Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The Old Chapel: An Empty Symbol

By Melissa Mahoney

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Editor’s Note: Since the writing of this column, the Class of 2013 has announced the Old Chapel Fund as its class gift. The fund will support the renovation and re-opening of the Old Chapel.

Collegian File Photo

“The new Chapel is too large a subject to be treated of in as short a manner as would be necessary if undertaken here…. Suffice it to say that it is a source of great rejoicing to see such a fine structure really making its appearance where it is so greatly needed and where it will be so thoroughly appreciated. …The chapel building will furthermore be an honor to the place, and we hope that the end has come to the erection of cheap buildings on the College grounds, and that in future all may be substantial structures worthy of the State which builds them.”

— The Index, 1885, Massachusetts Agricultural College

On a nondescript Wednesday in late October, someone rang Old Aggie for the first time in a year, her voice belting out across the University of Massachusetts Amherst in a pleasant baritone. The ringer swung her joyously, if irregularly, and for so long that students started to wonder who had died that was so important as to have two minutes of a bell pealing in their honor in the middle of classes. At last she quieted and grew still. The 42-bell carillon hung silent next to her, verdigris creeping over the copper. I have never heard the carillon ring; no one bothered to play it that day either.

The bell tower’s usual silence pervades the rest of the building, sweeping down the iron ladder and narrow stairwell to the top-floor auditorium where it languishes in the rafters of the impressive vaulted ceiling. Time clings to the walls and pulls at the light blue plaster, sending flakes skittering down the main stairwell to the ground floor. The chapel’s grey granite exterior trimmed in red ocher sandstone is a solid and elegantly convincing facade for the forgotten rooms within.

I have passed this dying giant nearly every day for three-and-a-half years, and I have never known its purpose. At the campus store it features on postcards, mugs, holiday cards, and University stationary – the veritable emblem of UMass – but the building itself remains unused, an empty symbol. This year for Homecoming, the University offered tours through the building – hence the enthusiastic ringer – welcoming back not only its alumni, but also its lost heritage. I could not miss the opportunity to enter the building that has been silent for too long.

I step through the front door with a tour group of about 20, stirring up the 15 years of disuse that has settled on the floor and windowsills in slender white strands and fluffy grey motes. The tour guide brings us up the wide ash stairs to the auditorium, passing original stained glass windows in orange and gold. The room is massive, or at least larger than one might suppose from the Chapel’s seemingly small exterior. Cracking grey tiles complement the blue plaster peeling from the walls, scuffed and smeared with 100 years of humanity. Above, the Roman revival vaulted ceiling seems untouched by time. Once, when everyone enrolled owed community service to the University, 100 students stained the timbers a rich nutmeg brown. Now, while other surfaces crumble, those beams remain pristine; it is as if the wood remembers and cherishes the care it one received, the touch of 100 hands.

The auditorium is the closest thing to a chapel that this old building ever was. When it was built in 1884, it was a nondenominational gathering place for the campus community, hosting speakers and graduations for crowds of 300 to 600 people. Two rose windows allowed natural light to stream through from the north and south, an unnecessary habit of the architect, as the building is equipped with then-ground-breaking technology: electricity.

We climb another stairwell, narrow this time, and round a corner to yet more stairs, the steps steep and only 4 inches wide. Climbing sideways, I mount the landing where the dusty carillon keyboard sits and the rope pull for Old Aggie hangs slack. Though there are three-and-a-half octaves of bells above me, I choose to plunk out Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in six round, copper tones on the carillon keyboard. Another tourist grabs hold of the thick rope and begins to ring Old Aggie – the second time in a year that I have heard the bell sing. The tour guide stops us from ringing the bells for too long lest we disrupt classes, but I don’t care. Let them hear! Help them remember these forgotten peals!

I wait my turn to climb the black ladder to the bell tower’s next and smaller level, which houses the tower’s green-and-brass clock works. Ascending to the next level via a smaller ladder, I find myself head-first in the bells. There is no place to stand here, only room to cling to the rungs as the open air whistles past my ears and circles the copper. Above and around, the 43 bells of the Old Chapel hang in perfect silence, waiting to be summoned to sing.

Descending the short ladder, the long ladder, the steep shallow steps, the narrow stairs, the wide stairwell, I find myself again on the ground level. Tourists slip out the open front door as we pass, their curiosity about the beautiful but abandoned building satiated. Elegantly carved double doors paneled in opaque glass and topped with colored panes lead us into the next room, a large classroom with four massive beams supporting the ceiling. Across one blackboard, names and messages have been scrawled in yellow and white chalk, most of them in memory of the late Marching Band Director George Parks. Prior to losing its certificate of occupancy in 1996, the building had been used by the band for rehearsals, practice rooms and hanging out when the rest of the burgeoning Music Department moved into the completed Fine Arts Center in 1974.

