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Greetings From Grinnell Way: Spring 2014

Greetings from Grinnell Way

And with a whirlwind, the academic year 2013 – 2014 comes to an end.  And what a year it was for the Minuteman Band.  From Gillette Stadium to the TD Garden; the steps of the Boston Statehouse to the streets of Manhattan; the NCAA basketball tournament to Fenway Park, this year’s students surely had their fill of memorable moments!  Before we move on to marching season 2014, let’s take a look back at the year that was!


The Minuteman Marching Band traveled to Gillette Stadium for six football games, including Band Day.  This past fall’s Band Day was one of the biggest ever, with nearly 3,500 participants.  The allure of being at an NFL stadium was definitely a draw.

The field show for this past season featured a couple tunes from the UMMB’s past, along with some ones.  Our show included John Leonard, Colin McNutt and Chris Ball’s great arrangement of two Phil Collins songs, Something Happened on the Way to Heaven and Sussudio; the old standby Malaguena, Michael Klesch, Kyle Dubois and Ian Wudyka’s arrangement of Age of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In from Hair, and Bandstand Boogie, which served as the percussion feature.  Bandstand was a re-working of a Rob Hammerton (the latest member of the UMMB Hall of Fame!) arrangement, done by John Leonard, Thom Hannum and Bobby Scott.  Many students got a chance to shine, from an Andrews Sisters vocal trio on Bandstand to three trumpeters on Malaguena.  Jason De Groff again wrote our drill.  Also debuting in 2013 was a new pre-game marching show, which Jason wrote.  Among the new twists were God Bless America, for the presentation of the colors, the creation of an American Flag for the Star Spangled Banner, and the UMASS spell-out, which involves the audience.  Jason did a terrific job of putting all of that together.

The UMMB had several performances apart from UMass football games.  We performed at Roxbury High School in Succasunna, NJ the night before the Collegiate Marching Band Festival in Allentown.  This was the second time in the past three years we’ve been at Roxbury; they are tremendous hosts and a very appreciative audience.  As some of you may know, Roxbury High is the alma mater of UMMB Hall of Famer Heidi Sarver.

We also had our traditional performance at the MICCA Finals in Lowell.  A highlight of MICCA for the band is the Burger Burn lunch, provided courtesy of the UMMB Parents.

Friday, Oct. 25th was Stand for UMass Day in Boston, a celebration of the University’s sesquicentennial.  The UMMB gathered at the Boston Common and then marched up Beacon Hill to the State House.  We performed a concert on the State House steps, before then marching through downtown to the Quincy Marketplace, where we performed again.  That evening, the Wind Ensemble, Chamber Choir, University Orchestra, and Jazz Ensemble 1 joined us for a concert at Symphony Hall.  It was a very memorable day, with the Power and Class being seen throughout the City.

Of course, the biggest moment of Fall 2013 was our appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  The band bussed down to Manhattan on Tuesday, November 26th, where we stayed at the Marriott Hotel.  The students then enjoyed a free evening in the city; our hotel was very close to a subway station, so there were plenty of opportunities to see the sights.  The following day, we were supposed to rehearse outside at West Orange High School in New Jersey; however, due to rain, we found ourselves indoors.  Somehow, we were able to rehearse music, our featured routine and even run through our parade sequence in the Marriott’s ballroom.  After rehearsals, a pep band played for the Alumni Association’s gathering and a Thanksgiving Day feast (a day early) was enjoyed at the hotel.  Everyone was to their rooms by 8 pm, because the morning came plenty early.

