Friday, September 17, 2010
A Horrible Loss
The man who seemed to never age/Umass' Peter Pan has passed away. I was a proud member of the Umass Minuteman Marching Band from 1995 - 1999. George Parks had limitless energy and heart. He inspired thousands of kids through the Umass band program and his DMA (drum major academy).
He inspired me. At my Umass orientation I watched this video and fell in love with the band. Nevermind that I had never marched. Nevermind that kids across the country came to Umass just to march with this famous man and his band. I knew I needed to be part of it. My freshman year I was assigned to be an alternate. Alternates are band members who fill in holes in the drill when members are out sick or have a conflict with a performance. A tenor sax that only played C was given to me so I'd blend. A perfect story of my cluelessness and George Parks' amazingness is this...
September 1995 I was assigned to fill in for an absent euphonium (baritone horn). At our daily rehearsal, Mr. Parks split up the band. On one field were the brass instruments practicing music and on the other field were the woodwinds practicing drill. I was a tenor sax who marched with brass so I was a bit confused about what to do. I knew I didn't want to stand on the sidelines. So there I was all by my lonesome in an empty half of a football field practicing drill with all the woodwinds on the other half practicing. Mr. Parks was up on his metal tower giving instructions over his bullhorn. Towards the end of the practice he said over his bullhorn, "I know she's all alone over here but she is doing an amazing job. Everyone give her a hand." That meant so much for a girl who had never marched in her entire life! The moral of the story is that I became a permanent euphonium and received a Most Improved award at the end of the season.
Mr. Parks support and love didn't just extend to current band members but to alumni as well. I was 2 years away from my Umass days when I had a stroke. On the day I got home from the hospital, George Parks called me to see how I was doing. I told him that thanks to years of roll-step marching learning to walk again was easy thanks to him. Another story about George the Man...
During the spring, the marching band was a concert band which meant we had regular sit down rehearsals inside. Those spring rehearsals really helped me learn how to play euphonium better. Spring 1997 we had an arrangement for "Take Me out to the Ballgame". Mr. Parks invited a Umass gentleman to read the poem Casey at Bat to intro the music. It was dress rehearsal and this gentleman had a very odd cadence/enunciation. It sounded like Elmer Fudd drunk. We ran through the program several times. Every time, I was dying trying to keep from laughing at Elmer. Then he asked for a little time to practice just himself into the microphone. That is when I completely lost it. Shaking with laughter tears streaming down my eyes and soon enough the entire euphonium section was doubled over. Luckily we were in the back row. George Parks gave us a look on consternation at first but eventually shook his head red faced from suppressed laughter.
George Parks you have been loved and will be missed by thousands.