The University of Massachusetts University Concert Band commemorated its late band director George N. Parks on Sunday afternoon with a performance and the unveiling of the George N. Parks Minuteman Marching Band Building.
“Finally, a place to be,” said Todd Monroe, a UMass alumnus. “It feels like home. You’re outside, [there’s] wind, rain, hail [and] snow all in one day, the one place to be is inside, and now we have a place,” he said.
Interim Director Thomas P. Hannum led the building’s opening Sunday. Hannum addressed the crowd from the top of a second-storey balcony in the new practice room.
Although the building’s official opening and commemoration is scheduled for Nov. 5, Hannum asked the audience to help open the building in a different way.
“I thought it’d be sort of nice if we christened this place in our own way … by doing a little singing of [Frank Sinatra’s] ‘My Way,’” said Hannum.
The audience, filled with current and former band members, accordingly broke out into song. Afterwards, the crowd dispersed to tour the rest of the building.
The band’s new home is unfinished, as construction will continue until the official opening next fall. The floors are neither tiled nor carpeted, and the walls are not heavily decorated. Additionally, several rooms on the upper floor (including a video room, a shower and a bathroom) remain empty and uncompleted.
“As you might imagine, there are still a number of details that remain unfinished with the new Band Building, but it is close enough for us to share its potential with our Minuteman Band family,” Hannum explained on the event page of the building’s opening on the UMass website.
Although the building remains undecorated, Monroe explained he could feel Parks’ presence in the building.
“He’s got his touch on here,” said Monroe. “It’s definitely a landmark place to come visit. Once you feel the history of how long we’ve gone without [such a building], you’re going to feel like you’re home.”
Associate Director Michael J. Klesch said the building was important to establish for the band “so that we can all see what the vision is for this program to move into the future.”
“I think everybody’s going to be blown away” by the finished product, he added.
At the Concert Band’s performance earlier that day at the Fine Arts Center, Hannum spoke to Parks’ involvement with the new building.
“[He wanted to] provide a home and a building for these people so that they’d have a place to go to be together,” said Hannum. “Whatever George sets out to do, it gets done.”
Sophomore Andrea Gonzalez, a trumpet player, also detailed the importance of the new band building as she recalled some logistical troubles she dealt with her freshman year.
“I remember doing band freshman year and having to carry a ton of garments from my dorm to the field in Southwest,” said Gonzalez. “It’s a lot of work, and I feel like [the band] really deserves to have a building.”
Gonzalez was part of the University Concert Band that performed earlier in the day at the FAC with eight songs dedicated to the late director. The concert program noted seniors and members of the band service organizations Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma.
“We thought we’d play a couple of tunes that he’d particularly enjoy,” said Hannum at the concert.
One of these tunes was “Danny Boy,” which Klesch explained is a song Parks really wanted to see performed, as he felt it had a personal and familial touch for him.
“The fact that we got to play a lot of the pieces that he was interested in playing is a big deal,” said Gonzalez. “It’s cool to see what other people can do with the program as well.”
Gonzalez said Klesch is one of the people taking control of the program. Like Gonzalez, Hannum praised Klesch for his work with the band.
“He brings so much to the table and his contributions are immense,” said Hannum. “I’m very fortunate to be a part of this program and to have many great people who are also associated with it. There’s no one else that defines caring and sharing more than Klesch.”
Hannum said caring and sharing were among the main themes of both the building’s opening and the concert’s aim of capturing Parks’ ethos. Additionally, it was the anthem Parks used in raising funds for the building.
“[Parks] really tried to get people motivated to care and share,” said Hannum.
The concert featured eight songs that differentiated between soft and fast-paced. One of the faster numbers was “Rimshot,” which featured Alex King on the snare drum right before intermission.
After intermission, the band played “Elements (Petite Symphony),” and “Greensleeves,” before finishing out with Leroy Anderson’s “Bugler’s Holiday.”
Herb Scribner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: Several factual errors were made in the original version of the article. Many of the songs were attributed to the wrong composers. Please see a full performance list from the concert. In addition, the band service organizations Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma were incorrectly labeled as Greek houses sponsoring the event. We apologize for these inaccurate statements.