Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

A Year Later

Readers of this space … or UMass band members, alumni, parents and fans … or people who fit into any of a great number of other categories … know quite well what happened on September 16 of last year.

If you should need a refresher course, it’s okay … visit these blog posts, websites, online articles and YouTube videos, and recall the fall of 2010, and I’ll meet you back here in a moment.

“You CAN learn from any situation. Successful people DO.” –George N. Parks

The best things I’ve learned in the time since Mr. Parks’ passing have come from the insights of other people. … As often as I blather on, in this space… I swear the best applications of the English language regarding last fall’s events ALL came toward me, not from me. Here, I’ll quote some thoughts that were sent to me in what were understood to be private eMails or Facebook posts or conversations … but I won’t identifying who wrote what; and I do hope that the purveyors of these thoughts won’t slap me for publishing their fine work.

It’s a weird day for me, because I didn’t really know Mr. Parks, or formally meet him, but he’s a part of ‘home’.”

Today I taught the freshmen ‘Eyes with Pride’. I hope someday they can really understand it.”

Even knowing nothing about him until the other day, the way that all of you have responded through Facebook alone is a remarkable tribute to him and to the deep effect he had on so many people’s lives… he was clearly an amazing man and I’m sorry I didn’t know him.”

I never even met him, but even I knew how great he was just because of knowing his students and having seen the marching band in action.”

Everything we did, and everything we continue to do, will be to make Mr. Parks and our alum proud. … We didn’t make it through this weekend, he taught us so well, we knew no other way!”

…by chance my mother’s cousin has season tickets at UMichigan and was at the game. He and his wife said they had never ever heard the stadium as quiet as it was for a moment of silence for GNP…”

Definitely ready to cash in all the virtual hugs we’ve all been sending back and forth with real ones.”

Good to be with my second family.”

I would travel to any end of the earth for George. To see the lives he impacted gather to celebrate … speaks volumes. That was exactly where we all needed to be.”

It will be so good to be surrounded by so many great people this weekend. It’s interesting – it’s been so long since I last marched with everyone but they all still mean so much to me.”

What a legacy to leave behind when you depart this world — to leave legions of people committed to spreading love (can’t think of a better way to say it) on the planet.”

GNP was infectious and there is no cure.”

George did make UMASS and all the special band places safe for all of us to be ourselves….. Our best selves!”

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.”

[Homecoming 2010] A rollercoaster of emotions and you’re strapped into the front car!”

Amazing how the UMass band just spans generations yet, I bet most of us could name most of those people on your list [of band alumni at Homecoming].”

Thank you so much for sending me the links to the videos for GNP’s celebration of life. I am amazed by the beauty of the ceremony and the magnitude of sound from the band. What a fitting tribute to such a tremendous person!”

I remember saying out loud ‘I don’t think I can’ when My Way started but then, and twice later, I felt something come over me and lift me up so I could sing loud and clear all 3 times…”

How awesome is it that ‘Silly’ band tunes like Gloria, Phil, or Madonna hit that spot in the heart that makes want to be 20 again and tear the roof off a stadium with the Best Band Anywhere!?!?!”

I’m just having a hard time with the reality of all of this.”

We’re blessed to have been brought together by such an incredible personality. And we’d be remiss to ever let those things that he taught us go to the wayside.”

I was thinking the other day about 6 degrees of separation – and the number of people George touched and in some small way we got to enjoy the experience with many of them. Now it’s time to BE Santa.”

And finally, see if this doesn’t sum it all up, make you smile, and choke you up in one fell swoop … this, from the UMMB alumni newsgroup:

I will be eternally grateful for the welcome I received on August 31, 1989, on the first day of band camp when Mr. Parks had the entire band sing Happy Birthday to a 18 year old teen from south central Los Angeles who never thought she deserved to make it that far. … Mr. Parks you are my hero and I will always remember to ‘think the note…..’ Everything I ever learned about music that mattered I learned from my two years as a member of the band. I do not know if I ever thought I deserved to accomplish what I have in life but for one beautiful humid summer day in August on the rehearsal field so long ago I KNEW I had become a part of something that truly mattered. I pray that the Angels in heaven have given you the welcome you gave me so long ago.”

What it comes down to, I think, is this: Mr. Parks created a community, a massive family, and taught them in such a way that they’re strong enough to make it through a year like this, for the very most part, with Power and Class … With Pride … and with each other.  And I think it’s revealed the UMMB family as a group of people who are capable of expressing themselves with insight, dignity and, many times, beauty.

Starred Thought®: A band is a reflection of its leader.


September 16, 2011 - Posted by | band, Facebook, GNP, marching band, Starred Thoughts, UMMB, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Thanks, Rob.

    Comment by Holly B. Anderson | September 16, 2011 | Reply

  2. I am moved (of course) and grateful for your ability (and obviously others, as well) to put such intangible thoughts, feelings and emotions into words. Thank you for sharing, Rob.

    Comment by Geary Allen | September 18, 2011 | Reply

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