One chalk scrawl catches my attention as I pass: “I took French in this classroom in 1947.” As I walk into the next classroom, I try to imagine the blackboards without the painted-on music staves. I imagine rows of students in sweaters, skirts, and trousers studying Flaubert and Moliere, practicing their conjugations. The classrooms and adjoining staff offices had been built in 1935 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal initiative, and at the time housed the English and history departments, which moved to Bartlett Hall when it was completed in 1960. The walls partition off what had once been the school’s library.

When the Old Chapel was built, the now dusty doorframes and whitewashed walls had been open from the eastern outer wall to the western outer wall. Library stacks formed up in rows, holding some 10,000 tomes, which grew to nearly 26,000 by 1905. A natural history display (more likely a ‘cabinet of curiosities’) stood somewhere among the stacks. Library offices occupied the north, and a reading room for students occupied the south.

Standing in that reading room more than a century later, I could imagine the smell of printed pages and polished wood, could hear the scratch of nibs on paper and the shuffle of hard-soled shoes. Where bookcases had lined the walls, chalkboards were now installed. Where portraits of prominent UMass officials had once hung above the stacks, the band’s sorority and fraternity seals had been painted with amateur strokes.

Though the building had been loved by the band and used by many departments, I felt that somehow they didn’t truly appreciate what they had, nor do the students who pass by the Chapel’s stone facade every day. To many the Old Chapel is beautiful but silent, useful as a landmark but nothing more. Though the exterior was renovated in 1998, the bell tower rebuilt, and the bells re-hung, the University would not put up funds to finish the job, and so the interior continues to decay. The Old Chapel is now nothing more than a Pelham granite and Longmeadow sandstone case for 43 silent bells – a historic piece of UMass slowly falling into oblivion.

If only that carillon could sing in human tones: 43 voices singing of nearly 130 years of existence, of the hands brushing stain on the wooden beams below, of young women and men carefully pronouncing “Je sonne les cloches,” of tomes and tubas and chalk words erased by a careless passing elbow; of a campus transformed from open rolling fields to tight corridors and asphalt; of a student population that neither knows nor cares of their decline.

Would they worry when their voices echo through spaces where buildings once were, or when they bounce back off buildings that weren’t there before? Would they mourn the loss of the 1900s waiting station from their youth, one of the earliest trolley stops in the area, demolished in the summer or 2012? Would they miss the answering low of cows from the long-gone livestock barns, now Herter Hall? Would they remember the way their voices had bounced off the old Drill Hall, the University’s first gymnasium, razed for Bartlett Hall in 1957?

Do they worry that they too are headed the way of so many of the University’s legacy buildings – disrepair until demolition? Does their echo reach the new multi-million dollar facilities, the state-of-the-art laboratories, the shining Commonwealth Honors College buildings, the innovative group learning classrooms, the increased dormitory space? Or do those wizened peals evaporate in the air, spiraling out from the mouths of the bells until they have expanded into nothing?

I walk out the door of the Chapel and descend the steps, listening to the lonely creak of the hinges as the tour guide pulls it shut behind. I lean back and stare up at the spire, wondering when I’ll hear those bells again, when the building will be allowed to live again. For now, the Old Chapel is the empty symbol of a University that would rather demolish its past than save it, in the quest for a more prestigious future. It is a shell of what it once was, a locked vault of fallen plaster, unsung copper, and a University’s ignorance.

Melissa Mahoney is the editor of the Opinion/Editorial section. She can be reached at [email protected]


36 Responses to “The Old Chapel: An Empty Symbol”

  1. Jan Dichter on December 5th, 2012 1:53 am

    Hey, thanks for this great piece! I tried to look for more info on the chapel while writing my piece that ran here this fall on UMass’s architectural travesties after the historic trolley stop was demolished. It’s very hard to find out anything about why exactly the iconic chapel is still closed or what plans, if any, the school has for it. It’s one of the very few beautiful and historic structures left in a campus increasingly full of soulless modernist monoliths. How does one get a tour…? If anyone is interested in my architectural critique of campus, search the Collegian site for “Brutalism” (another relevant piece or two will also show up).


  2. Ann Marie Mahoney on December 5th, 2012 11:57 am

    Hi Melissa, Another well written piece of work. I enjoyed this article and hope they will save and cherish this beautiful chapel/history.


