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Phantom Regiment Happy with Spring Training at WIU

Jonathan Ahl

The Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps trained at Western Illinois University for three weeks this spring. They are leaving for their summer tour with positive thoughts about Macomb, a community that wants them back next year.  

Phantom Regiment previously held its spring training camp at Rockford College. But the corps moved to WIU in search of better facilities with more flexibility and more space..  

Will Pitts, the Program Coordinator for Phantom Regiment, said Hanson Field,  with its artificial turf and high press box, were game changers. “If we are practicing in a place without any sort of elevation, it’s hard for us to get a sense of how the sum of the parts are working. Not just the music, not just the visual, but how every element is working together,” Pitts said. 

Credit Jonathan Ahl
Phantom Regiment Drummers practice in the shade behind Brophy Hall.

Between that vantage points and not losing rehearsal days due to rain on a wet field, Pitts said they are going on the road “performing a more completely produced version of the show.”

Members of the high school and college aged drum corps said they are also happy at Western. They said they were accustomed to sleeping on gym floors and grabbing a shower whenever and wherever they can at their previous location. But at WIU they stayed in Olson Hall. Claire Wilcox, 18, from O’Fallon, Ill. said that made a huge difference.  

“We make the joke that this is ‘Country Club Drum Corps’, but it really is. Our bathrooms are cleaned every single day and they are super nice, and indoor and air conditioned,” Wilcox said. “That’s totally not typical for what we are used to.”

Credit Jonathan Ahl
Fans in the stands during a Phantom Rehearsal

Wilcox also said the number of people that come out to watch their rehearsals in Macomb has been a big boost to the corps.“Every single day we are having people come out to watch us, and they are excited to see what we do, which makes it so much more real here,” Wilcox said. “Sometimes I feel that we are so isolated when we come out to Spring Training and we are just working hard all day. But we get to see that result a little bit when people come to watch us. That’s really exciting.”

Business owners in Macomb told Tri States Public Radio they have also benefitted from Phantom Regiment’s stay. Chubby’s Restaurant kept its kitchen open late to serve staff after late night rehearsals. Phantom Regiment booked two entire theatres at the Rialto Cinema for a movie night. Dairy Queen was a popular spot for a break from their 12-hour hour rehearsal days. And Bill Butcher, owner of the Apollo Laundromat saw an uptick of business in what is usually a slow time.

“Late May and early June is usually pretty dead here, with the college kids gone,” Butcher said. In addition to the boost in revenue, he said the Phantom Regiment members were great customers.  “They were all very polite, they were all very respectful. They were very nice to everyone here who was on staff. They were just a great group to have in here.”

Butcher wants Phantom to come back next year. And Phantom staff say they are interested in exploring a return. But it will be weeks, if not months before that decision is made. Phantom Regiment’s director says the focus right now is on the 16 state, 32 show tour coming up.

Phantom Regiment will perform a free concert previewing their show tonight (June 8th) at 8:30pm at Hanson Field.