The UMMB left the hotel in full uniform at 3 am on Thanksgiving morning.  At 4 am, we had a rehearsal/run-through of our featured routine for the NBC cameras.  Warming up on the streets of New York long before daylight did have a certain surreal quality to it.  Once the rehearsal was done, it was back to the Marriott for approximately 2 hours of downtime.  Breakfast was available, and students checked out of their rooms.  We left the hotel again at 6:30, and by 7:30, were on the streets of New York, up by 86th Street.  Lined up alongside Central Park, we waited our turn to start.  It was cold, but it was also a backstage pass to the parade.  We saw floats, balloons and celebrities, all in the staging area.  At 10 am, we received the word to take to the street.  From there, it was about an hour parade from the Museum of Natural History down to the Macy’s store.  Our parade repertoire consisted of Fight Mass, Roll Down the Field, God Bless America and John Leonard’s arrangement of Sweet Caroline.  We were a bit nervous of how Sweet Caroline would be received, as it was in honor of the Red Sox winning the World Series and there we were, in New York.  To our surprise, though, the spectators along the sides of the streets loved it.  They sang along and were quite disappointed when we had to stop, upon reaching the silent zone.

Each band receives 75 seconds to perform a featured routine in front of the Macy’s store.  This is also broadcast on NBC television.  Knowing that this would probably be the biggest audience that ever saw the UMMB, we wanted to do something that reflected our history.  So, we performed the ending parts of Big Noise from Winnetka, out of respect to that piece’s long connection to our program.  The drumline and a drum major were featured right up front on the star, as a tribute to Prof. Parks and Prof. Hannum.  The music was arranged by John Leonard and Thom Hannum, with the drill written by Jason De Groff.  After the parade was finished, we had our picture taken on the steps of the main NYC Post Office.  From there, all that was left were the bus rides home, with the hopes that Thanksgiving Dinner would still be warm.  It is estimated over a million spectators were on the streets of New York, joined by a television audience of over 25 million people.

At the Band Banquet, we said goodbye to a wonderful group of seniors.  They had done a great deal in their four years; they used the slogan of “From Michigan to Macy’s” to reflect on how their band careers were book-ended by those two landmark moments.  That senior class showed great leadership in the years of transition, and definitely left their mark on the program.  Among the seniors who were honored was Rebecca Baturin, the outgoing band manager.  Rebecca was the recipient of the George N. Parks Memorial Scholarship.  Rebecca’s mastery of logistics was invaluable in the years of traveling to Gillette Stadium and to Macy’s.

We had thought the marching season was over in the fall, but it turned out, we had one more very important performance in April.  We were invited by the Boston Red Sox to be part of a special pre-game ceremony on Sunday, April 20th, honoring the victims, law enforcement officials and first responders of the previous year’s Boston Marathon bombings.  This was a very special event and we were deeply honored to be invited.  We performed the piece Highland Cathedral, arranged by Jay Dawson especially for the occasion.  We were joined by bagpipers, which created a stirring effect.  Members of the colorguard, front ensemble and twirlers helped carry banners.  We then played the Star Spangled Banner, and afterward, watched the Red Sox take on the Baltimore Orioles.  The entire ceremony was quite moving, and was something no one who participated will soon forget.

Hoop Band

The Hoop Band had an especially memorable year, with the UMass basketball team returning to the NCAA tournament for this first time in 16 years.  The season began with a trip to Boston for a game against Boston College at the TD Garden.  Other highlights included an exciting shoot-out versus BYU in Springfield, and an electric Friday night showdown in the Mullins Center versus VCU.  The Mulllins Center saw four sold-out crowds, which was terrific.  The band traveled to both the men’s and women’s A-10 tournaments (men’s in Brooklyn, women’s in Richmond, VA) and then to the NCAA tournament in Raleigh, NC.  Here’s hoping Coach Derek Kellogg’s team continues success into the future!

Concert Band

Fall 2013 marked the first time we had Concert Band in the fall.  It met during the evenings, since the afternoon times were for the marching band.  45 students and community members participated, and we shared a concert with the Wind Ensemble.  Tim Anderson conducted the band, along with graduate students James Shetler, Megan Cooney and Matt King.  The Spring semester Concert Band was roughly 135 players.  It performed a joint concert on April 6th with the Florence Community Band of Northampton, in the Fine Arts Center.  Each band played their own set, with the groups being combined for a grand finale.  Mr. Parks’ famous words of “Being in band is the best thing you can ever do and don’t let anyone ever tell you different” was the genesis of the joint concert.  We figured being in band didn’t have to be limited to high school or college.  As the Florence Community Band included musicians in their 80s, it served as an example of how being in a band can be a lifetime commitment.

