Fishers resident Samantha Elfreich, a 2020 Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate, spent the summer living out of her suitcase and sleeping on the floor of high school gyms across the U.S.
Elfreich is a member of Phantom Regiment, a competition drum corps and color guard that performs at events across the nation.
Phantom Regiment, originally based in Rockford, Ill., spent about three weeks practicing in Evansville during spring practicing before hitting the road to perform.
“We move in and that’s our life,” said Elfreich, a junior at Ball State University majoring in media and video production. “We live out of our suitcases and travel around the country with the corps. (Living on the road) is kind of exhausting but in a good way. And all decisions are kind of made for me. So, I don’t have to think about anything except learning and getting good at the show. You become very good at your organizational skills, and I quite like that I get to focus on just performing.”
Elfreich began participating in color guard when she was in seventh grade in 2015 and participate each year throughout high school. She started spinning rifle and saber in high school and participated in dance. Rifle and saber are props that look like weapons and are used to spin and throw in color guard performances.
In Phantom Regiment, Elfreich has mainly performed flag and dance in shows, but this season she spun rifle for the first time, an experience she said helped push her out of her comfort zone.
After her drum corps experience each summer, Elfreich spends her winters participating in a winter guard in Ohio called Juxtaposition. Besides being a student at BSU, has taught color guard at HSE and helps out during the high school’s marching band season, which ended Oct. 30. The school’s guard advances to the semistate.
“I have to be very on top of my schedule. My calendar is absolutely full,” Elfreich said. “And just a lot of it isn’t even planning out the events themselves. It’s figuring out how I am going to get to this point, like when do I need to leave to arrive on time.”
Elfriech’s mom, Sheri Elfreich, is proud of her daughter’s color guard accomplishments. She said her daughter tried a variety of sports that just didn’t fit.
“(Samantha) had been doing cross country, volleyball and lacrosse and enjoyed all of those, but none of them were really jumping out as her ‘thing,’ her passion,” Sheri said. “I’ll never forget it was December and maybe 40 degrees outside and she asked if she could go out and practice spinning her flag. As I watched her in the backyard, I told her dad, ‘I think she found her thing.’ Little did I know what that was going to grow into.”
Sheri marvels at her daughter’s growth in color guard.
“Watching her this past summer performing with Phantom Regiment was indescribable,” Sheri said. “Thinking back to where she started, it is crazy to think of how far she has come and how much she has grown. Her dad and I are extremely proud and excited to watch her pursuing her passion. There is nothing that quite compares to being in Lucas Oil Stadium watching Drum Corps International World Class Finals, and the place is packed with fans and hearing the cheers and seeing the standing ovations knowing your kid is on that field or on that floor living their dream.”
Elfreich’s dream started in the band room of HSE high school. As she was approaching graduation in the fall of 2019, she decided there was no better time to audition for Phantom Regiment, a drum corps she had seen perform at Drum Corps International at Lucas Oil Stadium for years with her high school band. However, by the time she got a call back for a second audition in spring of 2020, Phantom Regiment performed its 2020 season online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She has been able to perform in two in person seasons since.
The 2023 summer season will be Elfreich’s last year of eligibility to perform with Phantom Regiment. Winter guard, however, does not have an age limit so, Elfreich said she hopes to keep performing in that.
Home away from home
Hamilton Southeastern High School director of bands Audrey Torres,said that part of what makes the HSE band program successful is the feeling of safety and comfort the program provides for student participants.
“HSE marching band is a family and a home for so many students,” Torres said. “It’s a place of acceptance. It’s a place of openness and lack of judgment and where you can truly be yourself. You can be authentic. You can be real. You can come in when you’re having a bad day and you’re going to have people that lift you up and you can come in when you’re having a great day and have people that will celebrate along with you.
“And so it’s really that safe space or that environment that students know they can come to in the school and be themselves, and they know they’re going to find a support system.”