, and many more miscellaneous percussion instruments. This group is stationary, and is commonly positioned ¬†directly in front of the drum major ¬†off the field, or can be positioned on the field with the rest of the corp.


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The corp’s colorguard is the section that spins flags, rifles, and sabers, while also representing a large visual effect in helping move props and preforming a great deal of choreography.

These sections above are all imperative to a corp. Corp’s are also very selective in who is chosen to join through rigorous audition camps, training camps, and grueling all day rehearsals. Only 150 spots make up a corp, so it’s not unusual for the top corps to have some of the best marchers, musicians, and staff in the world. Here is a list of the the corps still in existence today, and are listed along with their final placements.

  1. The Bluecoats
  2. The Blue Devils
  3. Carolina Crown
  4. The Santa Clara Vanguard
  5. The Cavaliers
  6. The Cadets
  7. The Blue Knights
  8. Phantom Regiment
  9. The Blue Stars
  10. The Crossmen
  11. The Academy
  12. The Boston Crusaders
  13. The Madison Scouts
  14. The Troopers
  15. The Colts
  16. The Mandarins
  17. The Oregon Crusaders
  18. Pacific Crest
  19. Spirit of Atlanta
  20. The Cascades
  21. Jersey Surf
  22. The Pioneers

This concludes the basics of Drum Corps. If you are interested in seeing these corps on the field, click here to view a video of the top 12 corp’s best moments from the 2016 season. Thank you and enjoy!