Meet the Marching Band

By Patrick Hoff

This article is part one in a series on the UMass Minuteman Marching Band as they prepare to march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Close to 400 students gather in formation on the field, instruments in hand, awaiting instruction. The command is given, and the entire marching band raises their instruments simultaneously, preparing to play.

Collegian File Photo

The Minuteman Marching Band is one of the largest groups on campus, with 394 people broken up into about 12 different sections. Sizes of sections range from 16 people to the 60-person trumpet section.

“At the end of the day, we all are a family and that’s something that’s really important,” said marching band spokesman Dan Carroll. “We come from all different backgrounds … But we all come together at the end of the day to take care of each other and we’re a family. That’s probably the thing that’s most important, how we make people feel in the organization as well as when we perform.”

The Marching Band is preparing to march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade at the end of the month, but that won’t be the first time the Marching Band has been on the national stage. In 1981, 1985 and 2001, the Marching Band played at the presidential inauguration and they have performed five times in the Bands of America Grand National Championship Exhibition. Most recently they performed in Bands of America two years ago.

The Marching Band also won the Sudler Trophy in 1998, something that Carroll thinks of as the band’s biggest achievement in over 70 years. The Sudler Trophy is “basically a lifetime achievement award” given to the best bands in the country, according to Carroll.

The band is mainly student run, with 35 students on the administrative staff and 50 students on the field staff, running drills and directing music. Another 50 students are involved in helping run the band in other ways, such as participating in fraternities that help to organize the band. In total, Carroll estimated that one-third of the band is involved in helping in one way or another.

“At the end of the day, everyone has to put in their effort,” he said.

There are only between eight and 10 professional staff members that are not students, one of which is the band director who is in charge of the entire operation.

The current band director is Dr. Tim Anderson, who has been with the marching band since 2011 after the passing of former Director George Parks. Anderson came to UMass from Fresno State University where he was for five years.

Anderson is assisted by Tom Hannum who has been with the band since 1981. He is “the top percussion instructor in the country,” said Carroll.

“After Mr. Park passed away he’s been very much the soul of the organization and when he talks, people listen,” said Carroll. “When he says something, you know you’re either about to hear the wisest thing you’ve ever heard, the most helpful thing you’ve ever heard, or the most informational, fun thing you’ve ever heard. People listen.”

Despite having left the organization in 2011, Parks is still very much a part of everything the band does.

“We have three Es: energy, enthusiasm and excellence and that’s really what he did,” said Carroll. “And through everything that he’s done, through everything that he’s taught, he’s really instilled it in the people … and so as long as people are inspired by what he did, he will always live on. Not in the name on the building. That’s great, but he’s not just going to be a picture on the wall. He’s a part of everyone that’s been in this organization. It’s not something that will go away anytime soon. That will be with us for a long time to come.”

Parks arrived at UMass in 1977 right after getting his masters from Northwestern University, replacing Dr. John Jenkins as director. It was the first job that he had out of college and he had it until the day he died.

Upon arriving, Parks changed the way that the Marching Band functioned, making it less militarized.

“It didn’t go well at first but after a couple of years he really won people over,” Carroll said. He added, “He brought an aspect of showmanship, he was a showman. He brought showmanship to all the things he did and really revitalized the art of marching band.”

In addition to making over the Marching Band, he also advocated for a Marching Band building “for over a decade.” In 2009, Parks’ dream came true when ground was broken on the current George N. Parks Minuteman Marching Band Building. Before the building was built, the Marching Band bounced around, from the Old Chapel to the University Apartments to the Arnold House.

“More than anything, this was his baby, this is what he wanted more than anything, for the band to have a place,” Carroll said, adding, “He planned everything, everything you see.”

Carroll said that the Marching Band, and Parks, aimed to impress the audience with every show.

“This isn’t just ‘oh they’re perfect, their perfect lines,’” he said. “You bring that to the field but you also bring an aspect of ‘I’m going to sit here and be entertained, I’m going to be wowed by everything they did by true show.”


Patrick Hoff can be reached at [email protected]