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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Realizing a Dream

Reitz senior Kate Morris is fundraising for her Phantom Regiment participation.

Hold the flag line, because Kate Morris is Phantom Regiment-bound.

The F.J. Reitz High School senior has earned a member contract with the nationally ranked drum and bugle corps, the latest feather in the cap of her six-year color guard career. Now, she needs to raise the necessary funds to secure her tuition.

Viewing a performance of Drums on the Ohio — a Drum Corps International event featuring several corps held each summer at the Reitz Bowl — while in middle school kick-started Kate’s marching band ambitions. (Drums on the Ohio will not be held in 2023.)

Photo provided by Kate and Maria Morris

“My family and I would always attend, and I just fell in love with the sound and the way the color guard looked,” she says. “My older sister, Maggie, joined, and I, of course, had to copy her.”

Kate joined the Reitz color guard in 2017 when she was in seventh grade and has been enthralled with it ever since. For the first two years, she performed on the flag line. In the following four years, she added the weapons line’s rifle- and saber-spinning to her list of skills. She also held a leadership role her last two seasons in high school.

“What appeals to me about color guard is that it has a family feel to it,” she says. “It is a very loving environment, and it has always been a place where I feel safe and can be 100 percent myself.”

“It is her true passion,” her mother, Maria Morris, adds.

A visit to a Phantom Regiment-sponsored camp in summer 2022 sparked Kate’s desire to participate herself, but the dream was also held by her late father, Jamie Morris.

While attending the University of Texas, Jamie performed in the Longhorn Band’s drum line. He later served as an executive director of the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity and shared his passion for music and, particularly, marching band with his daughters.

Jamie — a well-known community member who co-founded the Funk in the City Arts Festival and was a former director of development for the Boys & Girls Club of Evansville — was 51 years old when he passed away in October 2021. Kate says “he would be beaming with pride” to see her perform in the corps’ regalia.

Phantom Regiment has several River City connections. The Rockford, Illinois-based drum and bugle corps has long staged summer rehearsals in Evansville and even premiered its latest routines for an eager crowd at Central High School’s Coach Mike Owen football field. The Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp.’s fine arts director, Dwight Emmert, also serves as Phantom Regiment’s corps director.

Since its founding 1956, college and college-bound students have participated in the Phantom Regiment Drum Corps, which features 165 on-field positions for musicians and color guard. The respected organization is a member of the Drum Corps International elite Top 12 and competes nationally and internationally against other marching arts ensembles.

Admittance to Phantom Regiment isn’t easy. After registering with the drum corps, applicants can expect multiple rounds of audition camps. At camps in December and January, Kate and other applicants were taught a few technique exercises along with a choreographed routine by the Phantom Regiment staff. All auditionees learned everything in a large group format and then were split up into small groups to perform in front of the staff for evaluation.

Kate was given a callback at the first audition, and, after the second, provisional member agreements. The third audition camp April 28-30 in Rockford secured her a member agreement contract and a spot on the field this summer.

Now, as they balance final exams and end-of-the-year school celebrations, they have the herculean task of finalizing $4,950 for Phantom Regiment tuition — paid in full by May 19 — which covers all housing, meals, and transportation for the 10-week program. Now in a single-income family after her father’s death, Kate has turned to crowdfunding.

So far, her Classy.org fundraiser has helped her raise more than $2,600 of the total needed to complete her tuition funding.

This will be Kate’s first drum corps experience. After she graduates from Reitz on May 24, she immediately will move into Phantom Regiment housing in Rockford, where she’ll attend daily drills and rehearsals throughout the summer. Come August, Kate will begin her post-secondary education at the University of Southern Indiana.

“Kate’s dad passing away last year has really been hard for her, and these past few days (since securing a member contract) have just been such a blessing for her,” Maria says. “It all means so much more than people realize.”

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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