Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Safe, Part 2

A week shy of nine years ago, at the memorial service for George N. Parks, UMass’ late, great marching band director, UMass Minuteman Marching Band associate director Thom Hannum made a terrific eulogizing speech.

In that brief talk, he described how Mr. Parks had done so much over the years to make his band members – and his band alumni, when they returned to campus for Homecoming Weekends – feel safe. That no matter whether it was in Old Chapel or on the practice fields, Mr. Parks’ priority was to make sure UMass marchers felt “safe at home”.

My recent visit to campus reinforced the old quip that the UMass campus isn’t really the UMass campus without some ongoing construction somewhere. So many new structures have gone up that depending on where I stand and in what direction I look, the place can look lots less like the campus I remember from my time as a student in the 1980s. Time marches on, as does progress, I guess; but it can be a bit unnerving. I used to be able to see from this building all the way to that building, but now there’s stuff in the way…

Meanwhile, one of my stops on campus was down the road from Boyden Gym and across the street from the Mullins Center and down the hill from South College and up the road from the Campus Center: the George N. Parks Minuteman Marching Band Building.

Which assuredly did not exist when I was a student. Old Chapel was the band’s base of operations, and although it barely contained the growing band and its equipment, and was in worse and worse shape as the years passed … it was the place we gravitated to. “Let’s meet at Chapel,” we’d say, sometimes using it as a launching pad to other destinations, and sometimes staying right there. It was architectural comfort food.

On that campus visit, I came to the realization, quite unexpectedly, that the “new” building, now eight years old, is an entirely familiar sight now. I’ve been in it many times now – certainly enough not to get lost in it anymore. Enough to know how to get from the cavernous main rehearsal space to Dr. Anderson’s directorial office without needing to ask a passing band member for directions.

More importantly, there have now been eight years’ worth of band members for whom the Parks building is indeed home. For whom their band home has never been anywhere else. Yes, Old Chapel exists; and enough is said about it that students have to know its importance in UMMB history. But the Parks building is the place to which they go. Not to storage units off-campus … not to condemned converted apartments on the outskirts of campus … but to an actual on-campus locale. A building that is not (as George Carlin misstated, arguably) just a place for their stuff. It’s where the band literally and figuratively lives now.

True, Mr. Parks didn’t live to see the grand opening of his brainchild project. (If you’re a particularly spiritual person, you may be inclined to make the case that he actually did see it, looking down on it all, etc.; this is probably not the blog post for that conversation.) He didn’t get to see it go into operation. He didn’t get to see how much the band’s functioning would end up centered on this building.

Ah, but given the man’s fertile imagination … oh, for darn sure he did.

Someone who could imagine his band entertaining football crowds with halftime shows based on the music of, say, Danny Elfman’s Batman score (with Batman and the Joker running around on the field) … Phantom of the Opera (Christine and the Phantom running around, that time) … the Little Mermaid (with a fearless eight-year-old singing the “Part of Your World” finale) … Hook … Gladiator … Zorro … Pirates of the Caribbean (the band forming an actual pirate ship, and the guard taking it down with fabric Kraken tentacles) … and then seeing all of that done …

Someone who could imagine his band being taught by DCI Hall-of-Fame music educators, and then convincing those people (seeing their potential long before DCI conferred those honors on them) to come work with his band and stay for literally decades …

Someone who could imagine a summer clinic that could pass the marching-arts and specifically drum-majoring traditions and skills on to generations of students, and building a nationally-known clinic that let him see many of those students join his band, help lead his band, help lead their own bands, and help teach the next future generations of drum majors …

Someone who could imagine his band becoming accomplished enough to attract the attention of people like the Sudler Award committee, and then over the course of years and years at the helm putting that band in position to receive that award …

Someone who could imagine his band performing at New England Patriots and New York Giants games, the Canadian Football League championship game, a Presidential Inauguration (or several), a Bands of America Grand Nationals exhibition (or several), and the University of Michigan’s vaunted “Big House” … and then making all those things happen …

surely someone with that kind of fertile imagination could imagine – far beyond a mere set of sterile architectural drawings – a state-of-the-art headquarters for his band which would surpass the physical capabilities of the legendary Old Chapel for supporting his band’s activity, yes; but which, more importantly, would become its new home.

