Editor’s note: Figures used in this article were on an older version of the Minutemen Marching Band website and are currently not accurate.
The University of Massachusetts Minutemen may not have finished near the top in football this year, but at least their band did.
Sports news web site bleacherreport.com’s Geoffrey Tanner named the Minuteman Marching Band among the six best college athletics bands in the nation.
Tanner lauded band director George N. Parks for his commitment to enriching students’ drumming aptitudes in founding the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy, while going so far as to call percussion instructor and Drum Corps International Hall of Famer Thomas Hannum “legendary.”
“Their band director is well known for teaching thousands of high school drum majors how to lead,” wrote Tanner. “Their percussion instructor is legendary. They perform one show a year (they do play a few other shows each year, but concentrate on the main one) and perfect it to musical perfection. Every high school band looks up to them …”
The Minuteman Marching Band was ranked alongside some fairly steep competition.
The other five schools included on Tanner’s list were Ohio State University, the University of Michigan, Purdue University, the University of Texas, the University of California and West Carolina University.
The band, which is informally called “Power and Class,” performs at home football games throughout the fall, in addition to a weekly postgame set.
The band is composed of over 350 members and has performed at such prestigious events as presidential inaugurations in 1981, 1985 and 2001, in addition to performing at the Bands of America Grand Nationals, the premier marching band event in the nation, in 1993, 2001 and 2004. The Minuteman band also won college marching bands’ most prestigious award, the Louis C. Sudler Trophy, awarded to the band which has exhibited “the highest of musical standards and innovative marching routines and ideas, and which has made important contributions to the advancement of the performance standards of college marching bands over a period of several years,” according to the band’s website.
The band has a legacy of excellence. It was organized in 1935 by Mr. Charles Farnum, though it was not actually the first band at UMass. The first band, according to the Minuteman Band’s site, was the Mass Aggie Band, organized by First Lieutenant Charles Morris in the late 19 century, when UMass was Massachusetts Agricultural College and students were all male and all enlisted in the military.
From there, the band evolved into something more like its current form, as by the 1930s the band contained broader instrumentation and incorporated coed drum majors.
George N. Parks has been the band’s director since 1977, leading it to numerous accolades and even helping the band become the subject of a documentary, “Building Power and Class,” a 1994 film by documentarian Tony Mussari.
The band contains 11 sections; flutes and piccolos, clarinets, tenor saxophones, alto saxophones, trumpets, mellophones, euphoniums, trombones, tubas, percussion and colorguard.
Flute and piccolo had 27 performers listed on its website, while there were 34 players in the clarinet section, 21 members of the tenor saxophone group, the alto saxophone site did not list a roster, there were nine trumpeters, calling themselves the “hogline,” the mellophone section did not list a roster, nor did the euphoniums, there were 24 trombonists, 20 tuba players, and the percussion section, comprised of snare drums, tenor drums, bass drums, cymbals and a front ensemble, had 35 members, among the largest groupings. (see Editor’s Note at top of article)
While it may not rival some of its marching band competition on the gridiron, the band certainly finds itself in some good company. Ohio State’s band performs throughout the year and encompasses some 20 sections, while Michigan’s incorporates 14, playing a new song at every halftime show, Purdue’s band has the world’s largest bass drum, and Western Carolina infuses a “soul train” section into their band, livening up the conventional format of the marching band.
Last October 17, ground was broken for a new 15,000 square foot $5.7 million Minuteman Marching Band Building, which will permanently house the band, replacing their temporary home in Grinnell Arena.
Sam Butterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.