Friday, September 17, 2010

Our Great UMass Amherst Band Leader has Died Suddenly

I am reeling from the shock this morning that George N. Parks, our magnificent and legendary leader of the UMass Amherst Minuteman Marching Band, has died unexpectedly at the age of 57.

More on this breaking news story here.

The band had just given a performance in Ohio and we were all anticipating tomorrow's huge football game at the University of Michigan where the band was to perform and Mr. Parks was to conduct.

Seeing him with the band at practices on campus and at numerous football games at half time and even in parades on national TV was always special. One of the high points every year was when numerous high school bands in their colorful uniforms came to UMass Amherst to perform at half time for a football game. So many from the community and beyond came to watch this magnificent spectacle.

This is a huge and unexpected loss and he never stopped leading the band.

He will be missed terribly by all those band members who learned so much from him over his decades at UMass as well as by the audiences who had the thrill of seeing him conduct one of the very best marching bands ever.

The band will play in his honor tomorrow at the UMass vs. University of Michigan game in Ann Arbor.

For an eloquent and very touching tribute about what Mr. Parks meant to a former band member, and UMass Amherst graduate, Katie McLeod, who now writes for The Boston Globe, read here. As Ms. McLeod writes: Today I face challenges every day as an adult in the working world, but Mr. Parks's voice rings in my mind always. "It's not getting to the top that's the real challenge. It's staying there," he would say. It's about working as hard as you can no matter what your job, your title, or your circumstances -- even if you're the best already, or feeling the worst. Never stop learning, growing, achieving. It's up to us to do our best.