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George N. Parks

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George N Parks
George Parks
Parks speaking to students during Band Day in 2009
Born George Nathan Parks
(1953-05-23)May 23, 1953
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
Died September 16, 2010(2010-09-16) (aged 57)
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, U.S.
Resting place St. Brigid's Cemetery (Hadley, Massachusetts)
42°22′21.80″N 72°32′57.91″W / 42.3727222°N 72.5494194°W / 42.3727222; -72.5494194
Residence Amherst, Massachusetts
Education Christiana High School
West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Northwestern University
Occupation Band director
Music teacher
Years active 1977–2010
Employer University of Massachusetts Amherst
Organization George N. Parks Drum Major Academy
Known for Drum major instruction, Tuba performance, Director of the University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band
Spouse(s) Jeanne Parks
Children Michael, Kathryn
Parent(s) Norman and Vesta Parks
Awards World Drum Corps Hall of Fame
Bands of America Hall of Fame

George N Parks (May 23, 1953 – September 16, 2010) was the director of the University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band at University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1977 until 2010. He also led the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy, a summer workshop program for high school drum majors that he founded in 1978.

Early life and education[edit]

Parks was born on 23 May, 1953 in Buffalo, New York and grew up in Newark, Delaware graduating from Christiana High School in 1971, along with being a Drum Major. [1] He earned a bachelor's degree from West Chester University, where he was the drum major in the West Chester University Golden Rams Marching Band.[2] At West Chester, Parks was initiated into the Rho Sigma chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.[3] After college he earned a master's degree in tuba performance at Northwestern University.[2]


Drum corps[edit]

Parks made his first appearance on the national scene as Drum Major of the award-winning Reading Buccaneers Drum and Bugle Corps. He helped lead the Buccaneers to two DCA Championships, in 1979 and 1980, and received numerous individual honors, including eight DCA Championship Drum Major Awards.[4] In 1976, while working as a graduate assistant under John P. Paynter at Northwestern University, he was instrumental in bringing the first color guard/flag corp to the Big Ten.[5]

In 1993, Parks was inducted into the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame, for recognition of his work in the field of drum corps and mace technique.[6]

University of Massachusetts[edit]

Parks became the director of the University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band in 1977 at the age of 24, and built upon a strong program that had been headed by John Jenkins.[4] Parks was a professor in the Department of Music and was the recipient of the university's Distinguished Teacher Award in 1989 and the Chancellor's Medal for Distinguished Service in 1997.[7] The University's Alumni Association named him an honorary alumnus in 1997.[8][9] At the time of his death, he was director of the band alongside Assistant Director Thom Hannum.[10]

George N. Parks Drum Major Academy[edit]

Parks founded the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy, a summer program to train high school drum majors. Each summer, over 3,000 students attend the Band Leadership Training Seminar and Drum Major Academy.[4][11]

Other work[edit]

In addition to his work at UMass Amherst and with his Drum Major Academy, Parks worked regularly with Bowl Games of America (BGA), where he assisted in the production of massed band halftime shows. He conducted BGA halftime shows at the Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Gator Bowl, and the BCS National Championship Game.[10] In 2005 and 2009, he was the director of the Bands of America Honor Band in the Tournament of Roses Parade.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Parks married his wife, Jeanne, in 1979 in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. They had two children, Michael and Kathryn.[9]

Death and legacy[edit]

Parks died from a heart attack on the evening of September 16, 2010. After a performance with the marching band at a Cuyahoga Falls High School football game, he collapsed while getting into a van. Paramedics were called again, and they transported him to Summa Western Reserve Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11:02 p.m.[13]

Earlier in the day, Parks had been complaining about neck pain, and paramedics were called. According to Gary Guenther, chief investigator for the Summit County Medical Examiner, "When they got there, they checked him out," he said. "Mr. Parks apparently said he was feeling better and refused to go to the hospital." At the time of his death, he was en route to Ann Arbor, Michigan with the band for a football game on September 18 between UMass and the University of Michigan.[14][15] He was honored on Homecoming Day on October 16, 2010 by current and former band members and staff. This included a performance by the alumni band, which included approximately 1,300 participants, the largest the university had ever seen.[16][17]

