Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

What You Leave Behind -or- Making It Happen

A bit of a prologue for you now:

A few days ago, my good friend and colleague Heidi Sarver wrote this:

48 hours ago I wrote: ‘You made us better.’ You = George Parks. And he did, in fact, make ALL of us better – those who were part of his world, as well as those who ARE part of his world via the next generation. … Maybe some of us took that deep breath and realized that the best way to honor our teacher, mentor, friend and cohort was to take the reins in hand and ‘really make it happen.’ … ultimately the bottom line is this, he made us better…and we will make the next generation better.”

That is what Heidi Sarver wrote.

[You do not need to go cue up Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait”. In fact, please don’t. -Ed.]

She didn’t know that she was actually writing the intro for this post – a post that I had mostly finished shortly before she hit her own blog’s “publish” button. My head snapped back a little bit when I read her words, and realized that. Well … if you associate with people long enough, you may find that you’re able to finish their sandwiches …


Earlier this summer, I did my annual Drum Major Academy tour … ten days full of helping high school folks try to figure out that whole high school band peer leadership thing. Ten days’ worth, also, of hanging out with a staff full of people whose teaching chops I hope one day to emulate.

Shortly thereafter, I took to this space, and noted that for some reason, a considerably greater-than-usual number of DMA students had taken to heart our staff suggestion: stay in touch this fall. Let us know how it’s going. The number of high school drum majors with whom I got to work in July, who have since Facebook-friended me, is in the neighborhood of twenty, which would officially be at least ten times the usual. (Add in some of the collegiate staff assistants, and … I got me lots of new friends.) Maybe it was the extra time we spent in TV rooms during late-afternoon tornado warning, I don’t know …

Social media has turned out to be an easy way to see how everybody’s doing, as the fall marching season kicks into gear. Lots of photos have been posted online, of DMA students (and collegiates) in full drum major regalia for their first performance, or in an Ellen DeGeneres-style selfie on a band bus … and, this particular summer, there were lots of video clips of whole bands accepting the Ice Bucket Challenge.

As it turns out, a lot of these folks aren’t just good conductors and teachers … they’re pretty expressive writers, too. Anywhere from very funny remarks about how nervous they are about Show #1, to very sweet thoughts about how much they love their bands following pre-season camp … some are Tweet-length, and others involve paragraph indents. It’s been instructive.

This week, though, a lot of the folks who experienced the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy took a moment to post thoughts about its founder, on the fourth anniversary of his passing. Mostly, they were appreciating things they’d learned and how they were already able to utilize them in their jobs as drum majors.

A testament, no doubt, to the people who have now taken up the DMA instruction responsibilities that Mr. Parks had assumed, for all those years – the lead clinicians who show the students our version of the about-face, who dole out the Starred Thoughts, who wonder who’s going to win the marchoff (“or will it be a rookiiiiiiieeee?…”), who command the kids, “detail: wash the dishes!” in front of their parents on the final DMA day … the folks who “really make it happen”.


In the spirit of “show, don’t tell” … below are some snippets that I’ve scooped up from my Facebook news feed. (I haven’t asked any of their authors for permission to print them here – so they’re listed anonymously. If you’re curious to know who said what … you’re quite welcome to ask.)

Some of the authors address the online reading audience:

“George N. Parks was, is, and always will be absolutely spectacular.”

“So this upcoming Friday, I want us all to march a little bit taller, salute a little bit stronger, kick out our heels a little bit further, and make sure to show, for once, just a little extra bit of enthusiasm in honor of him. We won’t let his legacy die.”

More often, they’re addressing Mr. Parks himself:

“Even if all I can do for you is play music and try to teach and inspire just a few others, it’s a task that I will take up.”

“I feel your energy every time I get excited for band practice. I feel you when it’s a tough day at practice and I’m really struggling, when suddenly I am flooded with a wave of enthusiasm. I would not be who I am today without you and your teachings.”

“I hope you know how much you changed my life…”

“It has been four years since you have left this earth, and we all dearly miss you. But the legacy you left for all of us will continue to last for the rest of time.”

“I will go and reread your words, your starred thoughts when I’m having a bad day or need inspiration and it brings me right back to Mahar and the Student Union.”

“Thank you Mr. Parks, for letting me be part of your legacy. I wouldn’t be who I am today without it.”

“… the impression you left on me, as well as the thousands of other leaders, will last a lifetime.”

“You’ve touched all of our lives and pushed us to be better. You still inspire me so much to this day, and will forever.”

Here’s what strikes me about all these thoughts: the people who wrote them had never met the guy.

Video clips, yes. The particular cadence of a marching command or a GNP turn of phrase that DMA staff members use, themselves, without even thinking about it? Yes. … But in person? No. Never met him.


With that tiny little detail in mind, have a look at some other snippets of sentiment that have caught my eye this month:

“He was truly an inspiration to us all, even though few of us if any, ever met him.”

“I hope you know how much you changed my life—even 4 years after you passed away.”

“I know we never had a chance to meet, but in a way, I feel like we did.”

“I never knew you personally but you still left a huge impact on me.”

“So here’s to a man I never had the honor to meet, and changed my life more than anyone I know. Always with pride, just like you taught us.”


Okay, that’s a legacy. If the man had ever harbored any doubts about that … well, he shouldn’t have.


One last thought from one of my new friends. He or she (doesn’t matter which) might not have any idea how much it is The Kicker. Are you sittin’ down? …

“Thank you, Mr. Parks, for everything you did for all of us. Thanks to you, marching band is a magical place for everyone. …

I can’t wait to meet you some day.”

“Do you remember the first time you saw your high school band? You saw that drum major up there on the podium, bigger than life … and you said, ‘I want to be there someday!”, didn’t you?…” [Image courtesy A. Lane]






September 19, 2014 - Posted by | band, DMA, drum major, Facebook, GNP, marching band, social media, Starred Thoughts, teachers, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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