  3. brucep on December 5th, 2012 12:37 pm

    for more history and pictures:


  4. Pete Farrell on December 5th, 2012 1:19 pm

    To the Editor and Author:

    Thanks for the great piece on our beloved Old Chapel. I really enjoyed your descriptive writing which captures the essence of the magnificence of Old Chapel. The Collegian is the best college newspaper in the land. I pick up a copy every time I am on Campus. It is about time someone from the University, other than the hundreds, if not thousands of Marching Band Alumni, really recognized the center piece of the entire university.

    That being said, I was surprised to see no mention of an excellent historical work compiled by Kerstin Becker, aptly titled, “Through These Doors,” (Old Chapel Press, 2004) that chronicles the early beginning of the Marching Band from “Mass Aggie” to the current Power and Class of New England we all know and love today. An enscription hung over the door for many years, “Through These Doors Walk the Power and Class of New England,” hence the name of Ms. Becker’s work. Needless to say, Old Chapel was way more than a “hang out” and band members took extraordinarily good care of the place to whose care it was entrusted. To this day, although “closed,” it remains the epicenter and meeting place for those young and old who really appreciate our connection to the University’s most celebrated treasure. Believe me when I tell you, no one appreciates Old Chapel more than us Bandos.

    Pete Farrell ’98
    UMMB Trumpet Section ’94-’98


  5. Derek on December 5th, 2012 1:50 pm

    I’m curious as to how this article was written and approved by the editorial staff. The class of 2013 gift was not announced “since” this article was written. It was announced several weeks before. I don’t remember the exact date, but it was before November 26, at least. In what begins as a nice piece about the history of the building, this devolves into an accusation that UMass doesn’t care. Well, turns out we do, and that the University isn’t just content to let the building be demolished. As for the marching band, it was a large movement during the voting for the senior gift that got Chapel Renovation chosen. How was this not known as of publishing time?


  6. Matthew Parent on December 5th, 2012 1:50 pm

    Hello Ms. Mahoney,

    I appreciate that you are speaking about Chapel in such a positive way… you are highlighting so many wonderful things about my home. Old Chapel is my home, as well as the other hundreds of students (past and present) in the University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band. I can tell you unequivocally that EVERY member of the UMMB still appreciates what we had in Old Chapel. My high school band director told me of the hours he and his friends would spend practicing, socializing, and rehearsing in those well worn rooms. George N. Parks, the late great band director of the UMMB, looked upon that building with a sincere love that only few of us will truly understand in this life.

    I am trying not to let myself get upset by the fact that you do not believe the band ever appreciated its home, apparently also believing that your single tour has given you some sort of revelatory ownership of what it means to the campus community… but I am failing. You see, you got to see the building in disrepair, with dirt and dust covering every inch. You saw with fresh eyes rooms that had been described to us band members in vivid detail by our alumni, regaling us with tales of times past. But you never truly gained an understanding of what the building did, and does, mean to so many people.

    You failed to mention the offices on the third floor, long housing the marching band’s staff. You failed to see that those well worn floors in the auditorium were from hundreds of band rehearsals, chapel jazz concerts, and likely quite a bit of damage from spit valves being emptied for decades. I imagine you did not even go down to the men’s bathroom in the basement, a HIGHLIGHT of any trip to chapel. You missed a mural across from the urinals depicting a mouse giving a less-than-friendly gesture to an eagle whose head is replete with red feathers (yet again, an extraordinary monument to George Parks). It is a piece of history, foolish history perhaps, but enshrined under a case to keep away the damage of time and let bandos past and present appreciate the history we have in that building.

    As for the “amateur strokes” of the band’s sorority and fraternity crests, you just don’t understand what that means. You fail to recognize the chalkboards in that room covered in the fraternity and sorority hymns — odes to what that building once was and in appreciation for what George Parks did for all of us. Those organizations have been serving the bands at UMass since 1969, and those crests are a piece of that history. Sure, someone could go up and make them more precise, but that would wipe away history. Years ago someone put the time and effort into painting those, and though not perfect, they represent a tradition and they record a history unto themselves. Hundreds of Brothers and Sisters of those organizations have looked upon those with pride in their hearts, and your inability to understand that does not denigrate their appreciation of those crests and Chapel itself.

