Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Campus officially opens George N. Parks Minuteman Marching Band Building

Hundreds of people braving the morning chill gathered around the George N. Parks Minuteman Marching Band Building, which was wrapped in a giant red bow, on Saturday for the official opening of the building in a ribbon cutting ceremony.

“After 15 years of a nomadic existence the band finally has a home,” said new band director Tim Anderson, who joked that anyone who did not believe him should have been there during the power outage this past week, when many band members decided to sleep in the building. The building has been open to the band since the start of the semester.

The band had been without a place on campus since 1997 when the chapel, the band’s former home, was declared unsafe.

“We can now store equipment and uniforms,” said Associate Director of the band Thomas Hannum. “We can even change inside,” he said in a speech causing loud cheers from the band members behind him.

The plain brick building is “perfect” for the band because of the “little things,” according to Anderson. According to a press release, the building cost $5.8 million and features green technology as well as band specific features.

“The floor tiles are laid out in, yes, eight to five intervals. Don’t believe me? Go in there and step it out,” said Anderson.

The building is “totally different” than chapel according to band alumnae and flute player Karen Abraham, who graduated in 1987 and remembers spending all of her time between classes in the band building.

“The chapel was old, decrepit, falling apart and haunted. This is so much more,” she said after touring the building.

During the ceremony, several people talked about the importance of the band now having a home, including University of Massachusetts President Robert Caret.

“In a spiritual sense, it is an important facility as it will provide visibility for the band,” said Caret.

It was a bittersweet moment for many in the crowd as George Parks, the building’s namesake and former band director, died suddenly last year.

“It’s heartbreaking that he isn’t here,” said senior drum major John Mange, who held the ribbon during the ceremony. “You keep wishing he was here to see it.”

Parks was instrumental in the construction of the building. According to his wife and friends in their speeches, he oversaw every detail of construction from where the building would be located on campus to the blueprints.

As band alumnae Heidi Sarver, who is the director of the University of Delaware Blue Hen Marching Band, said in her speech: “He would send me an email. ‘Heidi, look at scheme A and B.’ Ten minutes later I would get another email, ‘What do you think of scheme of E?’” she said. According to her, these conversations would continue until she called him.

Parks was surprised the day he found out that his efforts would be rewarded by having the building named after him.

Chancellor Robert Holub quipped in his speech, “the one time I ever experience George to be speechless is when I called him to recommend the building be named in his honor.”

In her speech, his wife, Jean Parks, recounted how he had told her that the building was going to be named after him.

“It was around 11:30 and I had fallen asleep when he decided to start a conversation,” said Parks. “He whispered, ‘they want to name the building the George N. Parks building’ … I thought maybe there was a misunderstanding, maybe he had pledged the house.”

However, Parks had not pledged his house, and many band members feel the building could not have been named more appropriately.

“The building absolutely should be named after him,” said Jackie Ziegenfus, who graduated in 2011. “Without him, this building never would have happened. He lived his life for this band.”

As Sarver said in her speech, “his soul is encompassed and preserved in all the bricks on that building.”

Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected].

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    Lori McCarthyNov 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    Thank you for this story covering the dedication of the building this weekend. The Alumni of the UMMB couldn’t be happier that the baby band has this beautiful new home, and that the alumni have a place, our Somewhere, to return to.

    Although Heidi has often been a life “Saver” for the UMMB, her actual last name is Sarver!

    -Lori McCarthy
    UMMB Color Guard 1993-1999