Friday, September 17, 2010


I just had to post this. Earlier this morning, George N. Parks, the band director of the University of Massachusetts, passed away from an apparent heart attack. It was totally unexpected. He was only 57 years old. It has touched me deeply and I just had to post this in his memory.

I never went to U Mass, but I was the drum major of my high school band. The band director sent his drum majors to training every year to learn how to be drum majors. George Parks was the guy responsible for running the Drum Major Academy (DMA). It was so much fun! He broke us up into little groups so we could practice teaching each other how to march. He called the groups "pods" and referred to them as our "family." He understood how intimidated some of us were (especially those of us who were sent as Freshmen such as myself). He taught us all how to be effective leaders, teachers, and role models and more importantly, how to overcome the fears of a new situation and be all that we can be in all that we do.

George Parks was one of the most important influences in my life. I remember what he says every day. After drum majoring in high school, I went on to teach fencing to college students. I remembered what he said about PSP (Praise Suggestion Praise) every time I taught. Now, I am a substitute teacher still remembering all he taught at DMA. I kept all of my notes and packed them up with my other teaching resources. Even though I will probably never use them to teach marching again, I will use his lessons every day as a teacher. The stories he told at DMA were so inspirational to me especially the one he told about his blind student. Blind or not, this particular student marched as well or better than the students who could see! It taught me that there is nothing a person can't do if he or she puts his or her mind to it.

Last thought: While at a collegiate band festival, a bunch of friends and I sat around until the very end just to see Mr. Parks. All day it was cloudy and on and off rain. But then, the U Mass band came out and blew us all away. But the most memorable part of the performance: As soon as George Parks got onto the stand, the sun came up out of the clouds! The mere presence of George Parks brought out the best in everyone....even the weather!!

Rest In Peace, George Parks.

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