Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

A Pause to Consider

Twenty (20) (oi, TWENTY) years ago this very day was the first time I ever heard a college band play one of my arrangements live in performance.

It was UMass, playing the theme from “American Bandstand”, at Fitton Field, on the campus of the College of the Holy Cross.  I’m not sure how many people get to have their first arrangement played by a 300-member band with the percussion written by Thom Hannum.

[Coincidentally, Fitton Field was the location of my first road-trip performance as a UMass band freshman; and a lot later in life I got to be the band director at … Holy Cross.  That’s a heck of a field.]

How did it sound?  How did it feel? … Let’s just say that I remember chatting with Michael Klesch, who was also writing for UMass at the time, and who has been responsible for a few kinda neat arrangements in his time.  He asked me how it felt to write for UMass.  “You have no idea,” I said, quite fuzzily.  “Oh wait, right … you do.”  He then said something which is very true, and has not changed in all this time: “We have an opportunity that so few other people get.  Isn’t it something?”

For that opportunity (as well as, happily, lots of ensuing ones), I have George Parks and particularly Thom Hannum to thank.  Thom was brave enough to read my second unsolicited attempt at a UMass Hoop Band arrangement during my sophomore year there – the first one, um, wasn’t great! – and since then he has been nothing but unfailingly supportive of my writing work.  That would be Thom: always willing to use whatever considerable clout he’s got to help his students.  I never took a single percussion lesson with him – watching his drumline was education enough! – but I surely was one of his students.

Happily, as I say, since then, I’ve had the opportunity to continue to write for other bands (high school, college and community).  Some of my arrangements have gone to fun places like Bands of America performances, or NCAA tournaments … and some have gone onto local football fields and seemed to make bunches of band kids fairly happy.  It all proves that as much as what you know, it’s who you know, and which ensembles you get lucky enough to be associated with.  (Go BU.  Go Gardner High.)

Speaking of: this is my sixteenth year of writing arrangements for the University of Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hen Marching Band.  And for that large and unusual opportunity, I have UD director Heidi Sarver to thank.  She had kindly conscripted me to write a thing or two for her while she was at her first high school teaching job, then again when she was at Temple University; and then in the summer of 1995, she asked me, “how’d you like to write for a major college band?”  She was under no obligation to do it, but she did.

One more thing.  I could dig back and really try and figure out who my music-writing “ancestors” are – the people who gave me my very first breaks.  I think that distinction probably goes to Jack Megan, a music counselor at the summer arts camp (Charles River Creative Arts Program, Dover, MA) where I spent many summers as a kid.  One day, my first summer (1982) as a junior baby rookie staff member, as we were nearing production week of our children’s musical, Jack tracked me down and asked if I could write a pit band arrangement for one of the tunes.  I suspect he probably thought it would save him some time, down-to-the-wire as we were.  When I handed it to him the next morning (and this was before computer notation software; we were still working by hand, yeesh … so I guess I appeared just a *little* enthusiastic), he paused but an instant, and said, “…okay, can you do these two others?”

Nobody gets places on their own.  Everybody gets help from somewhere.  I’m fortunate to have gotten huge help from generous sources.

[Proofreaders’s note: Math and I didn’t get along after I got to the 7th grade.  Upon further review, the ruling on the field is overturned: 1990 was twenty years ago, not thirty, as my original post suggested.  Well, I knew how to spell it, anyhow. 😛  ]


September 8, 2010 - Posted by | arranging, band, CRCAP, GNP, Hoop Band, marching band, music, Thom Hannum, UDMB, UMMB | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. […] a year and a half ago, I published an item here which noted some of the people whom I consider influences on my musical life – teaching, […]

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  2. […] this space, I have taken more than one opportunity to appreciate the people with whom I got to share band experiences, many of […]

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