    You just didn’t get the full story. I should not blame you for your ignorance, but I do believe you can be held responsible for the audacity to make such statements when your primary experience with the building is walking by it with no knowledge of what it is. Unlike yourself, the hundreds of marching band students know exactly what it is and what it was from the first day they step on campus. It is our home. When the band was asked to leave in 1996 so that the building could be repaired, there was no knowledge that it would be the last time it was officially our building. Since then, the band has been ferried around campus to places not suitable and frankly not very nice. Yet here we sit today, with a brand new George N. Parks Minuteman Marching Band Building. Do you know how this building was described? It would be just like Chapel… our home. If you want to understand just how much the band has always appreciated that building, I suggest you talk to people in the band. Instead, you’ve chosen to glean your insights from looking past the music staffs, with disdain upon what is painted on those walls, and with only cursory understanding of what the building truly is. Chapel has a living history, not just one that you can see in facts and dates. Next time you go to Chapel, maybe look around it in a different way… see the people that walked those halls, not just the dust that remains. Oh, and please wipe your feet when you come in… you are in the band’s home, after all.

    With Pride,

    Matthew Parent
    UMass ’10
    UMMB Alto Sax, Honor Guard
    Brother of the Epsilon Nu Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi, iniated Fall 2005


  7. Unapproving Bando on December 5th, 2012 2:01 pm

    If had you done your research you would have known that for thousands chapel is one of the most reverent symbols we have. Obviously I am speaking of the band. Chapel was a home to the band for almost 20 years, it was loved and cherished by hundreds neigh thousands of dedicated students and chapel’s legacy lives on. You heard the haphazard ringing in late October but did you hear twilight shadows played reverently, beautifully as hundreds of still mourning, or those simply there to honor stood silently using ‘an empty symbol’ as beacon of hope, of remembrance, of strength.
    “Though the building had been loved by the band and used by many departments, I felt that somehow they didn’t truly appreciate what they had, nor do the students who pass by the Chapel’s stone facade every day”
    I know at least 400 people on this campus to whom that does not apply. Try sitting in view of chapel for a while and I guarantee you will find as you watch a handful of students who pause, look at chapel longingly, perhaps it’s a split second head nod, some you will even see detour to run their hands lovingly against stone.
    I understand your article and I hate what the university is doing to this once beautiful campus.
    “For now, the Old Chapel is the empty symbol of a University that would rather demolish its past than save it, in the quest for a more prestigious future. It is a shell of what it once was, a locked vault of fallen plaster, unsung copper, and a University’s ignorance.”
    I feel I can forgive your article because of this sentence, when the band was homeless after the University condemned Old Chapel instead of fixing it, I know many bandos of the time had some choice words. However, you should have done a bit more research into exactly what that ’empty’ building means to a whole hell of a lot of people before you used it in such a manner.
    Eyes With Pride,


  8. Rob on December 5th, 2012 2:41 pm

    Hm… let me google that for ya. This is a big miss.


  9. Holy Minuteman on December 5th, 2012 2:51 pm

    While Chapel served as home for the Minuteman Band for several decades, over a decade had passed between when it was condemned and when I became a student at UMass. Having never spent a rehearsal in its great hall, having never spent a night copying music in its staff room, still I felt that Chapel was my true home. Countless evenings I would sit on the steps of chapel, simply staring up at the stars, reflecting on my time in Amherst or trying to imagine how life would have been different had I been here a decade sooner. I felt the life once-present in this building, the memories forged in its halls… I felt this as I lay there.
    Chapel was, is, and always will be, my home, and nobody will ever love it like the thousands of Minuteman Band members & alumni who pause (even for just a moment) to smile at it before going on with their day.


  10. TJ Kelly on December 5th, 2012 2:53 pm

    Hi Melissa, I’m a UMMB alum too. I’m sorry so many people are criticizing you so harshly for this article. I happen to agree with most of the points they made in the comments above mine, but I wish they were nicer to you in how they said it.

    Yes, the UMMB loves Chapel very much and we are fiercely protective of its memory and legacy. But this article does not make you our enemy. Thanks for bringing some attention to one of our most beloved spots on campus. I never got to spend much time inside Chapel and I’m glad the university is stepping up to protect its place.


  11. TheRestofUMass on December 5th, 2012 3:05 pm

    What many of the people commenting here fail to realize is that this article is not about UMass Marching Band. Sorry, let me repeat that: UMMB, this is not about you. The author makes no attempt to make this piece about the UMMB, and as such band members taking offense need to take a deep breath and realize the world does not revolve around them, no matter how many hours of practice they may have each week.
    While the rest of UMass appreciates the work of UMMB, we recognize that the Old Chapel has a history that is separate from the band. I believe I was on the same tour as Ms. Mahoney a few months ago, and we did in fact visit the men’s bathroom and famous mural, and she asked many questions of both our tour guide and of marching band members on our tour, noting that she would talk to others after the tour as well. “Unapproving Bando” mentions that they know “at least 400 people on this campus” who appreciate the Chapel. I wonder if they realize there are 22,000 undergraduates and 6,000 grad students here at UMass, so the 400 mentioned are quite insignificant and don’t prove “Bando”s point. Just because the band enjoyed this beautiful venue does not mean the entire piece has to be written from the perspective and history of UMMB. To ignore the rest of this history and the larger function and future of this building and instead only talk about the most recent group that used it is absurd, and to call the author ignorant or insult her for a piece about her opinion while hiding behind your computer is an embarrassment.
    Most importantly, this is a piece in the Ed/Op section. You are entitled to your opinion, but so is the author. If you have your own opinion, I suggest you spend less time criticizing hard working writers trying to create a thoughtful piece that captures the attention of all UMass students and faculty, and more time submitting your own opinion in essay form.


  12. Rick Higgins on December 5th, 2012 3:27 pm

    If the George N Parks Marching Band building is the heart of the UMMB, then Old Chapel is its soul. The band knows every bit what it had at Old Chapel, including those who were never allowed to practice in it. That’s pretty impressive considering the nature of a student’s life is to arrive on campus and leave a few short years later. Long live Old Chapel.
    Rick Higgins,
    UMass Alum
    Parent of a current band member


  13. Kris on December 5th, 2012 3:42 pm

    Did anyone ever see a Maus in there?


  14. JL on December 5th, 2012 4:13 pm

    Hi there,

    Thank you for this piece. As a band alum the only part I disagreed with, and it’s what most of us past and present bandos disagree with was “Though the building had been loved by the band and used by many departments, I felt that somehow they didn’t truly appreciate what they had, nor do the students who pass by the Chapel’s stone facade every day.” I think some of us took this to heart, myself included, and though yes, this article is not strictly about the UMMB, our own history is very much intertwined with the building, which present and past bandos are quite proud of. In some ways we consider Old Chapel the foundation of our organization and thus, there are many bandos’s emotions tied to it. The pin on our uniform over our hearts is just one example which illustrates that. I think you wanted to reemphasize that the building had gone unappreciated, and for that statement I applaud you, because that is one I agree with completely. However, I think while doing research on such a prominent structure on campus there shouldn’t have been assumptions on people’s emotions, especially the emotions of a specific group (i.e. the band). Otherwise, it could be taken as ignorant and/or as a personal attack. I don’t think that was your objective, so again thank you for writing this piece. For future reference though, no assumptions. I think that is the cause to why you’re getting so much criticism for it. Hope this helps!
    With Pride.


  15. Another Bando on December 5th, 2012 4:16 pm

    Terribly saddened by the angry outburst in the name of the UMMB. Power and class, indeed.

    A detailed and beautiful description of the building as it stands today, and a timely and appropriate sentiment that the university has let it fall to ruin.


  16. Matt McCarron on December 5th, 2012 4:37 pm

    I suggest that anyone who would like to see a video documentary on the old chapel, please check this out. I film and produced this one year ago.

    Matt McCarron
    UMass Class of 2012


  17. PartofUMass on December 5th, 2012 5:10 pm

    What many fail to realize (or recognize) is that, during their time in Old Chapel, the Marching Band did not simply ‘live’, they nurtured! They maintained the building. They cared for it. They repaired it. They waxed floors, painted walls, fixed breaks… name one other group of students on campus that would even throw a straw wrapper away if they saw it on the floor of their classroom.


  18. An informed party on December 5th, 2012 6:23 pm

    For the love of all that is good in this word, it is one sentence!! ONE SENTENCE that, yes, is a bit confusing and could have been worded better. The author is not at all insulting the band! What she meant was that people on campus, including the band who inhabited the building for years, may not know the amazing history and background of this building. You should all be glad she’s bringing attention to it so it can once again be a central part of the campus community, not just for band members but everybody. The author does not misunderstand you, she knows how important the chapel is to the band. You all are misinterpreting her. This article is not about the band, it is about the building. Can you not overlook one tiny sentence and appreciate the whole message of the article?? Think about the harsh things you say before you post them. There is a living and feeling human being on the other side that, yes, made a mistake in her wording, but DOES NOT deserve the intense criticism some people wrongly think she deserves. A simple statement would do. You all should be ashamed.


  19. Amber on December 5th, 2012 6:34 pm

    Dear ‘TheRestofUMass’,

    I would just like to clarify for you that the band is NOT saying the article should be about them. The comments about information are examples of other sources of history that the author could have used. She had a lot of great details already, and the other commenters were adding to that, especially since from the article it didn’t seem like the author knew about it.

    As for people being upset, well that comes down to one sentence. The line where the author says the band and other departments didn’t appreciate what they had was painful for those who spent countless hours in and taking care of Chapel, and those who follow in their footsteps. The band doesn’t wear Chapel pins on their uniforms for no reason. It was the accusation of not caring that bothered people, not that the article wasn’t about the band. And while I realize this is an opinion article, that doesn’t mean opinions can’t hurt people’s feelings, even if it was unintentional. That’s why band members and alumni are responding. They want to make it clear that they do appreciate the home that they had, and far more than most people realize. While I feel some of the responses could have been worded better, the same can be said for that part of the article. Everyone makes mistakes.

    The band fully understands Chapel’s long history, and they care about it even more because they’re a part of it. As I said before, most people commenting here are adding to the history the author already described, and described well in my opinion. If she did follow up on her note and talked to other band members, great. But that does not seem to be the case since the band doesn’t seem to have ever been contacted and since that sentence almost certainly wouldn’t be there if she had.

    The band does not in any way ignore the future of Chapel. A good number of the votes for the senior gift for Chapel either came from or were inspired by band members. They also do not ignore its past, as was mentioned before. The band cares deeply about Chapel, and reading about its history is always interesting, from both a band and non-band perspective.

    As for 400 out of 28,000 not being significant, well that may be true, but don’t forget about the thousands of alumni. Also, she said that students don’t notice it today. Bando’s point was that that’s not true, since hundreds do every day. They weren’t claiming that they’re more important, just that such a sweeping assumption isn’t true. If anything, it should be a good thing that students notice it. Belittling that only makes it harder to gain support to save Chapel.

    I agree that attacking the author is not ok, and I hope that nothing I’ve said comes off as such, since that is certainly not my intent. The article was good and raised an important point about its future, minus that one sentence. I’m also glad that she mentioned the trolly stop since I feel that hasn’t gotten enough publicity. I fully understand that people don’t always word things in the best way, and accept that. But it’s also not ok for you to attack the band for giving their point of view and refuting a hurtful statement. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, not just those who agree with you. Also, just because some people commented here doesn’t mean they’re hiding behind their computer, especially since many used their names. Some people have contacted the author and from what I understand she’s quite nice and meant no harm. So before you attack others, who also work very hard mind you, remember that you also don’t have all the information.

    I mean no disrespect to you with any of this. I solely wish to show you a different perspective on what has been happening with this article. You seem to have a negative view of the band, and I’m sure some of these comments hasn’t helped that. But before you judge the group as a whole, maybe go get to know them and talk to them if you don’t already. They’re a good group of people and do a lot more for UMass than most people probably realize.


  20. Life101 on December 5th, 2012 8:11 pm

    The band knows this whole article isn’t about them. The simple fact is there is a part that offended the group. If you write something that offends a large group of people, you shouldn’t be surprised when they are upset. It’s just simple journalism. The band glad you view Chapel in such a way, and the article would be beautiful if you retracted the statement that the band didn’t appreciate it. Realize you hastily made an offensive comment (even though I know it seemed innocent), apologize, and just let everyone take a deep breath and relax, as people on both sides need to.


  21. UMass Student on December 5th, 2012 9:07 pm

    How can so few people see the true point of this article! Why is there so much misplaced anger! To me it is very clear that the author appreciates the Old Chapel, even loves it, and wants to educate the entire student body on its importance.
    As a graduating senior and non band member, I thought the chapel was little more than a beautiful monument (for it is a truly spectacular sight). I had heard the band stored equipment there, but that is obviously only a small fraction of the story. I now know how much more important this structure is to the band and the campus’ history. I now know how old it is, who has used it, and learned much more about its soul. Though I, and the other 25,000+ students at this campus, may not have the same level of love for the Old Chapel as the band members, perhaps this article has caught a few hearts and shown others its importance.
    This piece should be a lesson to all those seniors who didn’t vote to restore the old chapel and to those board members who have ever contemplated tearing it down. It should be a tribute to the band, an example of how others care about their beloved shrine and how it should be appreciated by the rest of the campus. But NO, they have torn down their vocal supporter, and to that I say they should be ashamed. I am appalled at the childish manner in which band members, alumni, and even parents (who clearly have nothing better going on in their lives) have attacked their ally. This woman has given you a greater leg to stand on and say “Yes!!! Look at this marvelous building, appreciate it as we do for it and its memories deserve your admiration”. But no, you have sought to bring her down. Many have had their judgment clouded with misplaced ire, when they should be happy for this articles support.

    Today UMMB, you do not represent me.


  22. NotWar on December 5th, 2012 10:55 pm

    “The band (is) glad you view Chapel in such a way.”
    “Thank you for this piece”
    “Thanks for bringing some attention to one of our most beloved spots on campus”
    “Thanks for the great piece on our beloved Old Chapel. I really enjoyed your descriptive writing which captures the essence of the magnificence of Old Chapel”
    “I appreciate that you are speaking about Chapel in such a positive way… you are highlighting so many wonderful things about my home”
    “I understand your article and I hate what the university is doing to this once beautiful campus.”

    The point of the article is known by all, and appreciated. In todays world, one sentence is all it takes to ruin someone. (For example, how many people knew anything about Todd Akin before his one sentence?)

    As a student journalist, just take this as a learning experience where if you’re going to express the opinion of a group, make sure you actually find out what it is first. In the “real world” an offensive comment could be much worse.


  23. Jennifer Mageary on December 5th, 2012 11:14 pm

    I’m genuinely appalled at the UMMB’s reaction to Melissa’s article. Not only has she brought light to a story that I knew NOTHING about, but has given me a better perspective on the Old Chapel. I feel that I can appreciate this beautiful building after reading this article and learning its history. And to think that one poorly phrased sentence can cause an uproar like this? Seems a bit self-righteous to me. This is an OPINION piece. This is Melissa’s opinion. And you are all allowed to have an opinion. But don’t EXPECT an apology because the opinion was too opinionated for you. Be thankful that she brought attention to such an important issue. I know I am.


  24. NotWar on December 5th, 2012 11:37 pm

    There’s too opinionated, and then there’s slandering the group by presenting their “opinion” without checking it.


  25. UMass Student on December 5th, 2012 11:47 pm

    The author has clearly done her research. In an article that can only occupy a limited space there is plenty of mention of the band, and no one (including the author) is discrediting the special meaning the chapel has for this group. In the paragraph before the sentence so many are taking issue with, she is clearly nostalgic for what the building was in all it’s iterations — not just as a space for the marching band. What she seems to suggest that band students and other students or departments lack is an appreciation for the long and varied history of the building. Regardless if you believe that this is a misplaced sentiment, it really is not inflammatory enough to warrant the hateful responses I’ve read on here. You are a group of 400 students and 1000s of alumni that is exercising it’s power to verbally bully one student who shares the same reverent feelings for the chapel that you do.


  26. Tim on December 5th, 2012 11:53 pm

    Hey NotWar, are you a illiterate or something?


  27. dsome on December 5th, 2012 11:55 pm

    Derek, how about you go back home to your tuba and stop complaining.


  28. Eleni on December 6th, 2012 7:41 am

    Do your thing girl. The article was thoughtful and don’t worry about what anyone says. Take it to heart but don’t be disheartened. Anger here is simply the cousin of the very emotions you felt while beginning to learn about Old Chapel, infused with years of history and many different kinds of loss. That is not your fault and has nothing to do with you and I’m sorry you are caught in the crossfire of it. I think you are right, I’m sure the band then, and the many different departments that used the building, did not appreciate it as much as they could have, and certainly not as much as it is appreciated and revered now. It is college after all, a time when we think that every fleeting thing is eternal. It is a reminder to cherish what we have when we have it. Don’t stop writing and don’t stop asking questions and sharing your thoughts with others, whether they agree with them or not. Your piece really struck a chord with many, as good articles do, and your open-mindedness and desire to learn more about something will make for many more great pieces in the future. Thank you!


  29. SMurphy on December 6th, 2012 9:58 am


    Thank you for the great article. As a UMMB alumnus I am always emotionally affected by articles that cover the OC. I could never number the hours I spent there for the band, hanging out, studying, growing… I am sorry that one sentence that you may not have even written, editors have input, has brought out the vitriol of a few people. I just wanted to say that; we knew what we had, we miss it greatly, and, a few (I have no credit to take here) have dillegently tried to get the OC repaired. I have heard that even offers to do it at no cost to UMass have been turned down, though I do not have first hand knowledge of this. I applaud the class of 2013 for taking this on, I am truely and deeply appreciative of this. I hope they succeed where others have labored and been rebuffed.

    Again, thank you for your article, keep up the good work.

    Sean Murphy UMMB Trumpet 1982-’86 KKPsi EN ’83-’86 President EN ’86


  30. Some guy on December 6th, 2012 10:23 am

    I feel no anger towards the author. It was a nicely written piece that just happened to gloss over perhaps the most important aspect of old chapel. Belittling the band for being only 400 members of a 22,000 student population is naive and childish. Do people belittle the issues of those facing genocide simply because there are 6+ billion people in the world? Of course not. That would be extremely immature.