And which would come to be thought of as its new home … and then eventually would come to be thought of as, well, just plain its home.

I wondered, awhile ago, as I considered the fast-approaching ninth anniversary of Mr. Parks’ passing … from where would my annual commemoration of that event take its inspiration?

Turns out, that inspiration was taken from the memory and legacy of one of his greatest strengths: unfettered imagination, merged with dogged, stubborn determination, all in the service of his students.

Including those students whom he never met, but who – thanks to those strengths of his – now have a place where they feel … safe at home.

[Ed. Note: An episode of my new podcast, “Two Minutes Great”, is being posted simultaneously with this blog post; this week’s episode offers up a little bit of evidence of that active Parks imagination, in the form of part of his band-building-groundbreaking-ceremony speech. You can find the podcast here.]

September 16, 2019 Posted by | band, GNP, marching band, Thom Hannum, UMMB, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Charles River Tent Flaps: “The Next Ten Years?” as Viewed From CRCAP’s Perch in 1979

[“CHARLES RIVER TENT FLAPS – THE FIRST TEN YEARS” is made up of interviews with past and present staff members and campers of the Charles River Creative Arts Program of Dover, Massachusetts and of articles from The Daily Double.” -from “Tent Flaps”, published for the CRCAP tenth-anniversary celebration, summer 1979 (David Downing, editor). Its final page is a curious time capsule, including staff speculation as to where this thing goes from here … having no idea that 10 years of “this thing” would lead to forty more … ]


It depends upon the economy, the gas situation. I mean, Dover’s out in the middle of nowhere. I’d like to see it become a year-round thing.”


Every summer the performances, the quality of work in the class, the staff get better, even if it’s the same people. The kids as a result get better. Each new person who comes to teach will have their own special class that’s something different, like Susie Clifton’s Sign Mime. I think it’s going to progress in that way. What I hope doesn’t happen is that it becomes more specialized; I hope we still get the same kind of kids, some are talented, some are not.”

The thing that’s made it so special is that it’s small. It would be great if it were as small as it is now but it won’t be.”


I think aspects of this program will be big ten years from now, like the Charles River Press. I think that the camp will still exist here but I also believe that there will be affiliates of this program in existence, in the North End, for example. We really need more outreach, more commitment to recruiting minorities. We can’t be an insular community. The lack of public transportation to Dover has been hard on getting a broad base of kids here.

I see perhaps touring companies coming out of here that take our shows to other communities. Maybe even a team of people who work with the schools to integrate the arts into the curriculum.

The arts generally need more professionalism at the management level. Unfortunately, I also think the arts will still be peripheral to society ten years from now.

Finally, I hope we get some better initials.”


There’s the statement that when things get tough the first thing to go is the arts. That’s true in California with Proposition 13. But here you’re talking about economics and government; you’re not talking about people. I think it’s becoming so much more a part of our society and people are being exposed to it so much more. The city’s moving out to the country which is exposing the country to the arts.

It’s not going to be given up; the arts are too much a part of our lives, whether it’s the kid with the music lessons or parents involved in community theatre or the professionals. People are becoming more conscious of the statement it can make.

By the time Bach came around, Europe had existed for 1600 years. There was a whole culture behind Bach. This country’s only existed for 200 years, and with a transplanted culture. It’s going to take time. If it were two Europeans talking, there wouldn’t be any question of the arts surviving. In this country, the problem is that it’s still too young to have a lot of pride in its artists.”

