UMass Marching Band prepares for Rose Parade

  • Members of the UMass Minutemen Marching Band rehearse Thursday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Duncan Hurst, front, and other members of the UMass Minutemen Marching Band rehearse Thursday on a practice field near the Mullins Center. The band is bound for Pasadena, California, to perform in the Rose Parade on Jan. 1. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Members of the UMass Minutemen Marching Band rehearse Thursday in a practice field near the Mullins Center. The band is bound for Pasedena, Calif. to perform in the Tournament of Roses Parade, Jan. 1. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 12/10/2017 11:24:36 PM

AMHERST — The Merry Maple Festival downtown normally ushers in the month of December and marks the end of the University of Massachusetts Marching Band’s season. In 2017, however, UMass practice fields are teeming with rows of shivering marchers and the air is filled with music in the middle of December. It will be that way for the rest of the month, as band members prepare for the parade some consider the “granddaddy of ‘em all.”

The UMass marching band will play in the 2018 Rose Parade on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, California. The parade, which can garner nearly 50 million television viewers, is part of the Pasadena New Year’s Day celebration and is known for its floats covered in flowers.

According to Dr. Tim Anderson, director of the UMass Marching Band, performing in the Rose Parade is a an honor for any marching band — the parade’s prestige, he said, is nearly unrivaled.

“When you think about what are the big parades in the U.S., if not in the world, it’s the Macy’s Parade in New York City and the Rose Parade in Pasadena,” Anderson said.

In 2013, the UMass Marching Band performed at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Now, they have been invited to perform in the other big one.

“It’s kind of neat we have gotten to do both parades,” said Anderson, who has been the band’s director for seven years. “We are usually wound down at this point but it’s full speed ahead.”

UMass first learned its band was selected to play in the Rose Parade in 2016, having won the spot in a highly competitive application process. The application requires video footage of the band performing, and also takes into account the band’s history and reputation.

The band will be the only college or university marching band to take part besides those of the two schools who will be playing in the Rose Bowl game that follows the parade, the University of Georgia and the University of Oklahoma.

“When you think about it, 44 million people watch the program on television each year, so that’s one of the biggest audiences for anything UMass will ever have had,” Anderson said.

While leading his band to the Rose Parade is exciting for the 44-year-old from Sacramento, California, Anderson said that it can also be daunting. However, Anderson said he and the band are proud to be taking on the task.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for us. Since we are the commonwealth’s flagship campus, we feel like we are the commonwealth’s band. We’re not just representing UMass — which we are — but we feel like we are representing the whole state,” Anderson said. “It’s going to be a mountaintop moment for us.”

In the bitter cold, several band members expressed similar emotions of excitement and nervousness. They said they may have lots of practicing to do before flying to California on the morning of Dec. 28, but that they will be ready.

“We’re pretty psyched,” said Kate Marinelli, a UMass senior from Harvard.

Maddie Aitken, a UMass freshman from Beverly, said that the Rose Parade could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“It could be the last one for a very long time,” Aitken said, referring to the Rose Parade appearance.

The UMass Marching Band will inevitably impress the Rose Parade audience with at least three things, according to Anderson: its size, its new uniforms and, of course, its skill.

At nearly 410 members, the band, Anderson said, is the largest anyone from the area can remember — if not the largest in history. The sprawling ensemble will be debuting its new uniforms, half-white and half-maroon regalia, for the first time in Pasadena.

“The uniforms will be a bold new look for us,” Anderson said. “The half in white and half in maroon is emphasizing what the Marching Band is all about, power and class.”

Begun in 1890, the Rose Parade is an annual celebration of southern California’s weather, quite warm during a time of the year when much of the country is buried in snow. The parade precedes college football’s Rose Bowl, which was started in 1902 to fund the parade that has grown into a marvelous spectacle, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors.

The UMass Marching Band was directed by George N. Parks from 1977 until 2010. He built up a well-known and respectable program, Anderson said. Parks died of a heart attack in 2010 at age 57. Anderson said that Parks would be proud to know the band he led for decades will play in the Rose Parade.

“This is the next step for the band he created,” Anderson said. “It’s a great opportunity to show the world what UMass is all about.”

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