This weekend saw the 147th Commencement exercises at UMass Amherst. And since that first graduating class back in 1870, the Minuteman Band has been a Commencement tradition!
Over 5,500 bachelor’s degrees and over 1,800 graduate degrees were conferred. Among the graduates were 63 graduating members of the Minuteman Marching Band. An additional band alumna earned her degree from Smith College and marched with the Minuteman Band as part of the Five Colleges exchange program.
Here’s a look at the Commencement traditions the UMass Band family helps continue.
It should come as no surprise that it’s a big undertaking getting 5,500 soon-to-be-graduates into McGuirk Alumni Stadium. But that’s where Minuteman Band associate director Thom Hannum ’84MM comes in. Since 1980, Band Day at UMass has grown to over 3,200 participants. As Band Day coordinator, Thom knows his way around getting folks into the stadium. And this tradition is carried on from late Minuteman Band director George Parks. For many years, Parks served in this role, working with Commencement staff to ensure an orderly (and quick!) start to ceremonies.
The late music professor Walter Chesnut began playing his famous fanfares at Commencement in 1975, often bringing cheering audiences to their feet as he signaled the opening of ceremonies. Perhaps his most triumphant performance as herald was in 1993, just a few months after a severe spinal injury left him partially paralyzed and unable to play a traditional trumpet. This tradition is proudly continued at Commencement (and other UMass ceremonies) by Minuteman Band alum Don Clough ’04.
To hear Don perform the fanfare, cue the Undergraduate Commencement video to the 26:50 mark.
Colonial Honor Guard
A fixture of Minuteman Band pregame shows and parade performances, the Colonial Honor Guard is also an important icon at other UMass events and ceremonies.
Senator Stan Rosenberg
We couldn’t be prouder of this alumnus of the UMass Band. In state government since 1986, representing UMass and the Town of Amherst, Stan Rosenberg ’77 played tuba under former band director Dr. John Jenkins. He now serves as President of the Massachusetts State Senate. He’s pictured here with United States Senator Elizabeth Warren, who delivered the 2017 Commencement Address.
Commencement Band members are drawn from the UMass Amherst Wind Ensemble and Symphony Band and include 37 bandos amongst the musicians. It’s a special experience for those graduating, with performances at both undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies.