The Phantom Regiment is drum corps' classical music identity. The organization was originally founded by a VFW post in 1956 as the Rockford Rangers and the Rockford Rangerettes. Soon after, the corps and the all-female Color Guard changed their names to the Phantom Regiment and the Phantomettes.
In 1968, Phantom Regiment re-emerged after a fire and reorganization to field a small competitive corps. Phantom has been a DCI powerhouse since first breaking into the coveted top twelve in 1974. Since then, the corps has placed out of the top five only a handful of times, including winning the silver medal four times. Phantom was an innovator of the story line show, interpreting the classical strains of Spartacus on a 100-yard stage. It wasn't until 1987 that the corps became what it is known as today.
Always true to their classical roots, Phantom has thrilled their audiences with the complexity and grandeur of timeless music and sheer explosive power of modern drum and bugle corps.
Drum and Bugle Corps is an original American art form. The beginning can be traced to veterans organizations such as the VFW and the American Legion, as well as to organizations such as the Catholic Youth Organization. Soldiers returning from World War I celebrated Veterans Day and the Fourth of July by marching in parades to the accompaniment of the drum and the bugle, just as they had during the war. The first two corps in the Rockford, Illinois, area, the VFW Post 342 and the American Legion Post 62, were composed of veterans who were male and members of those particular posts. There have been many drum corps in the Rockford area since that time. By far the most successful has been the Phantom Regiment.
Many of the members did not feel the name "Rangers" was appropriate for their corps. Some of the members had been listening to Stetson D. Richmond records and were impressed with a 1952 Leroy Anderson tune the Syracuse Brigadiers had played entitled "The Phantom Regiment." Thus, before the corps had made any public appearances, the corps name was changed to Phantom Regiment, and the all-girl color guard was labelled the Phantomettes.
While the corps was in its developmental stages, a substantial emphasis was placed on the competitive guard aspect of the activity. Almost overnight, the Phantomettes became very successful in their own right. An all-male comp guard made up of members of the Regiment horn line, called the Raiders, also had a brief success story.
The drum and bugle corps itself, however, struggled competitively. Fortunes began to improve only when in 1962 the corps bought a set of high quality bugles from the Commonwealth Edison Drum and Bugle Corps. A new brass arranger also sped the growth process. Also in 1962, the original Phantom Regiment Cadets was formed, using the old set of bugles.
In 1963, the Regiment fielded an all-male corps, including the color guard, with mixed results. The all-girl guard returned in 1964 and, with the help of a very successful recruiting drive, the Phantom Regiment, sporting a new set of military uniforms, had its most successful year to date.
The corps' competition color guard, the Phantomettes, was memorialized on vehicle registration stickers by the City of Rockford in 1964.
But just as it looked as if the Regiment was on its way to becoming a championship-caliber corps, a fire in the corps hall took away the corps' home, along with the uniforms and the instruments. The Phantom Regiment tried to field a corps in 1965, but eventually was forced to cancel the season due to lack of finances.
After spending the year-1966 planning their resurgence, a board of directors comprised of former members and staff of the original corps incorporated the Phantom Regiment on Sept. 11, 1967, with the following mission statement:
"To organize, maintain, and operate a musical marching unit, band, color guard, and related activities, and in general, promote and encourage drum and bugle corps activities, parades, concerts, contests, and to further the musical talents and interests of young persons."
The original board of directors could not have imagined that 30 years later their corps would have a budget of well over half a million dollars, nor that Phantom would be competing for the drum and bugle corps world championship.
The reorganized Phantom Regiment began its first season in three years as a small corps that signed its first roster on Jan. 10, 1968. There were 28 charter members.
The first season for the corps included many parades and a few contests. The corps uniform included black pants with a red windbreaker and a black and white vertical stripe on the left side of the windbreaker. The equipment truck was a red step van, the only vehicle the corps owned.
As the years passed, the number of contests grew, the distance traveled in the tour increased, and the Phantom Regiment began to creep up the ladder of drum corps success.
New in 1970 were cadet-style uniforms, including black pants with a white stripe, and a jacket with a diagonal sash of red dividing the black right side from the white left side. White bucks were worn on the feet and new shakos with 12-inch plumes decorated the head. The corps included 40 horns, 24 color guard, 14 drums, 10 rifles and one drum major in 1970, for a total of 89 members.
