UMass Band Director Passes Away

Submitted by Wolverine318 on September 17th, 2010 at 7:24 AM

The UMass Band Director passed away last night after a performance in Ohio as the band was enroute to Ann Arbor.

George N. Parks, for 33 years the director of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Minuteman Marching Band, died suddenly Thursday at age 57 while traveling with the band in Ohio.

Parks and the 350-member band were staying overnight in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, en route to Ann Arbor, Mich., where the University football team was scheduled to play the University of Michigan on Saturday.

Band members reported that Parks died following a band performance Thursday night.

Besides serving as director of the band known as The Power and Class of New England, Parks was professor of music at UMass. He received the university's Distinguished Teacher Award and the Chancellor's Medal for Distinguished Service. He was named an Honorary Alumnus of the University of Massachusetts.

After serving as drum major for the West Chester University Golden Rams Marching Band, graduating from West Chester University, and receiving his graduate degree from Northwestern University in tuba performance, Parks became director of the University of Massachusetts band in 1977 at the age of 24.

A tireless fund-raiser, Parks was the driving force behind the $5.7 million Minuteman Marching Band Building, currently under construction. The new building is named in his honor.

Under Parks, the band became one of only 27 collegiate marching bands nationally to receive the Sudler Trophy given by the John Philip Sousa Foundation.

I do not know if the UMass band is still coming for tomorrow's game. It would be great if everyone kept the Parks family in their thoughts and prayers



September 17th, 2010 at 7:28 AM ^

...what an awful thing for his family and those students. I urge max respect for the UMass visitors in light of this event. I expect nothing less, but there are always a few yahoos.


September 17th, 2010 at 7:33 AM ^

I'm sure that the MMB is actively scratching for some sort of a tribute.

Never, ever, EVER spend more than an hour at a time in Ohio. See what happens?

Edit: It occurs to me, at least he died doing what he loved. He was on the way wit his band to perform at the biggest stage of his entire life, and he had to be in a good mood. When I go, I hope I can go while waiting in expectation for something so cool, or basking in the afterglow.


September 17th, 2010 at 7:43 AM ^

There's usually respect among musicians, even on opposite sides of the football field. I'm sure the MMB will pay tribute in some way, (tuba solos? :-)  )

My prayers are with his family and the band.


September 17th, 2010 at 7:50 AM ^

think of a better place to pay tribute to him than in front of 110,000+ respectful fans.  I am sure that the UMass band (if they keep their schedule and perform in AA) will be very warmly received, and that they will come up with a fitting tribute.


September 17th, 2010 at 8:10 AM ^

Our thoughts and prayers to the family and to the UMass band...what a sad turn of events.

I hope they come and honor his memory by performing.

I NEVER boo the band from another school, even ND, whom I happen to think has a great band.  They make my Big House experience better and in most cases ain't wearing cleats or carrying the football.  Most bands work incredibly hard and do so without getting a ton of recognition.


September 17th, 2010 at 8:10 AM ^

brings up an interesting thought.

I've always said that I don't care what anyone does with my body when I die. Burn it. Bury it. Dump it in the woods off US-23. Whatever. Don't care. What I DO want though is to have a wake, and at my wake, I want a brass band playing jazzy, upbeat tunes. I lived life for the good moments, dang it, and I don't want anyone crying all over because I'm dead. I want them remembering, reliving and enjoying the good moments.

Hopefully they can put on a stirring rendition of his favorite songs, or something.


September 17th, 2010 at 8:38 AM ^

This is really sad.  Thoughts and prayers to his family and friends and all UMass.  Wow, only 57.  Life goes by so quick, from one moment to playing for the largest crowd they have ever seen to losing their director, high to lows.  Condolences. 


September 17th, 2010 at 8:54 AM ^

Oh my gosh...George N Parks is a LEGEND in marching bands.  He runs an excellent Drum Major Academy, and was renowned for being not only a great director of bands (and having an excellent marching band), but also just being an all-around awesome guy.


