Casper Troopers re-enter the professional marching band ring
Drum Corps International is a professional marching band and Wyoming has one of the oldest drum and bugle corps in the nation. After two years off due to the pandemic, the Casper Troopers marching band have a new show.
This year’s show, called Voracious, is based on the hit movie There Will Be Blood, the 2007 film by Paul Thomas Anderson about an oil tycoon in the late 19th century.
“We're telling the competition that we're going to drink their milkshake,” said the Casper Troopers director Mike Gough, quoting the film's most iconic line. He said the subject matter of the film is intimately tied to Wyoming’s relationship with the energy industry.
The troops' uniforms are black cowboy hats and vests dotted with fake oil. The color guard dances amongst black oil barrels and hang off of a 22-foot tall oil rig prop.
Drum Corps International has been around since 1972. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the last two years have not been full competitive seasons. This season, they are ready to compete with the nation's finest competitive marching bands.
“Drum Corps is basically the NFL of marching bands. It's the highest level of marching band that there is in the world,” Gough said.
To get an invitation to march with the troopers takes months of auditions and travel, and when they are accepted, participants train 10 hours a day, five days a week.
“It becomes very competitive to get in when we go through video auditions. We do in person auditions throughout the winter. We see through video and in person. We probably see over 1,000 kids,” Gough said.
The Troopers have two on-call meteorologists to check the weather for ideal marching conditions as well as a staff of 30 to 40 people, from food service to medical staff.
Mike Ottoes has been the executive director of the Casper Troopers since 2007 and said most of the practices are at Natrona County High School. He reflects fondly on his own time as a Casper Trooper.
“It is absolutely life changing and life altering and we have learned lessons that we literally use for the rest of our lives. I hope that they [his daughters] feel and learn the same things that I did,” he said.
He said he met his wife as a Trooper and now his two daughters are in the Troopers as well. Out of the 165 band and guard members, there are only four members from Wyoming.
Ellagina Gienapp is one of those four. She’s the color guard captain and said color guard is an integral part to the art of marching band.
“I love that you can turn music into a visual thing for people to watch,” Gienapp said while showing off her Troopers tattoo on her forearm.
Color guard is the dance element of marching band, utilizing flags, rifle spinning, and props to tell a story on the field while the band plays.
She is attending the University of Wyoming. The troopers have members from their late teens to 21 years old. She said she’s learned a lot about leadership during her time as guard captain.
“Well, troopers main slogan is HLD: honor, loyalty, dedication. So, I feel like a good leader should possess all three of those skills inside and out of the drum corps.”
During the Troopers Legacy Dinner, an important fundraising event for the drum and bugle corps, the crowd includes Troopers members from decades passed who donate funds to the group.
During the dinner members get a preview of the Troopers show and Lee Engle, one of the first Troopers, is in the audience.
“They performed well. But I felt they held back. Can’t wait to see them really go for it,” he said.
He auditioned for the first ever Troopers back in 1957. He said the Troopers are still a big part of his life and it's more than band music, the troopers are building memories that will last a lifetime.
“It's the life experience and the friends that we have all made that we've had over the years, regardless of how many years it's been. It's the family atmosphere,” he said.