Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Minuteman Marching Band Memories, part 8

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) …

The Southern Tour, cont’d.: Day Two: Saturday, October 10, 1987

[] I woke up, stumbled around, groaned appropriately, and went to get the standard UMMB continental breakfast. A German chocolate donut woke me up good. About a half-hour later, Mr. Parks discovered that a bunch of us were in an intense game of frisbee. What did he do? The usual — jump in. Speaking of which: we were playing in the parking lot in front of the gym, and near me was a stone wall and a slight but easily survivable drop to the ground beyond, maybe two or three feet at the most. So I went diving after a frisbee throw and sailed clear over the wall, apparently disappearingly cleanly. I grabbed the frisbee and came up to find Parks staring over the wall at me. Then he grinned, and said, “you know, if you’d have just stayed crouched down a little longer, we’d have called the rescue squad.”

The Southern Tour: Day Two: Rehearsal, Newark HS, Newark, DE

[] We discovered that our practice field, which was behind the game field’s home stands (again, tall!!), was missing all its hashmarks. We had to set down orange dots and hope we were right. Throughout the rehearsal, we had to go back and re-set them. The crazy thing was that no matter what math we did, from the back hashmark to the back sideline was consistently only 26 steps. Humm… (It would have been a cute excuse for forms not working: “The hashmarks were in the wrong place.” Except that we weren’t in the mood. Uh, Mr. Parks? The dog ate my drill charts…)

Also missing was the headset from the Long Ranger, and Heidi fumed about that. Apparently, contrary to direct instructions dating from Band Camp, someone other than an Equipment Manager or a drum major was given responsibility for moving the Toy around. So we used megaphones and instructed lots of people to Keep An Eye Out. Could we have left anything at Christiana last night? No, said Paul [Corazzini ’89], it was clean when we took off. Great. “Why,” steamed Heidi, “is EVERYONE handling it?!”

Chris and I sheepishly backed off and prayed for a cool breeze. Mr. Parks had scaled the stands and was running the rehearsal from easily sixty feet in the air. (You still think he’s not God?) Chris was bidden to hightail it up there also, and I stayed on the ground, thanks, as we ran woodwind Silverado drill…

And voila, skies cleared: it seemed that Parks had forgotten he’d left the headset in his briefcase. Cancel the Red Alert. Heidi joked, “You know as well as I do, George — you’d lose track of your arms if they weren’t glued to you.”

“You’re right,” he said.

[] We ran postgame. In Stars and Stripes, for fun, I threw, ROLLED … and caught that foolish stick. Afterward — I mean while I was putting the mace down and running back to my 35-yardline fer cryin’ out loud — Paul Corazzini shouted, “I can’t belieeeeeve you just did that!” Up at the top of the stands, I think people were just shaking their heads sadly.

The Southern Tour: Day Two: Football vs. the University of Delaware

[] In a hell of a hurry, we parked, formed up outside and marched into Delaware Stadium, double file. And the band marched with an outta-my-way-damn-it strut that I hadn’t yet seen this year. Possibly because the Delaware band was standing at parade rest nearby. We got to the sideline, scattered into formation for our pregame version of Twist and Shout, and played. It went well. On the last chord, I spun — intending to raise my hands on the hit as if to say HEY, WERE WE AWESOME OR WHAT! Instead, I failed to see that vocalist Dave Soreff had climbed up to stand behind me and face the crowd … and I darn near knocked him right off the box. I wish there was video of that, no matter how clumsy it might have been.

[] Afterward, GNP sidled over to me and asked, “Where was the toss?” Uhh … oh yeah. That thing. My explanation for having stayed on the sideline, conducting Stars and Stripes. (1) I thought it best to help remind some of the people that we were still doing the edited version, and (2) I thought this was a preview, and we were saving some things. “Okay,” he said, “but just don’t NOT do it again.”

[] The game ended. Gratifyingly, nobody in the home stands left. We spent a few minutes setting up and warming up. (In an awfully conspicuous way — “as long as you’re going to stay, we’ll take our time about this. Excuse us.”) Right before Silverado, Heidi leapt onto the podium, heard a loud crack, and jumped right back off. She looked it over and said, “How ’bout that! I broke it!” Indeed, the new podium, just built, had lost both hinges simultaneously. Paul C. and Sue Holman crouched down and literally held it together.

[] Our postgame show apparently was such that as we got to the end of America the Beautiful and set up for Stars and Stripes, and the Delaware crowd mistakenly thought we were done, we heard cries of “More! More!” (Delaware ’87, just maybe.)

So – pretending mightily – GNP decided (“Do we know anything else?”) to throw in Stars and Stripes. Up went the mace, roll went the boy, up came the boy, down came the mace, catch went the boy, “…super-yay!…” went the boy. There’s low-angle video out there that proves how stoic and Vulcan I was in my reaction…

From here till the end of the season, anything could have gone wrong and I wouldn’t have cared. I rolled at Delaware.

(I had also proven that these drum major uniforms were not built for gymnastics. Dashing back to the 35-yardline, I took inventory: the cross-sash was undone, as was the cummerbund; the killer collar and first snap of my jacket were also undone; the Velcro side fasteners on my pants had let go and my pants themselves were coming OVER my jacket. Good thing I had on a P&C shirt beneath. And while some days the mace catches you … today, I caught the mace.)

[] While we mingled with the Delaware band at a postgame reception, Jeff Wheeler [’88, bass drummer] approached me, saying, “Rob, are you going to remember the four accents at the end?” Oops. I didn’t this afternoon, did I? “That’s okay, but if you could remember it definitely for tonight…” Was the drumline doing something that I hadn’t heard about?

“Well, not this afternoon; but tonight,” he said with a glint in his eye, “the bass drums are goin’ over!” (The basses are set on the ground; while still attached, the drummers roll over them and balance on their heads while slamming away on the last roll.) “Oh — and also, after the four accents, hold onto it for awhile. Boomer needs help getting back up.” Gotcha. I suspected Mike Lawton’s [’90] bass drum might have been heavier than he was.

To be continued…


October 4, 2010 - Posted by | band, drum major, football, GNP, humor, marching band, music, sports, technology, UMMB


  1. I have on my FB page a picture of George tossing that frisbee to someone…

    Comment by Holly | October 4, 2010 | Reply

  2. This is great stuff Rob. Brings back many memories, and fills in a lot that could only be known from your perspective.

    Comment by Steve Robinson | October 5, 2010 | Reply

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