September 17th, 2010 at 9:17 AM ^

My 60 year old uncle - a huge sports fan - also died unexpectedly this week and I will be unable to watch the game due to handling his affairs.   So in either your pregame warm-ups or in the post game celebrations, please indulge me in asking you to toast both of these individuals.   Go Blue! 




September 17th, 2010 at 9:29 AM ^

...that death sucks. 

I'm so sorry to hear about this. Fifty-seven is too young. My father died at fifty-eight back in 1980 when I was a junior in college. It's extremely hard to accept.

Bando Calrissian

September 17th, 2010 at 9:47 AM ^

I honestly didn't know much about the UMass band, and decided to go check out their website after hearing this terrible news.

From the looks of it, Prof. Parks ran one heck of a program.  What an awful, awful loss, and I hope for these kids there's something that can be done so that they can have a nice trip and as good of a remainder of the season as they can.


September 17th, 2010 at 9:52 AM ^

Ya know, even though this tragedy is indirectly related to the team, it could still provide a lot of additional motivation for the players to play the game of their lives. As in, "Let's win one for Parks..."

Just sayin.'


September 17th, 2010 at 9:59 AM ^

...I always cheer the opposing band (I had friends in the MMB who always spoke highly of opposing fans who were welcoming), but this week I'll try to give it up for them a little more.  


September 17th, 2010 at 10:00 AM ^

by Michigan fans when the UConn band was lustily booed. I hope the morons who booed on that occasion either stay away tomorrow or keep their ignorant pie holes shut when the UMass band comes onto the field.


September 17th, 2010 at 10:07 AM ^

He is quoted as saying during an interview:  

"Many years ago I had a beloved leather jacket... and I never wanted to throw it away. I sent it to the cleaners because it was covered in blood and Guinness and scotch and Corn Flakes, the usual. It went off to the Sycamore Cleaners and it came back with a thing pinned on it:  'It distresses us to return work which is not perfect' - so I want that on my tombstone." 



September 17th, 2010 at 10:21 AM ^

Perhaps as recipients of the first Sudler award, the MMB could honor Mr. Parks and his legacy/band as respected peers and perform the star spangled banner together or UMass' alma mater?

Also, I just hate to hear of a fellow tuba passing away so young.


September 17th, 2010 at 10:55 AM ^

That is terrible news indeed. I posted something in a diary last night that both my stepkids are in the Cuyahoga Falls marching band and they were treated to a show by the band last night after their football game. They had to play Thursday due to the other team having a religious reason for not playing Friday. They didn't say anything about the band director passing so I have to assume this happened after their show and they got home last night at almost 11pm. This is terrible news and I feel bad it had to happen in our locale. I guess the band was spending the night in the gymnasium at the school last night also which probably made things that much worse. Definite condolences to the family and friends of the band and hope they still come out and honor the director at the game. I know M fans will be respectful and supportive as we always are.


September 17th, 2010 at 11:48 AM ^

their butts off tomorrow. They are going to let it all hang out, and 110,000 people will stand and cheer them on. 

And 350 members?? They will bring some sound with them. Looking forward to the performance.

Feat of Clay

September 17th, 2010 at 12:08 PM ^

OMG that is just awful. I had just read in the other diary about them performing in Ohio. Thanks for posting this.  I hope people hear about this and are respectiful of the band tomorrow. 

Please, MGBloggers, make sure the student section knows.  I'm worried that whatever mention they make won't take place before the UMass band takes the field.


September 17th, 2010 at 12:02 PM ^

UPDATE: The UMASS band is indeed still performing and will be rehearsing on Elbel field from 2-4 today. Anyone interested in going to catch a sneak peak of their show is more than welcome to attend.


And as always, all are welcome to stay until 4:45 to watch the MMB rehearse.



I, for one, will certainly be there to watch them.


September 17th, 2010 at 5:14 PM ^

Very sad, I hope that the Michigan fans are classy and give the band a moment of silence and some solid cheers for them after the band is done playing at half time.