Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Minuteman Marching Band Memories, part 6

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) …

Performance at the Massachusetts State House – Boston, MA: Tuesday, September 29, 1987

[] We set up on the State House steps and across the wings of the building. The podium had to be behind the first row of trumpets (in order not to topple down the steps!); and the pit had their backs to the crowd that was gathering on the street. The guard was in a block on one side of the lawns near the street, and the twirlers on the other. Drum majors had to cover the wing-bound woodwinds and first row of trumpets from the upper lawn!

In this supremely non-ideal setup, we played most of our show, and for America the Beautiful, Heidi and I gambled: we tried to mirror Parks’ conducting — it was necessary, the way we were set up. Obviously Heidi knew GNP very well, and I tried to match him flourish for flourish. It was unbelievable.

Band Day: Saturday, October 3, 1987

[] While Mr. Parks dealt with our fifteen visiting high school bands, and then all the wind players from all the bands went to separate warmups, Heidi and Chris and I rounded up the high school drum majors and made sure everybody knew our standard two-count salute, supposing we would be able to find a place in the show for it. (Actually, my suspicion was that Heidi couldn’t find anything to do, and that the condition probably applied to all of us, high school and UMass drum majors. It did.) Heidi decided to get brave. “This,” she quipped, “is the point where I get slapped around by Mr. Parks, when he sees all twenty of us doing this.” THIS was the salute that GNP performed after most DCA contests, complete with sound effects. “Gotta have those,” insisted Heidi. “GOTTA have those.”

On the 4-count present-arms: “HUNH HUNH HUNH HUNH…!” And on the 2-count order-arms: “SO… THERE!”

We performed it for the Boss as he called the woodwinds over to the podium. “That’s cute, Heidi,” he said over the Long Ranger. The three UMass drum majors broke the cardinal rule of salutes: we couldn’t help grinning like loons.

[] Have you ever seen two drum majors changing into their duds out of the trunk of a parked Subaru? Neither had a lot of curious football fans.

[Editor’s note: at least, back then. Until the Band Building is complete? Oh, all the time.]

[] During the first half, Heidi and I set up shop with seven of the high school groups and half the UMass crew on the visitors’ side of the Stadium, leading cheers and whatnot. It was a particularly good group. The only thing that could have been a damper on our support of the winning UMass football team was the visiting University of Rhode Island’s mascot. It came up to the band area and generally made itself at home, which wasn’t our idea of a good time.

This became particularly apparent when, as the high school bands filed down toward the warmup areas, the Rhode Island Ram actually started wrestling with one of the Agawam HS drummers. I considered myself restrained when I grabbed this fuzzy monstrosity by the throat, backed it up against a metal railing and growled, “If you mess with the UMass band’s guests again, I put you over the damn rail.” That would have meant a 20-foot drop to the gravel below. The Ram grudgingly backed off. Heh heh heh.

(I’m sure that violated a Starred Thought, but it felt good.)

[] Postgame began with a band-huddle at midfield. In the middle of this giant red-and-black ameoba, Mr. Parks supposed that this was “the dress rehearsal for Delaware!”

Twist and Shout went as usual, except that vocalist Dave Soreff decided to use the Long Ranger’s capabilities to the fullest.  He went INTO the stands to get the crowd going. Only that mad individual could have pulled that off without looking like a yahoo.

Stars and Stripes meandered along; and as I hefted the mace, the wind sent my cape flapping up into my face. Not a real excuse, but a possible alibi: I missed the catch, but barely. It hit my wrist and slid down my arm. But I did like Linda Hannum [Editor’s note: Seriously, does anyone in the whole band world not know Linda Hannum by now?] used to do — shook a finger at it, saying “how DARE you hit the ground?” Afterward, Jim Reynolds [’87] sidled over and observed, “I see you fired your mace.”

[] I managed to bum a ride back from the Stadium to my dorm off of Heidi, who asked, “Now: do you have anything you want to bitch and moan about?” I said honestly no.

“Personally, I mean.” Still no. Well okay, maybe occasionally I was ready to take the lives of a couple rank leaders every now and again. And … oh, my achin’ arms. “Tell me about it,” she groaned. “I wake up these days with new muscles screaming for attention. No one bother to warn me about bodily harm.”

In fact, I said, the atmosphere among the three of us DMs was still as agreeable as ever. I had no complaints. “Good,” she said. “That’s good to know. It means I haven’t screwed up yet.”

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October 2, 2010 - Posted by | band, football, GNP, humor, marching band, music, sports, technology, UMMB

4 Comments »

  1. That ram was lucky none of the rest of us joined you, Rob.

    Comment by Holly | October 3, 2010 | Reply

  2. Rob, I was Agawam High School DM that year! I was at that band day for sure. Thanks for saving our drummer!

    Comment by Terri | October 4, 2010 | Reply

    • Along with Dave Ziegert, as I recall. Heads up for a further Agawam HS -tinged tale, a few installments hence… 🙂

      Comment by rhammerton1 | October 4, 2010 | Reply

      • Yes, with Dave! He was senior DM and I junior. We had fun! I’m on the edge of my chair…

        Comment by Terri | October 5, 2010


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