July 12, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Charles River Tent Flaps: 1978

[“CHARLES RIVER TENT FLAPS – THE FIRST TEN YEARS” is made up of interviews with past and present staff members and campers of the Charles River Creative Arts Program of Dover, Massachusetts and of articles from The Daily Double.” -from “Tent Flaps”, published for the CRCAP tenth-anniversary celebration, summer 1979 (David Downing, editor). We begin as CRCAP begins to revel in, among other things, creative insult humor …]



Morris dancing … Morris [the advertising cat; look him up, kids] dies … CRCAP invaded by flies … Eli (Joe) baptizes the new amplifier for the electric piano … King Tut … Carrie [Aizley] imitates Kippy, Daniel, and Zachary, all at the same time, during the CIT show … softball games with Camp Unity … I HAVE A DREAM done by Multi-Arts and Camp Unity … Tenny Donnelly Award … incendiary and failed balloon launchings by DD … Ann Brown, artist-in-residence … Holly Clark takes on the lion’s den, the Daily Double … Katchup debuts as THE CRCAP newspaper then retires to once-a-week status … Maureen becomes a TV star on Evening Magazine



When Robbie ate some potato sticks with preservatives. -Quincy Houghton … Having Quincy admit that she liked “Health Food” cake. -Rob Houghton … … Louise, Louie, and Peter doing Monty Python’s Penguin on the TV. – David Blackett … The Jan Curtis concert. -Cynthia … The cake! -Nissy … When the fly paper fell on Neil Deluca’s head. -Dawn … The week Sam Thompson was absent. -Mac (Debra) … When Jackie threw me in the dumpster. -Sarah Katz



ROBIN HOOD needs bows and arrows. Give to Suzanne. … Pool needs white sheets, hula skirts, and ukuleles. … Frank Wood needs a mobile home or a key to his house. … Costume Department needs boy and girl scouts. … Jordie needs someone to fix the timing on her car. … Ann Brown needs a choreographer, a new right knee, and maracas. … Help send a poor photographer to Rome. Buy Andy’s prints. … Color TV for the Counselors Room.



Q: How’s your pinyatta [sic] going? … A: Well, it’s still wavering between being a bird and being a donkey.



NOTE: Please don’t yell and say, “What a stupid paper!” since everything we print is art. Remember that. The Daily Double is art. The Daily Double is art. Repeat that until you believe it.



The dimensions of the cakes are humungus, 2 feet by 1 1/2 feet. Those who are staying on for the cookout ought to know what sort of cakes were made: carrot, coconut-carrot-pineapple. And you don’t have to worry about cavities, kids. These cakes are 100% healthy. Rob Houghton was the master baker.



Where’s my attendance slip? Peeeettaaaah! My attendance slip is missing!” … Where the heck is my microphone? Hey, Neil! Give me that!” … Will you help me take the benches down? Hey, come on! It’s heavy! AAARGH!” … Will Kenny Camper please report to his counselor?” … Don’t forget your money for the cookout.” … Kenny Camper, where are you? Kenny Camper!” … Today is the last day to change your schedule.” … Will the CITs please move the piano?” … No one is to go to the Drug Store!” … Your flute lesson is tomorrow.” … Kenny Camper, Kenny Camper! Where are you?”




Our entertainment, Eucalyptus Baxter, reports on the play that recently arrived in Boston, MAN OF LA MUNCHIES. MAN OF LA MUNCHIES is a romantic yarn about a half-crazed old man who travels the countryside, spreading the word of Fritos, Doritos, and Pringles…

A PERSONAL VIEWPOINT … It has come to my attention that Lou’s Apple Kitchen will no longer be selling Doritos. The reason, as I have heard it, is that the camp has received complaints that this snack is junk food. This situation is one of concert to me. The Daily Double, Lou’s, or for that matter myself, do not promote or advocate junk food. But I feel that the choice is a personal one. We are all free to make our own choices independent of one another’s. In removing this product from the premises, a few people are making the decisions for all of us. If there are people around what do not want to eat Doritos then they have the perfect right to label them junk food and not eat them. But this is where it must stop.



Doug Little to Peter Dewey after Doug had kicked a soccer ball through the huge window in the makeup room – “Yeah, but Peter, who else could have gotten it in the upper right hand corner?”

July 6, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment