Flag phantoms

Seniors+Jenny+Hollowell+%28right%29+and+Emily+Plummer+%28left%29+were+in+colorguard+for+all+four+years+of+high+school.+

William Legrone

Seniors Jenny Hollowell (right) and Emily Plummer (left) were in colorguard for all four years of high school.

As the band played their final notes and the color guard caught their flags for the last time, cheers erupted throughout the stadium. The stands of the Alamodome were filled from bottom to top with parents, fans and other bands from across the state. The band members were breathing heavily, smiling from ear to ear. They had just finished performing this year’s show, Imperial Treasures, for the last time at the Bands of America State Championship.

Four drum taps sounded across the football field, signaling the band to turn and march out of the stadium to the parking lot. All the members hugged each other, only some able to hold back tears. For the seniors, memories of Grand Nationals 2013, BOA State Championships 2012 and BOA Super Regionals 2011 washed through their minds. The gemstones, snakes, gates and ferris wheels – the main symbols for each of the shows – were finally finished for them.

But for seniors Emily Plumer and Jenny Hollowell, it was just the beginning.

“I didn’t want to stop,” Plumer, the color guard captain, said. “After doing four years of color guard, I wasn’t ready to stop yet. I wanted to keep doing it.”

The girls decided to try out for Phantom Regiment, a professional drum corps. Drum corps are professional marching bands that perform all across the world. The girls traveled to Rockford, Illinois, where the corps is based, to try out on Dec. 5-7. They endured long practices and slept on gym floors, all the while trying to stand out to the color guard instructors.

“It was really intimidating being around girls from all over the world, like the U.K. and Japan,” Hollowell said. “They’re all insanely good.”

Over the weekend, they had to learn a flag, rifle and dance routine. Then four girls at a time performed in front of the instructors. Only 36 girls out of the 150 girls trying out would become part of the color guard.

But by the end of the tryout camp, both girls left Illinois with offers to join Phantom Regiment.

“I felt really thankful [to have gotten a contract],” Hollowell said. “There were over 150 girls all fighting for the same spot, and we already got offered two guaranteed spots, which is crazy.”

Although they are guaranteed spots, they both have to send in videos of themselves practicing flag and rifle techniques to show the corps that they’re dedicated. They cannot reveal the show’s theme either. They will also miss the last three weeks of school to start practicing in Rockford. From then until Aug. 8, Plumer and Hollowell will be traveling with the corps from California to Indiana. After that, they’ll head straight to college.

As part of Phantom Regiment, the girls will perform their routine over 50 times next summer, ultimately finishing at the Drum Corps International World Championships in Indianapolis. They’ll sleep on busses and floors, traveling from coast to coast. They’ll also have to fundraise to get the $3,300 it takes to be a part of the corps. Both girls said that they anticipate the obstacles ahead.

“The most challenging part is just adjusting to everything,” Plumer said. “Just being able to adapt to the environment and the conditioning and know that I’m going to be tired all the time.”

The drum corps holds intense practices for several weeks. Members have to be up before dawn and often practice until late at night. They are also in each other’s company all the time for the entire summer.

“For me, it’s [challenging] just being away from my family,” Hollowell said. “Especially since my whole entire family is going on a cruise to Europe, and I’m going to be stuck in the sun. It’s just going to be difficult being away from all my friends and family for that long.”

Despite the struggles, both girls said that they’re looking forward to the opportunities being in a drum corps will bring them, like participating in the extensive practices where the band learns the show and the music and the color guard learns their flag and rifle routines.

“I’m excited to start the experience all over again and work towards getting to perform almost every single day across the country with all my closest friends,” Plumer said.

Both the girls said that it is the friendships they made the past four years that made them love color guard in high school, and they know that they’ll love drum corps for the same reason.

“My favorite part is being with my closest friends, like Jenny,” Plumer said. “She’s one of my closest friends in the color guard and being able to experience it all through high school together with her and being able to perform and everything, I think that’s my favorite part. I’m going to miss it a lot.”

***

It’s Nov. 4. The band has just found out that they won yet another state title, completing a decade of dominance. The air is humming with an excited buzz as the eight busses fill with band members returning home in triumph. Uniforms are taken off and put away. Shako hats are closed firmly in their boxes, and chicken biscuits from Whataburger warm the members’ hands.

Plumer and Hollowell chat with their friends on the color guard bus. They hang their magenta dresses in their bags and settle down in their seats, ready for the drive back home. Their last show as part of the high school color guard is over. But they know that that there is still more to come.

“I’m most excited for creating a new family,” Hollowell said. “At Phantom, that’s the biggest thing. It’s supposed to be one big family. I’m excited to meet all these new people.”