Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Minuteman Marching Band Memories, part 5

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) …

Home Game #2 vs. James Madison University: Saturday, September 26, 1987

[] We suited up, set up the block, and took off for Southwest. (It was always exciting to march to a full cadence into the Southwest dorm area. One Saturday morning during my freshman year, someone in my rank noticed two figures watching us from a second-floor window. On looking for ourselves, the rest of the marchers in my general area were somewhat taken aback to find what was obviously a woman and her boyfriend just waking up and trying to see what all the racket was. And how did we know they were romantically involved?

(They weren’t wearing anything.)

… … … Now here’s the story I have told many and oft over the years…

[] For this pregame, Heidi took the percussion into the Stadium, saying she wanted to work out the whistle commands with them. Chris and I took care of the band itself.

After pregame, the band headed over to the gate, to make the tunnel for the football team to enter through. And there I was, marching calm as you please toward the gate, when Mr. Parks addressed me, hissingly: “Rob. Rob! ROB! … GET. THE. DRUMS.” Oops. My error — or at least I took credit for forgetting to tell the percussion to move to the gate too. I knew why that was: I thought the center snare took care of commanding the battery. So quickly I had the drums crab over to the gate … just in time for the football team to be over at their bench area. Drat.

Outside the Stadium, Parks called a drum major powwow, waving away Kevin Denninger [’88, senior band photographer and former alto sax] and some other questioners. “We have to start THINKING now,” he said, along with some other fire-breathing comments.

I could see Chris shrinking from 6’2” to 5’4”. Much as I tried to keep it expressionless, my face probably screamed my fault, my fault, my stinkin’ FAULT. (But I didn’t want to interrupt him. He was on a roll.)

To his drum majors’ relief, he added: “Now if that’s all we have to fix, we’re in great shape.” Still, we were properly chastised. I’m still not sure that the band embarrassed itself, as he claimed. Only if the audience knew exactly what pregame was supposed to look like. Or cared. But Heidi just looked over and drawled, “…We’ve got two hours on a bus to Boston Tuesday; we’ll figure it out.” And wandered away.

Chris was particularly grateful for Heidi’s impressive cool and tone of voice that said No Sweat. He and I did some mutual Marx Brothers eye takes and headed up to the stands.

[] Back up in the stands after halftime, I suddenly had that stomach-tightening sensation as I realized: I didn’t know where my shako was! At all! “Anybody seen hat number 279?” I asked, as if I were looking for some poor rookie’s lost item. No luck. Good move — the drum major loses his hat outright within the first three weeks. Set the example.

But … as the postgame rendition of Silverado ended, I happened to glance to my right, over toward the 50-yardline. And sitting innocently on the field, behind a line of trombones and in front of the battery, was a shako. At the moment when the line of cymbals in front of me broke rank and ran over to serve cymbals for the snares, I broke with them, scooped up the shako, and checked what number was written inside before bolting for the sideline to direct Canto del Viento.

Number 279. MINE.

I still have no idea how it got there. No way on earth it could have been out there the whole second half … maybe it was someone’s idea of a practical joke … or maybe it was just one giant TWILIGHT ZONE day. Yeah. That was it.

To be continued…


October 1, 2010 - Posted by | band, drum major, GNP, humor, marching band, music, Uncategorized


  1. As head librarian in fall of 1988 responsible for getting the music to everyone during band camp, I experienced that hissing address in the Concert Band room (it was rainy so we were practicing inside). I had put together a lot of ancillary stuff and hadn’t put together the parts associated with the drill we’d been working on!

    Needless to say, I was up at the copier late that night, eating my stomach from the inside out. The parts were ready for delivery the next morning. And I was ready to bury myself using only a spoon.

    Comment by Holly | October 1, 2010 | Reply

  2. […] (A whole lot of answers occurred to me and I voiced not a one of them. Do I know what you’re thinking? I was the drum major who forgot the drums, remember.) […]

    Pingback by Lift Up … Up Up Up Up Up. « Editorial License | September 15, 2013 | Reply

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