Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Minuteman Marching Band Memories, part 2

To continue to quote tales from an account of my senior year with the UMass marching band, fall 1987 … in the effort to express my appreciation for its director’s vast influence on how I turned out (whether via what he taught, what he was, or which characters whose paths he caused to intersect with mine) …

Band Camp: Wednesday, September 2, 1987

[] First things first: a MARCHOFF! The rules were simple: the band got commands called at them by Mr. Parks. If someone blew a command, they were Out.

It takes work even to be one of the last couple of dozen marchers. Believe me. My sophomore year, I somehow survived until I was one of the last six people left — but then I thought about it, made a stupid error, called myself out (honesty hurts) and then there were five. But on the way to the sideline, Mr. Parks called out, “How about a hand for Rob?” … I checked to see if my nametag had been readable from where he standing, up on the tower. Nope. He knew my name. Probably had since band camp of my freshman year, in fact. Oh Lord.

[] Meantime, Mr. Parks was in the process of rotating the conductors, trying to decide who would be on the podium for Stars and Stripes in the end. I got the call today, and my first podium trip was highlighted by three vivid memories.

(1) It was a vastly different perspective, which if you’ve not been up there before can be summed up in the detailed, nuanced, expressive phrase “oh wow.”

(2) I had an entire drumline staring at me. This can be unnerving, just because when our drummers concentrate on you, they stare as if their x-ray vision was about to tunnel right through you. Probably why they’re so damn together all the time.

And (3) I got pinned to the center of the box during the trombone feature by the slides of two trombones, one of whom was Stan [Alger ’88]. Two ranks of ’bones converged in toward the 50 and the front sideline to play the “be kind to your web-footed friends, because one could be somebody’s mother” phrase. With the first two slides being on either side of my ankles, I couldn’t move without either tripping over the slides or kicking them and destroying their owners’ embouchures. Mr. Parks thought aloud: “Guess it’s time to move the podium the standard eight steps off the sideline, huh?”

Band Camp: Thursday, September 3, 1987

[] Our “rehearsal podium” at Haigis Mall consisted of an inverted trash can from outside the Fine Arts Center. Heidi had worried that Parks, ever the energetic conductor, might bounce down on it too hard, at the wrong point, and break right through the somewhat rusty bottom of the can. At one point, I darn near pitched forward off it. Jim Hoover, from the snareline, saw it and grinned. I merely recovered, did an eye take and went on.

Band Camp: Friday, September 4, 1987

[] While we were waiting for music warmups to finish, Chris and Heidi and I discussed pregame. A major potential change was the addition of a Big-Ten, high-steppy march called Roll Down the Field. It didn’t take Heidi long to come with the appropriate drill. She pantomimed a member of the Gimp Squad [we already had several marchers with knee and ankle injuries] in a wheelchair, literally rolling down the field! Chris and I started singing with her, “Roll down the field, la la laaa, la la laaa, la la laaa,” at which point she pretended to do a full 360-degree spin on the imaginary chair’s back wheels.

Rehearsal: Thursday, September 10

[] After rehearsal, Heidi and Chris and I launched an epic glove hunt. Sorry, explanation: Mr. Parks had supposed that golf gloves would be something we should procure, the better to not destroy our gloves by clapping and catching things, etc. So we leapt into Heidi’s Subaru. No ordinary shopping trip, this — a whole evening trying to scare up any golf gloves at all. Or batting gloves. Or anything, so long as we had three identically good-looking pair that fit. A tall order, as nobody seemed to stock right-handed golf gloves. We raided the Holyoke Mall to no avail, except that a visit to a costume shop there yielded some beautiful ideas for Halloween. (A Buccaneer costume. Of course.)

The sporting goods store people directed us to a little shop in Springfield. We found the place just as it closed. We’d have to come back tomorrow morning. Whine!

But, since we’d skipped DC dinner, the three drum majors ate dinner together at a D’Angelo’s in Springfield. So okay, it was fast food, but it turned out to be a fine evening.

The Next Day…

We found gloves at Nevada Bob’s in West Springfield. At 16 bucks a pair, these were going to have to be more than temporary. Nine o’clock in the morning, and we were buying golf gloves? “We’re playing in a tournament this afternoon,” Heidi told the salesman.

To be continued.


September 27, 2010 - Posted by | band, drum major, GNP, humor, marching band, music, UMMB

1 Comment »

  1. Rob, I could read these all day. Keep ’em coming, please…

    Comment by Holly B. Anderson | September 27, 2010 | Reply

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