Awards and honors[edit]

Parks conducting

Parks was inducted into the Massachusetts Instrumental and Choral Conductors Association Hall of Fame, the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame, The Bands of America Hall of Fame, and the Buccaneers Hall of Fame. Additionally, he received the Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity Distinguished Service to Music Medal, in the field of marching band, in October 2008.[18] Parks was initiated into the Epsilon Nu chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity as an Honorary Member and the Delta Delta chapter of Tau Beta Sigma National Honorary Band Sorority as an Honorary Member.[7][9]

The George N. Parks Minuteman Marching Band Building at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which officially opened on Homecoming Weekend in November 2011, was named in Parks' honor.[19] The name was chosen a year before his death and announced in Parks' presence at the groundbreaking in October 2009.[20]

Following his death, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick named October 16, 2010 "George N. Parks Day", delivered by proclamation through state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg (himself a UMASS band alum), and instructed University of Massachusetts President Jack M. Wilson that the state flags be lowered to half-staff in Parks' honor.[21]

Published works[edit]

The Dynamic Drum Major (1984, Grove Weidenfeld; ISBN 978-99965-0-824-0 Cl Barnhouse Co/Music Pubs)


  1. ^ Douglass Funeral Service, George N. Parks May 23, 1953 - September 16, 2010 Retrieved September 19, 2010
  2. ^ a b "Obituary". University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band Alumni. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  3. ^ West, Thomas J. (September 18, 2014). "George N. Parks Memorial Service at West Chester University". Thomas J. West. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c "DMA History". George N. Parks Drum Major Academy. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  5. ^ "George N. Parks". Epsilon Nu - Kappa Kappa Psi. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Biographies". World Drum Corps. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Our Chapter". Epsilon Nu - Kappa Kappa Psi. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Distinguished Alumni Awards Recipients". UMass Alumni Association. 2014. Archived from the original on May 18, 2014. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c Blaguszewski, Ed (September 17, 2010). "George N. Parks, Longtime Marching Band Director, Dead at 57". University of Massachusetts Amherst. Archived from the original on September 20, 2010. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  10. ^ a b "Meet the Leaders of the Band!" (PDF). University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  11. ^ "UD band director remembers mentor and friend George Parks". Newark Post. September 20, 2010. Retrieved September 21, 2010. 
  12. ^ Poli, Domenic (January 25, 2009). "UMass marching band leader George Parks marches in Tournament of Roses Parade". The Massachusetts Daily Collegian. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  13. ^ Wiandt, Steve (September 26, 2010). "Community supports UMass band members after death of director". Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio: Falls News Press. Archived from the original on October 10, 2010. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  14. ^, George N. Parks, UMass band director, dies after performance in Ohio September 17, 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-18.
  15. ^ Carney, Jim (September 17, 2010). "University band director dies after Falls game". Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio: Akron Beacon Journal. Archived from the original on June 15, 2011. Retrieved September 18, 2010. 
  16. ^ "UMass band plays on for fallen leader". Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  17. ^ George Parks Speech, Minuteman Marching Band Groundbreaking on YouTube October 18, 2010. Retrieved September 29, 2014.
  18. ^ "Remembering George Parks". October 2010. Archived from the original on July 28, 2012. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 
  19. ^ Taskey, Trisha. "UMass Marching Band has a new Home (Video)". WGGB. Retrieved September 16, 2011. 
  20. ^ George Parks Speech, Minuteman Marching Band Groundbreaking on YouTube October 17, 2009. Retrieved 2010-9-23.
  21. ^ Mass Live, Speakers lined up for late UMass band leader George Parks memorial service October 14, 2010. Retrieved 2012-10-16.

External links[edit]

George N. Parks
Born: May 23, 1953 Died: September 16, 2010
Preceded by
John Jenkins
Band Director
Succeeded by
Thom Hannum (interim director)