April 11th – 12th was the 75th anniversary gala concert for the UMass choirs, orchestra, and bands.  An alumni concert band was formed and rehearsed Friday evening and Saturday morning, with the concert Saturday afternoon.  Conductors for the band were Bob Clowes, John Jenkins, Malcolm Rowell, Thom Hannum, James Patrick Miller and Tim Anderson.  Thom conducted an arrangement of Somewhere from West Side Story, written for the occasion by Michael Klesch.  Over 75 band alumni participated, ranging from the 1950s to the present day.

In January, James Patrick Miller announced he was leaving UMass Amherst to take a professorship at Gustav Adolphus College in Minnesota.  Dr. Miller had been conductor of the Wind Ensemble and Symphony Band since Fall 2009.  In that time, both groups performed at the divisional CBDNA conferences, with the Symphony Band performing this past March in Boston.  Dr. Miller will be missed, and we wish him much success in his future endeavors.

Marimba Bands and Marimba Ensembles

On Tuesday, April 1 Marimba Band II and Marimba Ensemble I traveled to Plainfield High School in Central Village, CT where we did a fundamentals clinic for approximately 40 high school percussionists and about 24 middle school percussionists. Lunch was provided by the host school after which both groups performed an inspiring concert for the entire music program. On Thursday, April 3 Marimba Band I and Marimba Ensemble II ventured to Meriden, CT to visit Francis Maloney High School. After working with Francis Maloney indoor percussion section, both ensembles were treated to lunch (provided by the host school) and performed a concert for all the high school musicians, including the choral students. These outreach efforts are incredible opportunities our UMass students to experience performance, teaching, and live interaction with band directors and high school students. Both events were sponsored in part by Gerry’s Music of South Hadley, MA and remain a valuable aspect of our Spring semester experience.

On Monday, April 28 both Marimba Bands and Marimba Ensemble treated an enthusiastic audience in Bowker Auditorium to a spectacular evening concert showcasing numerous student arrangements in a wide variety of musical styles. You really get a sense of the depth and talent throughout the entire percussion program. And, it’s fun! We thank those that continue to turn out and support our efforts and invite you to consider taking in a concert next academic year. We have a concert in both the Fall and Spring semester. Come out and give it a try! You’ll be glad you did.

Color in the Cage

Saturday, April 26th was the 28th annual Color in the Cage performance.  Among the groups performing were the Belchertown Twirlers; color guards from Bellingham High School and Enrico Fermi High School; the Massachusetts Maritime Academy Drill Team and drumline; the Eastern Massachusetts Spinning Club; the Kickin’ Back Dance Krewe; and various groups from UMass, such as Mace Tech, Twirler Tech, the UMMB Twirlers and the UMMB Color Guard.  The Brothers of Kappa Kappa Psi and Sisters of Tau Beta Sigma provided logistical support.  Congratulations to Frederick Omega Pye on a successful event!

Looking forward to 2014 – 2015

Now that you are all caught up on what we’ve done, here’s a look ahead to what’s coming up.  We have finished the interviews/auditions for Field Staff/Drum majors; those will be announced soon.  We also have our schedule almost completed.  Band Camp and football games are already scheduled; other events are in the process of getting nailed down.  Hopefully that will be announced shortly.

In the meantime, though, something to be very excited about is the return of football and the UMMB to the new and improved McGuirk Stadium.  The first game in Amherst will be Saturday, September 27th and it’s Homecoming.  I hope you will be able to join us for Alumni Band for what will be a very special day.  Other dates of interest are Saturday, August 30th, a home game at Gillette Stadium vs. Boston College; Band Day on Oct. 18th at Gillette; and a Wednesday night game, Nov. 12th at McGuirk.  Also, the Multibands gala evening concert will be Thursday, Oct. 2nd.  This was scheduled so as to avoid conflicts with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

As has been the tradition, we will be inducting new members into the UMMB Hall of Fame.  We need your nominees!  You can review the criteria and make a nomination here:

As always, GO UMASS!

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