    The population of the UMMB, at least from the large amounts of members I’ve talked or seen post on facebook, simply want the author to realize how much it means to us. The value in chapel isn’t in pristine marble pillars or large spacious rooms with Da Vinci murals on the ceiling. It’s the same love you may have for your family. It’s not about how much they look like Brad Pitt or if they are as wealthy as Bill Gates or as talented as Morgan Freeman. They are your family, just like chapel is our home. The history isn’t something that may show up in some dazzling display of wealth, good fortune, etc. But it’s there. It’s something we personally hold very dear.

    I don’t pretend to know that I know everything about UMass or it’s inhabitants. I realize that some things I may not hold dear are especially dear to others, and vice versa. That is okay. I’ve lived a completely different life than most at UMass as have they. But I do give respect to knowing that I do not know, and if I were to trample on some one or something that was held dear to others, I would apologize.

    Chapel is a symbol of the history of the UMMB. Sure, there were other things, and I’m sure other people hold it dear for what it was to them. But to the UMMB at least, it is still very much a very important place to remember. I can not speak for the persons who took classes there 50 years ago, but I do know it is still a very important symbol for the UMMB.

    I do not expect an apology, but I do hope the author and others can see from our view how inaccurate the article was. Decades of memories reside in that building. Another decades worth of reverence permeate through it. I’m young but I know George Parks loved, appreciated, and respected that building for what it was, and I trust his history, knowledge, and judgment on the building far more than anyone else.


  31. Sara on December 6th, 2012 12:13 pm

    On behalf of the UMMB alumni, I want to apologize for the backlash that was created. You are being punished for a poorly worded sentence. I don’t find the article offense at all. I actually found it amazing. I am a devoted UMMB alumna who has actually never set foot in Old Chapel. I know what it means to me and what it symbolizes for the band. I was in the band from 2004 to 2009. I never got a chance to experience the tour that the brothers of Kappa Kappa Psi and the sisters of Tau Beta Sigma (the brothers and sisters of the band) put on every homecoming. It is much different than the one that you took but equally informative (so I’ve heard). Because I’ve never been inside this revered building, I deeply appreciated a description from “an outsider.” I’m sorry that your wonderful experience in an iconic structure on campus (that was used as a library waaaay before it was ever used for the band) was tainted by the remarks made by current members and former members of the UMMB. Keep up the good work.

    Sara Perrone-Rinaldi
    Clarinet section
    2004 to 2008


  32. UMass Student on December 6th, 2012 2:05 pm

    Could I just point out how ludicrous it is to compare anything in this article to Todd Akin’s statements about rape or genocide?


  33. L.J. on December 6th, 2012 2:13 pm

    I think we should allow the UMMB to move back into the Chapel, and then demolish it. That way, UMass would be rid of two things that no one cares about.


  34. UMass Senior on December 6th, 2012 8:01 pm

    Some people from the UMMB expressed very strong opinions on this piece but it is not reflective of the opinions of the entire organization. Blame should not be placed on the band unless the staff of the band issues a statement.

    Also, for the most part, the backlash has consisted of well written, well thought out responses. I am assuming Ms Mahoney is pursuing a career in journalism and this backlash is just a taste of what she will experience should she become a professional writer. This situation is just a valuable learning experience. The sentence in question could be (and clearly was) considered offensive and now I’m sure she will be more careful in the future. Just as comedians get heckled, and doctors get sued, journalist sometimes get told they are ignorant. C’est la vie.


  35. Mark Tuba on December 9th, 2012 7:08 am

    One thing for sure is that time really does move very fast. In 1982 I was a 17 year old freshman, away from home for the first time, trying to find my way. Chapel was much more than our headquarters for the marching band. I never did ask why the University gave this building to the UMMB, but I was grateful. Chapel was the center of the UMMB; but it was also the center of our lives. At times it became a place to wait between classes. I still remember taking the sofa from the locker room one warm spring day and sitting out front watching students walk by. There were the endless Frisbee or football games out front. For my junior year, the annual marching band banquet became a celebration for Old Chapels 100th Birthday (Thank You Jim Keirstead). I remember my first rehersal there. KKPsi meetings, and more nights than I care to remember running our nightly “Escort Service.” Over my 4 years I was in many buildings; but to this day Old Chapel remains my home. As my daughter has applied to Umass this year, I took her to visit(yes I have a photo of us both in front of Old Chapel). On the campus tour, no mention is made of Old Chapel; even while we are standing right in front of it. Old Chapel clearly does not seem to be important to the University, but it will always be my home. After a fundraising event in 1984 or 1985; Gerry Grady gave me a key Chain with Old Chapel on it. I still have this today. One of my favorite memories.

    I will agree with most people here; this was a very nice article…but a little more research would have been a nice thing. Thank you for bringing attention to Old Chapel.


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