Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Minuteman Marching Band Memories

I’ve spent the last week, and more intensely the last couple of days, remembering and being helped to remember marvelous moments from my more than 26 years’ association with the UMass marching band, and George Parks.  I thought perhaps finally I’d publish a thing or two that I’ve been sitting on for a long time.

The content of the next few posts began as handwritten notes jotted in a tattered green notebook during my senior season with the UMMB, from August to December 1987. Sometimes sketchy, sometimes detailed — not only about marching band operations but more social or personalized events and impressions. A couple of years later, I took those notes and expanded them into actual prose.

Yes. I was a band geek AND a journalism geek.  A very, very, dangerous combination.  Talk about the “omniscient voice”…

But as I’ve gone back over those notes (and tried to decide which items were just too… too… too… off-topic(?) to ever see the light of day), I’ve noticed two common threads: whether the event I was noting was a Great Band Experience, or a Small Neat Moment, or Good Times With People I’m Still Friends With, or Drum Major Fun With Chris and Heidi … there was one fellow ultimately responsible for them all. Thanks, GNP.

So here goes. I promise, these are safe for future alumni interactions. I promise, no one gets hurt in the making of these notes. I promise, you will understand how I got the way I am – and I mean that sincerely.

Band Camp: Monday, August 31, 1987

[] Bright and early on the practice field, the rookies met Mr. Parks, resplendent in his navy blue warmup suit and a big ugly wrist cast. “How is the marble?” he asked his staff. Chuckling nicely, thanks.

[] One of our unanswered questions had to do with Who’s Head Drum Major Here? In fact, Mr. Parks hadn’t actually gotten around to deciding for himself. Though both Chris [Gardiner ’90] and I had flatly stated that Heidi [you have to ask? …Sarver, ’86, G’88] easily was the most qualified for that title, she said she wanted no part of it, and that we would function as three “equal” drum majors throughout the season, with as close to equal podium time as possible.

Of course, as soon as Heidi said that and walked away, Chris and I looked at each other, nodded sagely, …and then said, “Is she kidding? She’s the only one of the three of us who knows what GNP is really thinking. Oh yes she IS head drum major, and we don’t mind a bit.”

Band Camp: Tuesday, September 1, 1987

[] When we started putting the Silverado music into the drill, I discovered to my glee that Chris and I would conduct most of the tune from inside the drill. “Should be a kick,” I smiled.

In the pants, in fact. As I zipped around, conducting on the run, trying to avoid banging into people carrying things could hurt me right back (hellooo, color guard!), I made my first stupid-ass mistake. I forgot that I was supposed to be mirroring the podium, as it were. At a convenient stopping point, Heidi called me over to the box and whispered, “You’ve got to watch me if we’re going to keep this hulk together.”

This, I admit, gave me a zing: all through my musical career I’d always stuck with “Watch the Conductor.” Here I was, being accused of not doing it. Well, right–! I AM a conductor now. What else was she saying? “I looked over at you several times and didn’t have your eyes consistently.” Which suddenly made a whole embarrassing lot of sense. “The idea is that right now, you’re conducting what you hear. Be independent from what the band thinks they should play — you follow the podium.”

And then she said: “I thought I should tell you before, um, George does.”

For which I thanked her. For years afterward.

To be continued.

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September 26, 2010 - Posted by | band, drum major, GNP, humor, marching band, music, UMMB

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