Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.


Homecoming 2010 at UMass is complete. Given that it was a celebration of the life and legacy of George Parks, I was expecting that to be the overwhelming thing. Full disclosure: at the Mullins Center event mid-day, I couldn’t sing “Twilight Shadows” at all, and I got through “And now, the end is–” and that was about it for the “My Way” singing … I did much better after postgame, and at the time I was surprised. Think I figured it out though…

Three weeks ago, at Mr. Parks’ funeral (had to work hard to type that), Thom Hannum closed his remarks by saying that perhaps the most important thing that Mr. Parks had done for his band was to make Amherst … UMass … Chapel … the practice fields … a home to come back to, yes, but more importantly he made us feel safe.

I hadn’t thought consciously about that before; but Thom nailed it. (What, you doubted?)  And it stuck with me. I think it was why I sang “My Way” at postgame more strongly than I had in the past month, or possibly before that. Far more. Because I was physically and emotionally surrounded by a legion of the UMass Marching Band family; we were all together; and we were … safe.

I’m sad that Homecoming is over. I always am, when it suddenly is.

It was going to be a crazy day, logistically and otherwise. Overwhelming in at least that sense: Check in! Find your spot! Find a conductor! Go here! Go there! Leave your stuff here! Take your jacket off so we can see your shirt and then go sit there! [Murmur appreciatively as Jeanne Parks leaves no doubt about certain “unwinnable” situations.] Find a bus! Or walk! Now eat! To the stands! Out of the stands! To the northwest corner, the northeast corner, and that’s not to mention the aerial photography! Hurry up! And wait! To the end zone – don’t move! – okay, move! RUN!! Play! … Run awayyy!!! … Socialize, brace yourself against the wind, and …

Okay, I’ve gotten you back to postgame, and hundreds of band alumni on the field, arm-in-arm.

What I’m really sad about is that a day full of old-friend sightings, and new-friend-making, is done. I’m sad that I don’t get to spend any more time than that (at least for right now) with people who meant the world to me, and who still do.

About the only way I can properly convey what it was like to be around all (or rather, most of) my favorite bandos … is to describe a few of the various kinds of people they are. I got to hang out with current and former UMass bandos like these:

[] One of GNP’s first drum majors.

[] One of the top three people in the world in the category of “makes Rob laugh really hard, all the time.”

[] A band alum whose heart I think was, and is, always in the right place.

[] A former drum major who gave me my first big break in the world of high school band arranging.

[] A current color guard member who has a championship laugh.

[] A former twirling captain. (Friends, this is a big deal.)

[] A former drum major who knows what it’s like to drive long distances with me, and kindly hasn’t mentioned it in a long while. 🙂

[] A band alum who made a terrific speech at the Mullins Center.

[] A former tuba player who is just completely, enjoyably insane.

[] A former tuba player who was in my wedding party.

[] A former tuba player after whom they named a dynamic marking.

[] A band alum whom I first met on the steps of Chapel, while we waited for the Baby Band to come home from Michigan last month.

[] A band alum who started out as a member of one of my DMA companies; then became a UMass drum major; and now has her very own band. (For which I take no credit!)

[] A band alum who has mastered the fine art of the flying-tackle hug.

[] A former drum major who still dreams of “ze old country.”

[] Two band alums with whom I actually DO get to have lunch every so often! … but seeing them never gets old.

[] A color guard alum with whom I had the pleasure of working on the Boston University band staff some time ago.

[] A band alum whose folks basically ran (and still run) a stellar bando hotel.

[] A current bando who is also a former student of mine.  (And there’s a second former student whom I didn’t get to see at all — hope things are well!)

[] A band alum who somehow is both dignified and utterly lunatic — a spontaneous planner! — usually at the same time.

[] A former drum major who I knew was a trumpet player but I had no idea was that great of a singer, before last month.

[] The current bando who wrote that amazing eyewitness account of the Michigan weekend.

[] A band alum whom I had not seen or heard from in literally 22 years. Of COURSE I recognized you!

[] Three members of Heidi Sarver’s first (1995) University of Delaware band, who had driven six or so hours to make sure they were at the Celebration of the Life and Legacy.

[] A band alum to whom I am related, whose very young daughter and son want to play the clarinet and tuba, respectively (this week).  [Save your tuba mute jokes, please.]

[] A former drum major whom I didn’t know before; whose name had not been on my admittedly unofficial and incomplete mental list of “people who have been UMass drum majors”; but whom I instantly felt I’d have worked well with, if we’d been contemporaries … because we speak the same language.

[] A band alum who, in 1984, introduced herself to me (I was a freshman, she a senior) by grinning and saying “Hi!! I’m [her name]! Who the hell are you?”

[] A former drum major whose stick-to-it-ive-ness, whose vision of her future, and whose guts I very greatly admire. (Which DM? What a silly question.)

[] A current bando who has also used the word “safe” to great effect in the last week or so.

[] A band alum who has been revealed, this last month, to be one of the best writers the UMMB ever turned out.

[] The funniest Texas middle school band director I know.

[] The band manager during my freshman year, whom I had no right to expect would recognize me Saturday morning; but she did. (Think of the people who made band special for you, even if they had no idea they were doing it.)

[] An alumni band percussionist who made and hand-embroidered a pillow as a gift for me on my Senior Day. Even though she wasn’t in the band at the time.

[] A pair of UMass band alumni whose wedding I happily attended.

[] A former drum major who at one time made an outstanding fountain statue.

[] A band alum who could easily be the sweetest person on earth.

[] The only UMass band alum that ever (to my knowledge) roller-skated through an alumni band show.

[] The four gutsiest drum majors in the world right now.

And there were more. But that short list, and it is a short one!, contains people that all contributed to a feeling that you can only get in one other place: a baseball diamond.

What? …

Safe at home.

And whom do we thank for that? … The gentleman whom we DID thank all day Saturday. With pride.


October 18, 2010 - Posted by | arranging, band, DMA, drum major, GNP, marching band, music, Thom Hannum, UDMB, UMMB, writing


  1. Beautiful stuff, Rob, as always.

    Comment by Craig Jennings | October 18, 2010 | Reply

  2. Comment by Courtney | October 18, 2010 | Reply

  3. Well done, Rob. And no surprise there. Among many other great things about this that don’t go as easily into words, let me just tip my hat to you for the Arlo Guthrie reference. 🙂

    Safe. Amongst maces flying how many stories into the air? Drill moves that had to be done exactly right or ruin a brass player’s career? Battery percussion learning to “spin out” to avoid pile-up collisions when things went bad crabbing at a tempo of 160? A team of drum majors holding a challenging piece of music together with the band spread all over the field? Yes, even amongst all that and much more, we were indeed, safe.

    Comment by Steve Robinson | October 21, 2010 | Reply

    • And… Mr. Robinson wins the “secluded reference” prize. “Kid… have you re-habilitated yourself?” 🙂 Clearly we haven’t!

      Comment by rhammerton1 | October 21, 2010 | Reply

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