WEST MILFORD — If you pass by West Milford High School this weekend,Aug. 4-5, keep your ear to the ground and you may decide to follow the sound of music to the field.You’ll be more than welcome and you’ll be treated to the rehearsal of the Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps of Rockford, Illinois.
The best part, on the field with the Phantoms will be two West Milford High School alumni, Morgan Carter and Alex Weite.One-time Highlanders, now Phantoms, they’ll be headed for the Tour of Champions Grand Finale to be held at MetLife Stadium on Aug. 5 at 7 p.m..
Drum and bugle corps have a rich history, dating back to World War I.Often sponsored by veteran’s groups, returning military personnel marched in holiday parades to the sound of drums and bugles, much like they had done during the war. By the late 1960s, some groups started to break away from their sponsors and formed their own organizations citing, among other things, new and more theatrical possibilities if they were to operate independently.
According to Ray Schofield of Youth Education in the Arts, a former drum and bugle corps member, there will be eight top-flight musical ensembles performing at MetLife.“This is like major league,” he said.
As a member of Drum Corps International, the Phantoms have been touring all summer.Many members leave their college campuses in May and begin a summer of daily practice and traveling for exhibitions.This year they have played in about 25 states.
Schofield said the group is self-contained, traveling with a caravan of five coach buses and two tractor trailers.They have a mobile kitchen and are accompanied by a crew of volunteers.Many times they are housed by local high schools in the area of their show.
The performance at MetLife will feature the corps’ interpretation of the Puccini opera “Turnandot.”Set in China, the color guard will tell the story of a Chinese princess.West Milford’s Morgan Carter will be a part of that colorful presentation.
Carter, 19, graduated from West Milford High School in 2011 and is currently a nursing major at Temple University in Philadelphia.While in West Milford she was a member of the Highlander Marching Band and the Highlander Indoor Color Guard.She was also a twirler with the West Milford Cavaliers.
Catching Carter on road with the tour, she spoke about the Phantoms.After seeing the Phantoms in action she knew she wanted to become a part of their excellence.
“The competition into the corps is very difficult,” she said, consisting of two rounds of auditions with only 36 chosen out of the 200 who tried out.
Daily rehearsals and traveling eat up most of Carter’s time. The color guard and the brass and percussions musicians keep their noses to the grindstone.
“The hardest part is pushing yourself to be the best you can be every day for three months, with little breaks,” Carter said.
This is Carter’s first year as a Phantom and she hopes to stay on.
“The age-out is 21 years old so I only have two more summers after this one," she said.
For this summer she gets to don some beautiful costumes for her performance.
“The uniforms are wonderful!The first is a red coat with bagged red pants.Definitely Chinese inspired.To go along with it we have our gold crowns, since the color guard is portraying Princess Turandot from the play.Towards the end we change into beautiful blue and white sequined dresses that just sparkle and make the whole guard look amazing,” she said.
Sounds like hard work but lots of fun, too.How does she feel about coming home?
“I can’t wait to rehearse at my high school.I’m so excited to be back home and rehearse somewhere familiar to me,” she said.
And while rehearsals are not performed in uniform, West Milford residents can catch a sneak peek of the Phantom’s excellence at the field this weekend.
Schofield reports that in recognition of the return of Morgan and Weite, West Milford residents will be offered a $20 dollar ticket price (regularly priced at $29) for the Tour of Champions, available onlyat the Phantom’s rehearsal on Sunday, Aug. 5, from 1 to 2 p.m. This price is not available at the gate.
Tickets may also be purchased by calling Ticket Hotline, 877-512-8822, extension 125, or going to www.yea.org/student.
While unable to reach Weite while he was on tour, West Milford welcomes him home and wishes both he and Carter good luck as they near the end of their season.
Former West Milford High School students Morgan Carter, left, and Alex Weite, right, are members of the Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps of Rockford, Ill., and will be practicing with the group at West Milford High School on Sunday, Aug. 5, at 1 p.m. They will be performing later in the day at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford at the Tour of Champions Grand Finale.