Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Minuteman Marching Band memories, part 4

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 what characters whose lives he caused to intersect) …

There was some question recently about this, so I’ll say again: there is nothing in any of these posts that is injurious, libelous or embarrassing to anyone mentioned herein.  Especially in regards to a drum major who will remain … Sarv.  (Because, as I posted somewhere else, it’s in my best interests: she could kick my ass in seven different directions just by looking over at me.)  🙂

The Athol, MA 350th Anniversary Parade: Monday, September 21, 1987

[] While the band warmed up with Mr. Parks, the three drum majors tried to figure out what we’d do, and where, and at what speed. (Life questions.) As we got set to go, moving to a staging area (a side street), I did as I was told: called the band to Mark Time, Parade Rest, and At Ease. Parks promptly advised me, in front of most of the block, “Half your band didn’t hear you.” He continued: “Scream like you’ve never screamed before.” That was easy; I’d never screamed before. Only in my head at that moment.

[] Our responsibilities were simple: Heidi set the tempo in front of the drumline; Chris watched her for tempo from up front, and I took care of the back block. Good, except I couldn’t even see Heidi half the time, and wherever I was, somebody back there couldn’t see ME. If I was near one front corner of the block, the opposite half was helpless (unless Heidi was somewhere close). If I was in front center, Donna Cabral [’89] had to stop playing in order not to hit me with her trombone slide. “It’s okay,” she smiled, “my playing is probably not going to make or break the band.”

[] We stopped in front of the Duke of Athol’s reviewing stand and just wailed away on Canto.  (Yes, the Duke of Athol.  England.  Just popping by to see how the namesake was faring.)  I was blocked off from Mr. Parks by the people in the reviewing box, and blinded by TV camera lights. Oh well. And to top it off, the three of us uniformly forgot to salute on the way by. “So it looked planned,” said Heidi.

[] We played a standstill concert following the parade. The location for this was at a baseball park by the name of Fish Park. We were performing with a monstrous backdrop: the 40-foot-by-80-foot Mount Rushmore American flag, suspended from a crane, and spotlighted. That was the only light available, so the band was silhouetted and the conductors had their retinas destroyed.

Rehearsal: Tuesday, September 22, 1987

[] We returned to the outdoors for the first time in almost a week, and taught the new, revised portion of the Silverado drill. During the frontline feature after the bow, I found that I had to cut through the line of twirlers in front to get to the sideline, and so I developed a foolproof technique: I’d march straight toward Kathy McKenna [’88], who was second-closest to the 50 on my side. When the twirler drill said “move,” I was a couple of yards away from her and a gap opened up between her and Kelly McNamee [’89]. That is, as long as Kathy moved at the right time. And she did. But if at any time she hadn’t … oh, I hate it when that happens. Plow.

Rehearsal: Thursday, September 24, 1987

[] In toward the end of Stars and Stripes, my mace toss attempt went about 15 yards north in kind of a Space Shuttle launch arc — and I still lurched over and got it. (That drew a reaction from the sideline all right. Heidi said she knew exactly what was going through my mind as I let fly — “Holy Sh*t!”)

Mr. Parks and I looked at different throws and such after practice. He really wanted a forward roll, he said, because he’d seen me do it during my audition in May. At the time, Heidi had cracked, “That was a foolish thing to have done, Rob. He probably wrote that down somewhere last semester.”

To be continued…


September 29, 2010 - Posted by | band, drum major, GNP, humor, marching band, music, UMMB


  1. Ahhh…my daily fix. Thanks, Rob!

    Comment by Holly | September 29, 2010 | Reply

  2. These are great, Rob. Looking forward to more. Interesting to get a totally different perspective on events in which I participated.

    Comment by Steve Robinson | September 30, 2010 | Reply

  3. …someone is worried about what you’re writing?! Seriously?? BRING IT ROB!

    Comment by Heidi | September 30, 2010 | Reply


    Did you hear me say… I love this???

    Comment by Heather Felder | September 30, 2010 | Reply

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