Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass Marching Band sits out Michigan Trip

By Mary Reines

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The University of Massachusetts Marching Band will not be following the school’s football team to the University of Michigan this weekend.

Worn down by two-hour trips to Gillette Stadium and tight funds, the band will be staying at home this year.

Third-year Equipment Manager John Flagg described the trip to Gillette as “pretty miserable.” Flagg said he wakes up around 6:30 a.m. to load the van and his day ends at around 11:30 p.m. when the band returns to campus. The 17-hour day is filled with at least four hours of travel time.

“We used to get up early and change at the building,” Flagg said. “Now we wake up early and get on the bus.”

Current Director Timothy Anderson said the long trip to Foxboro takes a toll on the band, and feared that the trip to Michigan would have cut into students’ off-time.

The 12-hour Michigan bus trip would have topped off a long string of away-performances, including games at the University of Connecticut on Aug. 30 and at Gillette on Saturday.

“That would have been too much for our students to deal with,” Anderson said in an email. “We have to be careful to make sure the band schedule does not weigh too heavily upon our students.”

Thoughts of the Michigan trip also bring back memories of former Director George N. Parks, who died of a heart attack about two years ago as the band was on its way to play at Michigan Stadium.

“I don’t think anybody would want to go back,” Flagg said. “It’s a pretty weird issue.”

But 22-year-old flutist Carl Mead regrets not going to Michigan this year.

“A large part of me wishes we were” going, he said. “I wish it were the same trip. If I went, I’d be crying most of the time, but I know I want to go.”

Flagg said that everybody still misses Parks all the time.

“I think about him regularly,” said Thom Hannum, associate director of the marching band, who worked with Parks for over 30 years.

Hannum’s office is located in the marching band’s new home, which was completed about a year after Parks’ death.

Hannum sees Parks’ name each day as he walks into the George N. Parks Minuteman Marching Band Building.

“Even coming into this building, there it is, every day,” Hannum said.

The flutist Mead also thinks about Parks every day.

“He was the kind of leader, person, father figure, that you hear about, but doesn’t seem to exist. He could turn the worst day into something exciting,” Mead said.

Flagg said Parks was inspiring.

“He had a pretty amazing ability to make people listen to him, more than anybody thought was possible,” he said. “The way he lived, the way he conducted, he seemed invincible.”

Flagg remembered Parks telling the band, “Next year, we’re going to Michigan.”

“He would promise something he could do with no way of knowing how, but he would make it happen,” Flagg said.

Mead also remembered the daunting prospect of the Michigan trip two years ago. The bus would leave on Thursday around 6:30 a.m. and everyone would need to bring their uniforms and pack up their instruments.

“It was a big to-do,” Mead said. “Mr. Parks made us all believe that was the best thing that could ever happen to us.”

The trip ended up being “something people were cheering and excited about,” he said.

Without the trip or their former director, the band “keeps marching forward,” Hannum said.

“His qualities became traditions. We try to keep to his spirit alive,” he said.

On Sunday, 21-year-old tenor saxophonist Mike Cortina and a few other band members are planning to play the bells in the Old Chapel, the band’s former building. They said will play the Fight Song and the Alma Mater starting around 2 p.m. continuing on the hour until 6:30 p.m. They also plan to host a candle vigil will be held outside the Chapel around 5:30 p.m.

Mary Reines can be reached at [email protected]

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