Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Minuteman Marching Band Memories, part 7

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) …

(Special note, appropriate to the day: in 1987, we didn’t have the Allentown show, so we had to make do!)

The Southern Tour: Day One: Friday, October 9, 1987

[] The one real road trip of the year began. I had the feeling that it would be memorable no matter what happened: my class had done this trip during our freshman year — an immense experience — but we kept hearing about Delaware ’83. How about Delaware ’87? Too much to ask?

We departed at 8:11 AM, not bad for a scheduled 8 AM blastoff, and especially for a double-overnight. Bus One was dubbed “the Concorde bus” when we climbed aboard. It had a built-in stereo system (over which we played the “Friends” recording three times before we hit New York City). It had armrests which flipped up or down. It had carpeting on the ceiling. (I suggested to Karen Burbank that if the bus ever rolled over, we wouldn’t have to put on our shoes to get out. I think we must have laughed for three solid minutes. We just about fell over laughing. Whether it had been a funny thing to say or just early in the morning, I wasn’t sure.)

[Editor’s note: Come on, folks, this was 1987.  If the bus seats weren’t vinyl it was a big deal.]

[] We stopped at a rest area in Connecticut to let our bus drivers stretch for a moment. It didn’t take long for Donna Cabral to have her hand slammed in the door of Bus Five. Rudy [VanderSchoot ’88, alto sax] and Paul Joseph [’89, trombone] had their first EMT exercise an hour into the trip. The painkillers took hold and we bussed through a traffic jam over the George Washington Bridge; and Donna obviously felt better … she provided play-by-play on the Cross-Bronx Expressway: “Oh look! Another abandoned car.”

The Southern Tour: Day One: Rehearsal, Christiana HS, Newark, DE

[] We arrived at Christiana High School in Newark, Delaware at around 2:30 PM. A sense of perspective hit me when I heard that this was the field where GNP had done his high-school drum major work. To get our bodies jumpstarted, Heidi led her idea of calisthenics in a parking lot near the field, then we moved to the field — which was more like a stadium. The home stands went up simply forever.

Our only problem was that Mr. Parks’ voice came out of the Long Ranger amplifiers, and it took Chris and I a full five minutes to figure out that Parks himself was speaking from the top of the stands. Oh HELLO there! “Head and eyes up here!” I can’t find you, and I’m nearly a college graduate!

[] We attacked the Silverado opening over and over and over again — the main problem being the bass drums’ musical line at the beginning. I was told to direct slightly ahead of what Heidi directed, so the bass drums’ sound would get to the front at the right time. I tell ya, we’d dealt with more sound delay problems this year than in the past three years combined. And anyway, wouldn’t that mean that the tubas would be heard EARLY? I didn’t ask. It seemed to do the trick.

The one moment of that Silverado session that probably changed the mood of the rehearsal from grim to (gasp) enjoyable has to be credited to Basil [Istwany, tuba player]. Just before what was probably Take #7 on the opening statement, Heidi called the band to Attention and immediately, Basil let out with a long, loud shout that sounded like a mixture of “let’s get psyched” and “my feet hurt.” If I had to spell it out, it would read,


It might have gone on for quite a long time, as everybody cheered for him, but John Kish [’88, tuba] stepped out of the form, stood in front of Basil and conducted a cutoff, at which point Basil stopped. And then laughed, a lot.

It got everybody going. Before the next re-start, he began again, except that this time the whole band joined him. After laughing so much that she doubled over on the podium, Heidi joined the joke — by conducting a huge, exaggerated cutoff — and the band stopped. That was probably the first time we’d been in a collectively good mood that whole day.

The Southern Tour: Day One: Lights Out, University of Delaware, Newark, DE

[] That evening, Ms. Sarver looked wiped out when I offered to help her stuff into the University of Delaware Phys Ed offices where she’d be hiding out tonight. She accepted gratefully, asking if I minded a griping person. “Not at all,” I answered.

She showed me the incredibly obtuse cleaning job done on her uniform skirt. “Just keep moving, Heidi,” I suggested, “and the Delaware crowd’ll never notice.”

“Yeah,” she smiled, “but George might.”

To be continued…


October 3, 2010 - Posted by | band, drum major, humor, marching band, music, technology, UMMB


  1. Oh Paul Joseph! He was from Agawam. Great trombone player. I marched with his younger sister Susan.

    Comment by Terri | October 4, 2010 | Reply

  2. I did calisthenics?! REALLY?! yikes!

    Comment by Heidi | October 4, 2010 | Reply

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