Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Five of My Favorite GNP Moments from Years That Weren’t 1987

Well, I did march with the UMMB for three other years …


Rehearsal, early September 1984

After a productive band camp, we began our regular Monday through Friday, 4:40 to 6 rehearsal schedule. One of our early rehearsals was, shall we say, not going well. Lots of false starts, missteps, lack of intensity, your basic boring band. Finally, from the top of the scaffolding, Mr. Parks reached his limit.

His voice boomed through the air thanks to his trusty megaphone: “I shaved my beard off last night because it got in the way. You’re next!!”

Rehearsal went better after that.

Trip to President Ronald Reagan’s Second Inauguration, January 1985

The weather in Washington, DC that week was cold enough that the Powers That Were opted to cancel the Inaugural Parade outright. (One wonders what the participants in the Obama inauguration thought about that decision. Hello, Blue Hens!) So, all the parade units were sent to the Capital Centre in Landover, MD (later renamed the USAir Arena, then the Verizon Centre, next it’ll probably be renamed the Taco Bell Place O’ Hockey) … so President Reagan (and Nancy) and Vice President Bush (and Barbara) could be shown off to us. We went in, full uniform, no instruments.

So the UMMB was lined up in a rather lengthy double-file inside one of the concourses ringing the Capital Centre’s arena, at parade rest, waiting to go in. I happened to be within ten or twelve feet of the front of that form, and a number of us spotted a member of another band (likely a high school band) leaning against a water cooler, uniform jacket hanging open.

Smoking a cigarette.

You’re kidding, right? You’re at the Inaugural, in full uniform, and you light one up?

I’m pretty sure Mr. Parks spotted this at about the same time as we did. He decided to call us to attention, so he did. We responded to the command, particularly sharply and loudly.

That member of the other-band dropped his cigarette.

If it had been merely a coincidence, it was nevertheless a grand one.

Rehearsal, Band Camp 1985

As we rehearsed the “Right Stuff” opener, a group of little kids from the nearby day-care center were taking a walk that brought them about 200 feet from the front sideline. They stopped to watch, and every time we came to attention with a HUT, immediately they all cried “HUT!” And mimicked our “1,2!” shouts and such. After awhile we got really amused by this.

Hey!” said somebody in the band. “They’re a bunch of TUBA MUTES!”

As we imagined that and giggled, GNP came out with a joke that just snowballed: “Why do they stick little kids in tuba bells backwards?” I don’t know, why? “So you can see the expression on their faces!!”

Neither GNP nor DM Jeff Poulton [’87] (on the podium for the opener) could keep a straight face after that. Every time they’d try to rescue the rehearsal and start the tune, THEY would fall over laughing.

I think we had to take lunch early.

Field Show Opener, “The Right Stuff”, Fall 1985

In the quieter middle section of the opener, the band formed a giant jet plane shape, and from where the engines might have been in that shape, band members held aloft and discharged fire extinguishers, creating four jet contrail plumes. The audience usually reacted, ooh, aah, clever. Marchers nearby were usually blinded and asphyxiated, but the general effect scores were pretty high.

To achieve this effect in the drill, reportedly, Mr. Parks had put the actual movie “The Right Stuff” on his VCR, paused the video at a moment where a jet fighter is climbing straight up and is in silhouette, mounted a piece of drill paper on the screen, and traced around the outline of the jet.

I was not at all surprised to learn this.

Evening Outdoor Music Rehearsal, Band Camp 1986

1986, I believe, was the first year that Mr. Parks had described the feeling of the attention position (from the perspective of one’s backside) as “engaging the marble muscles”, i.e. clenched just tightly enough to hold a marble, um, aloft aft. So the question thereafter was always “How is the marble?”

So before one evening music rehearsal on the Haigis Mall plaza in front of Fine Arts, someone on Ad Staff (probably) bought marbles and gave each of us one. On GNP’s first attention command, we all took them out of our pockets and dropped them. On the Haigis Mall plaza concrete.

240 marbles went “CLICK, CLICK, click, click click clickclickclickclick …”

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November 7, 2010 - Posted by | band, GNP, marching band, music, UMMB

1 Comment »

  1. Your memory is wonderful–I had forgotten all of these. Thank you Rob.

    Oh, and in answer to what I might have thought about the Reagan Inaugural cancellation compared to Obama’s continuation…”Happy Morning America!”

    Comment by Heidi Sarver | November 7, 2010 | Reply


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