This piece was written as a feature story for the Commonwealth Honors College website.
“How are your feet?”
“How is your chin?”
“How are your eyes?”
With pride. This is how members of the UMass Minuteman Marching Band stand at attention and face each day. Whether on the field or in the classroom, these 394 remarkably talented students are full of pride. We recently had the chance to speak with several Commonwealth Honors College students in the marching band, and from the way they spoke about their experiences in the band, their pride was clear.
From the moment they arrive at band camp a week before classes start, the “rookies” are told that “going into school you’ll have 400 new friends. By the end of the semester, you’ll have 400 new family members.” First year student Nicole Kirsch (trombone) admitted her fear that, in coming to a school as large as UMass, she would disappear into sea of students. But after joining the marching band, she happily states that “you don’t feel like a number.” From bonding during long bus rides, to sections of the band swarming into Franklin Dining Common every night after rehearsal, the band is a tight, but inclusive, group. “Band is a place for everyone,” says junior Katy Boggs (trumpet). “We never turn anyone away, and you always feel accepted.”
But there’s something else that keeps these students playing and marching their hearts out every day. From all-important lessons in time management, responsibility, and perseverance, all of the students we spoke with agree that being in the marching band has influenced how they see themselves, others, and the world around them. “I love being a part of something bigger than myself,” says first year Brian Gregg (alto saxophone), who knew he wanted to join the Minutman Marching Band after seeing them perform when he was in high school. “Band has changed me for the better,” says sophomore Rachel Oestreicher (melophone), whose experience in band helped her decide to major in music education. “It made me realize what I should be doing.” With a smile, sophomore Vanessa Lee (clarinet) admits, “It’s a lot more than you think you’re getting into,” to which Boggs adds, “It’s a testament to the band. They make it seem easier than it is.” But even as they talked about their crazy schedules and early call times, everyone seemed to agree that it was all worth it. “Band shows you that you’re capable of more than you think you are,” says junior Katie Wheele (tuba). “You may not think you can do it at first, but when you do, you feel incredible.”
Something all members of the marching band seem to have in common is a strong dedication to tradition, especially the traditions of their late director George Parks. As part of their uniform, band members wear maroon bracelets with the words, “GNP With Pride.” While many of the students we interviewed weren’t wearing their bracelets off the field, Alexis Sabol (clarinet/flute) says she wears hers all the time “to remind me to wear my eyes with pride.” As sophomore Emily Lowe (piccolo) says, it’s easy for band members to be proud of themselves and each other. She says, “You don’t even have to think about it. You do it because you love it.” It is this pride that unites them and adds strength and passion to each of their performances. It is this pride that has band alumni swaying arm in arm at the end of every UMMB performance as they play “My Way.” It is this pride that keeps them in our eyes, our ears, and our hearts, every time we hear their melodies surging from the George Parks Band Building, no matter where we are on campus.
This year, the UMass Minuteman Marching Band will be marching with pride at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. For more about their journey, read the Daily Collegian’s series on the band’s preparations for the event and watch the band’s parade through campus at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, November 25.
And of course, tune in to NBC on Thursday, November 28, at 11:24 a.m. for the marching band’s Macy’s television debut.