By 1971, the first hints of Phantom's ultimate classical style were beginning to appear. The 1972 show featured a concert version of "Poet and Peasant Overture," however improbably accompanied by the "Addams Family Theme" as a marching tymp solo!
A sign of the corps' increased confidence was one Friday the 13th in 1971, when three of the corps' busses ran out of gas and their equipment truck caught fire - twice. Yet Regiment still won the evening's contest.
During the fall and winter of the 1974 season every member of the 128-man corps took individual marching and brass lessons. The Phantom Regiment made finals at the Drum Corps International World Championships for the first time in 1974, finishing eighth in Prelims and 11th in Finals. They have been a fixture in the DCI top 12 ever since.
The years between 1967 and 1974 were some of the most exciting in the history of the corps. They were the formative years and defined the style of the Phantom Regiment. Those years saw the growth of the young nucleus of members to a mature world-class drum corps.
In the fall of 1974, a new uniform was conceived, one that would give the Phantom Regiment its long-term identity: long white jackets with a black sash, a two-colored cape with red on the inside and black on the outside, black pants, and the one element that remains today: the pith helmet.
The remainder of the 1970s would be years of rapid advancement for the Regiment as the corps matured to become a contender for the DCI crown. In 1975, the corps placed 10th. In 1976, it placed fourth. And in 1977, 1978 and 1979, the corps placed second, only a tenth or two from becoming World Champion.
During the early 1980s, the Regiment produced some of the most innovative programs ever to grace the field of competition. The corps was well ahead of its time with the 1981 and 1982 productions of the ballet "Spartacus," a project two years in the making. Critically acclaimed and loved by audiences everywhere, the program increased Regiment's fame throughout the world.
The corps that is recognized today began in 1987. After a difficult 10th-place finish in 1986, the corps took a fresh new approach. Michael Cesario inspired a dramatic new look, with new all-white uniforms more closely resembling costumes. This new look and approach led to three years of substantial improvement, culminating in 1989 with a second-place finish and the second highest score ever, 98.4.
In 1989, the corps joined the Kansas City Symphony on stage in a performance of "Elsa's Processional to the Cathedral" so powerful that a newspaper reviewer felt he might never recover.
The 1993 show, featuring "Estancia," "Fire of Eternal Glory," and "Death Hunt," was a crowd-pleaser throughout the season and won Phantom a tightly contested third-place finish at DCI Championships in Jackson, Miss. They had finished a "disastrous" eighth in 1992.
In 1996, the goal and dream of everyone involved with the organization over the past 30 years came true. The Phantom Regiment tied the Concord Blue Devils for its first DCI World Championship. The music of that championship year was by Shostakovich.
After that winning year, however, Phantom went into a relative decline, finishing out of the top six from 1998 to 2000.
The corps took on a new look in 2000 with another Michael Cesario-inspired uniform. The all-black was replaced by tan jackets and white pants with a red baldric. The traditional Phantom Regiment helmets remained.
Much of the corps' resurgence in the early 2000s is credited to the leadership of board president Tim Farrell and program coordinator Dan Farrell, along with that of corps director Patrick Seidling, among others.
In 2003, the uniform style changed back to a modern interpretation of the 1987 uniform design: white top, pants, and shoes; black sequined baldric and gauntlets; and black gloves. After a long swing through the West in 2003 -- the show was aptly named "Harmonic Journey" -- the corps finished the season in fourth place, with a score of 94.75.
The 2004 show was a departure for the traditionally classical corps, as they presented "Apasionada 874," a performance dedicated to the charm of the tango. The theme encouraged much emoting and passion by the horn line, not to mention a graceful tango across the field by 12 contras. On Finals night, Phantom took fifth place, with a score of 93.575.
Phantom took the stage in 2005 with the program "Rhapsody," based on the George Gershwin works "Rhapsody In Blue" and "An American In Paris." It was the first time since the 1960s that the color guard included a male. The Regiment took the bronze medal on Finals night with a score of 96.825.
For 2006, its 50th Aniversary, Phantom returned to its classical repertoire, this time playing on the theme of "Faust," the age-old story of the battle of good and evil. It played Prokofiev's "Scythian Suite" as the opener, an incredibly emotional "Ave Maria" as its ballad (Biebel version), which featured the entire trumpet line wielding baritones for the "monk effect", and finished it off with Corigliano's "Concerto for Piano and Orchestra" and a stirring closer of Mahler's "Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (The Resurrection)," along with quotes from Phantom Phavorites such as "Fire of Eternal Glory" and "Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral."
To further the emotion of the story, the uniforms were slightly altered mid-season to fit the storyline: all the capes were changed to white, and one side of the corps' baldrics was the familiar black sequins, but were flipped to solid white baldrics after Margeruite's resurrection during the Mahler. Also, as with last year, the color guard featured male characters: six this time, one as Faust, one as the Devil, and the others as Mephistopleles. The show was a crowd favorite, taking second place with a score of 96.850, just passing the Blue Devils on Finals night.
The percussion line proved to be the key to Regiment's highest Finals placing since 1996's shared championship with the Blue Devils as the Phantom percussion took the Fred E. Sanford High Percussion award, with a score of 19.7 out of a possible 20.
Phantom is the originator of "all-symphonic pageantry," turning a "classic style into a unique combination of timeless music and world class drum corps." Its treatments of the greats, especially Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, are drum corps classics. Now into the 21st century, the Phantom Regiment continues its past success and strives for new goals.
The Phantom Regiment organization featured a cadet corps from 1965-1999 (also known as the Forest City Rangers in '67 and the Phantom Legion in the '90s) and a pre-cadet training corps in the late '80s.
The Phantom Regiment is a youth organization dedicated to the development of self-esteem and self-reliance. It encourages team work, sportsmanship, civic pride and contributions of one's personal best to a group effort. These lessons are learned through a musical and marching activity in which there is a blending of the arts and athletics.
Every year, an integral part of Phantom Regiment's performance is the dramatic act of the primary conductor removing his or her baton from its sheath located on the back of the uniform.
At a certain point during everyday rehearsals, the members of Phantom Regiment are initiated into the corps family. Part of this initiation is the sharing of several key concepts that the corps has long held. Among these are individual section traditions, and the famous full corps "slogan," SUTA. The true meaning of SUTA cannot be described to the public, but only learned by becoming a member of the corps.
The corps does not have an official corps song, however, three pieces have served that role over the years: "Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral from Lohengrin" by Richard Wagner "Fire of Eternal Glory" by Shostakovich "Amazing Grace" Traditional
- Corps Colors: White, Black and Red. 2000-2002 PR went back to it's roots with white pants, black/red baldric, and khaki Jacket. This was in reference to the Rudyard Kipling book (The Lost Legion) describing the British-Indian army (dressed in khaki and white) that was lost for days only to re-appear through a foggy mist, becoming a phantom regiment.
- Before taking the position at PR, Pat Seidling was corps director of Southwind.
- The tuba lords Pat Sheridan and Sam Pilafian work with the corps and PR was the first corps to adopt 'The Breathing Gym' method.
- The plumes on the pith helmets are genuine ostritch feathers.
- Jim Wren was the primary brass arranger for 32 consecutive years (68-99).
- Nine-time DCM (Drum Corps Midwest) Champions.
- In their 33 (1974-2006) consecutive DCI Championship Finals appearances, Phantom Regiment has an average finish of 4.9th place.
- The only corps with a longer consecutive record is Santa Clara Vanguard, and Regiment is tied with Blue Devils for the 2nd longest run of finals apearances.
- Scored above a 90 all but 5 of those 33 years.
- Placed in "Top 6" 25 of 33 years.
- Placed in "Top 4" 17 of 33 years.
- Has taken 2nd place 5 times.
- Phantom Regiment has never placed 9th or 12th at DCI Finals.
- Most times in one position: 4th place (7 times).
- 2006's score of 96.850 is the corps third-highest score in Regiment's history.
Year Place Score
1972 23rd 64.4 1973 14th 74.7 /// 1974 11th 76.25 1975 10th 81.3 1976 4th 87.25 1977 2nd 90.3 1978 2nd 91.45 1979 2nd 92.75 1980 5th 88.45 1981 5th 90.85 1982 4th 92.15 1983 4th 91.45 1984 4th 95.6 1985 8th 90.1 1986 10th 85.0 1987 5th 94.3 1988 6th 93.5 1989 2nd 98.4 1990 4th 95.3 1991 3rd 95.4 1992 8th 91.5 1993 3rd 96.2 1994 3rd 96.2 1995 5th 94.1 1996 1st 97.4 1997 4th 94.2 1998 8th 90.4 1999 8th 91.2 2000 7th 90.85 2001 6th 91.9 2002 5th 92.4 2003 4th 94.75 2004 5th 93.575 2005 3rd 96.825 2006 2nd 96.850
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