Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Minuteman Marching Band Memories: the Penultimate

I didn’t plan to have all these ancient-history posts lead exactly to UMass’ Homecoming weekend … but, well, interesting how things work out. The final two installments of “I was a GNP drum major” include: in this episode, the REAL final football performance; and next episode, bits and pieces from the week leading up to Merry Maple.

Rehearsal: Wednesday, November 4, 1987

[] All together now, some run-throughs. Silverado three times. Canto twice (apparently the drumline was Wide on the first try). Can Can twice. On the first of those, Chris and I extended our on-field drum major shenanigans (again I should point out these were Chris’ good ideas): we struck fashion-model poses on the 45-yardlines and winked at Heidi, catching her completely off guard. She lost it instantly. (“Chris, I think we finally got her.”) The second time through, we just dropped dead there. The bit of business was: where I flopped was where the small brass ensemble usually set up shop. John Kish came over and pinned me there with a knee on my chest, and I just flailed helplessly.

Football vs. the University of New Hampshire: Saturday, November 14, 1987

[] On the bus trip to New Hampshire, I sat in the second row with Lee Ann Riley, talking band and tending to make more jokes than constructive points.  At one point I supposed, “What’s the point of the horns-to-the-box horn-pop for flutes? Why do they do it? No bell on a flute, after all.” I hadn’t realized that GNP had been sitting in the row in front of us. He popped his head up over the top of his seat and said, “Yeah, but if we didn’t have them do it, they’d get on my case that we were leaving them out. And they’d be right.”

Oops. Hadn’t thought of that. Oh, my flute friends… do I still have any?

[] Heidi and I had to swallow our embarrassment at having set up the Long Ranger and some other equipment on the wrong side of this field. We’d set up over there after seeing a platform perched about twenty feet up an electrical pole, with some convenient metal spikes leading to it. After Guido had proven that anyone could get up there, Heidi looked at me and said, “Tower.” And we’d set to work.

[] At the beginning of the first half of the game, Mr. Parks told Heidi and Chris and I jokingly, “Your grades depend on how well you motivate the band to support the team.” Heidi turned the phrase around and announced that the BAND’s grades depended on how well they motivated the team to win. Needless to say, even knowing that it was all a put-on, the band went with it. For the rest of the game, except perhaps a lull in the third quarter, we were loud and rowdy and also coordinated with the cheerleaders. The last wasn’t unusual at that point in the season. What a blast.

Different sections of the band began to “steal” other sections’ musical cheers. Trumpets stole the trombone first-down fanfare, and the tubas stole the trumpets’ Penn State charge. After awhile, it got fabulously out-of-control; to the point where I turned to Heidi and Chris, brandished the whistle that hung around my neck and said, “What say we get into it ourselves?” So we did – by playing the cowbell cheer on whistles. And found out from the UMass football coaching staff that this is one thing you definitely do not want to do during the course of a game. Supposing the teams think it’s a referee whistling the play dead? We nodded solemnly, waited until the coach was back among the players … and broke up completely.

[] Halftime: I was told later that one unexpected note of interest had been the fact that the sun, backfield, cast shadows of the Can Can costume-changing guard members onto the panels in front of them, and people in the audience wondered loudly just what was up. Aha! I said. So that was what Heidi had been giggling at, on the podium.

[] On the way home, we stopped for dinner. But instead of McDonald’s, as we’d been told, it was at this little seafood place just outside Durham, NH, called Newick’s. And GNP announced an eight-dollar limit! EIGHT! Evidently this had been secretly budgeted at the beginning of the season – a kind of thanks-for-putting-up-with-this-trip. You could just about hear people’s jaws make contact with the bus floor. (I figured that after the $7 limit at York Steak House in 1985, there would be No More Of That.) Heidi managed to gasp something about not having known about it. “Heidi,” I said, “we’re the 1987 UMass drum majors. Do we know what’s going on?” Of Course Not!

To be continued, one last time…


October 13, 2010 - Posted by | band, drum major, football, GNP, humor, marching band, music, sports, UMMB


  1. What a great read, Rob! Did you write a journal during our undergrad days? I could never remember this level of detail of these events of over 20 years ago!

    Comment by Gordon Forrest | October 14, 2010 | Reply

    • Although I can’t remember where I leave my keys half the time, I can remember some unlikely details about football games long past. HOWEVER … yeah, I took a note or two at the time. 🙂

      Comment by rhammerton1 | October 15, 2010 | Reply

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