Becoming a Member of the Phamily

Photo Courtesy of Drum Corps International, Sid Unser

Born into a marching band world, Phantom Regiment’s head drum major David Warren connects with mentors and seeks opportunities in order to become a great leader. His lifelong pursuit of excellence helped propel him to be one of this year’s recipients of the Jim Jones Leadership Award given by Drum Corps International.

And from Rockford, Ill., it’s Phannnntom Regggiment!

What a thrill to hear those words ring out and know you are about to use music to inspire hundreds of people.

When I first experienced a Phantom performance, the show connected with me on a personal level. It was as if the performers were sharing each of their stories with me. The show wasn’t just a marching show; it was a Phantom Regiment experience. That connection to the show and prompting from my then-band director, Joe Huls, a Phantom Regiment alumnus, is what brought me to Rockford in 2010 to participate in Phantom’s drum major camp.

I was 15 years old and the new drum major for Carrollton (Ga.) High School’s marching band. I decided participating in Phantom’s camp was a great way to sharpen my skills. Little did I know that decision would propel me toward one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Marching Band Roots

Marching band has roots that run deep in my family. My dad was drum major of his high school band. My oldest brother was in Carrollton’s marching band during my elementary school years. I loved watching the band rehearse and perform. I would imitate drum major, Will Pitts, who later served as conductor with Phantom Regiment in 2005, 2007 and 2008 when the corps took first place at the Drum Corps International (DCI) World Championships. He was and is a great mentor, impressing upon me the importance of setting goals and training to develop the skills needed to achieve those goals.

Journey of Opportunities

During my third year as Carrollton High School’s drum major, I decided to audition for conductor of Phantom. I told myself that just the experience of auditioning would be worth the trip. I never expected to make the cut. On Sunday of that weekend, I came back to Carrollton in the third conductor position.

That first summer of drum corps stretched me in more ways than one can imagine. I learned what it means to be part of something larger than myself and to strive toward perfection on every level. I made a choice to learn all I could from conductors Dean Patterson and Billy VanDelinder. Phantom has a history of impressive conductors, and they are two of the best. Dean was intentional when it came to teaching me all he had learned from his position as head conductor.

I also discovered that Phantom is more than a drum corps; it’s a Phamily. The members, staff and volunteers function as a unit, not as individuals.

And so my journey with Phantom continued as I served as second conductor the next year and then the head conductor last November. In addition to conducting the corps during rehearsals and tour performances, as head conductor you have the privilege of striving to keep morale high. It’s about enduring the difficult challenges and celebrating the amazing opportunities.

A Recognized Leader

When I was presented the Jim Jones Leadership Award by DCI this season, it was the finale to an impressive tour for Phantom. Representing Phantom Regiment is an honor in itself, and to win this prestigious award was an all-time highlight for me. Jim Jones had a deep appreciation for drum corps. He approached life as a leader and a visionary. Those are the same qualities Phantom strives to develop in each of its corps members.

The fact that former conductor Dean Patterson and I were recognized in consecutive years speaks well of Phantom Regiment’s administrative team. They believe in developing spirited leaders who will act on what they believe, leaders that are conscientious because they care for those they lead, and leaders that are dreamers because they provide a vision for those that follow.

Throughout my life, my dad taught me that leadership comes with responsibility. It is my privilege to represent Phantom during the corps’ season and also to serve as an ambassador throughout the year. It means being deliberate about sharing Phantom’s vision to develop self-confidence and independence. It requires me to encourage teamwork among members of every organization I participate in. It charges me with becoming an involved member in my family, church, school and community. It mandates a positive attitude and an expectation of excellence.
We are The Phantom Regiment.

About author

David Warren

David Warren has been a conductor of the Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps for three seasons. He was assistant conductor in 2012 and 2013 and was the head conductor this past summer when he received the Jim Jones Leadership Award in World Class. He is a junior at Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga., where he is majoring in music education. His primary instrument is trombone.

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