The Umass Marching Band speaks out: What it really means to be a Minuteman

‘It’s about putting the whole before yourself’

The UMass Minuteman Marching Band is ranked one of the top marching bands in the country. They have performed all across the United States including three performances at the Presidential Inaugural Ceremonies (1981, 1985, 2001) and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (2013) and have received numerous awards.

You’ve probably heard them rehearsing as you walk by the marching band building, or from the fields by Mullins, but have you ever really stopped to think about just who these people are and how much work they are putting in to represent UMass Amherst?

We’ve spoken to some our very own UMass Minutemen to set the record straight about what it really means to be a member of our legendary marching band.

The one of the best day of my life. Marching the Macy's thanksgiving day parade. #umass #ummb #umassparade #eyeswithpride

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Band is more of a commitment than most sports or clubs

“Band is a HUGE commitment. We rehearse every day from 4:40 to 6:10, and have pretty frequent performances…When we perform at Gillette our call time can be as early at 4:15am. and we usually don’t get back until late at night.”

-Emily Levesque, ‘18, Trumpet

Music Education Major

All smiles… Despite being awake since 3:45am ? #ummb #goumass

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“We perform at Allentown Collegiate Marching Band Festival in Allentown PA every year, and that’s on a Sunday. So if we have a game the day before that then that means spending the night on a high school gym floor that night and then continuing on to Allentown the next morning. The other Sunday performance is MICCA which is a high school band competition we perform as an exhibition in, and the same goes for that if there is a game the day before. Those are long weekends.”

-Emy Hardy, ‘18, Clarinet

History and Clarinet Performance Double Major

“This season we have had six straight weekends of band which has been a lot. It’s also weird because we are one of the most visible parts of university so by being in the band you actually have the responsibility of representing everyone on campus. It is a huge commitment and as a music major I take way too many credits so at times it does seem like it is too much, but it is worth it”

-Emma Vogel, ‘18, Tuba

It is often very physically demanding

“A common misconception that people have is that band doesn’t require a lot of physical activity. Doing band is actually really good exercise and takes a ton of endurance. By the end of the season we have a 25 minute field show where theres a lot of fast marching and we can only breathe when there is a rest in the music. It’s very physically draining which people don’t realize.”

-Sarah Crump, ‘18, Alto Saxaphone

Music Education Major

We all just need a little help to learn to how to fly? #colorguard #ummb #UMass

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“The standard to which our percussion director holds us to is unwavering. Between no sleep, the depressingly under-portioned and unbalanced ‘meals’ provided throughout the day, the 30-40lb drums we wear all day that give us chronic back and shoulder issues, and game days sometimes as long as 17 hours…it can be a real challenge to exude the energy, enthusiasm, and excellence that this band proudly boasts.”

-Christian Malo, ‘17, Drums

Music Education Major (concentration in Piano)

“It takes a lot of control to be able to move your feet and body in a way that does not take away from a good sound. It is not uncommon to hear a chorus of panting when we finish one of our tunes.”

-Emily Levesque, ‘18, Trumpet

Music Education Major

The ‘Band Geek’ Stereotype needs to be put to rest once and for all

“The most common misconception is that we’re all ‘nerds’ and ‘geeks.’ Those two words tend to have a bad connotation to them. In reality, we are all here because we love to play music with our friends. That’s all! The social stereotype of a ‘band geek’ is not a good one, and I’m here to say that all those things that people portray in movies are not really true. We just love being in band together!”

-Casey Choi, ‘17, Snare Drum

Music Performance Major, BDIC in Arts/Entertainment Management

What a great Homecoming with some of my favorite people #umassparade #ummb

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“I think people assume that we walk around all day with instruments, and discuss music and marching non-stop; very much a stereotype perpetuated by the ‘American Pie’ series. In actuality, the band is made up of normal college students, most of whom aren’t even music majors, who all share a common interest. And usually if you hear us talking about band, it’s about a shared experience members have had, because in the end that’s what it’s all about: a large group of people sharing an experience of a lifetime!”

– Eddie Gelberg, ‘17, Drum Major

Physics Major

“I think the most common misconception about being in marching band is thinking that it’s ‘not for you.’ Our former director, George Parks, always said ‘band is a place for everyone’ and ‘being in band is the best thing you can do and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,’ and those two quotes are dead on in my mind, especially for the UMass band.”

-Matthew Thomas, ‘17, Tuba and Field Staff

Music Education Major (concentration in Clarinet)

Being in the Marching Band is more than just an extra curricular

Because it's that time of year again ✨

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“Performance days can be long days (Sometimes 4:15 am- 11pm!) but they’re so worth it! No one complains on these days because everyone is surrounded by their friends doing what we love and we wouldn’t want to have it any other way! The UMMB is a family. For most of us, we see each other more than we see our own families, so the bond we make is priceless.”

-Jackie Nicholson, ‘19, Drum Major

Dual Degree, Marketing and Communications

“I think being in band means learning to work together and putting the whole before yourself. It doesn’t matter why you were late, why you didn’t learn the part…And what I find to be beautiful about the art is that most of the learning happens at the individual or peer levels. We help each other out and we get better because it feels good to be good. The band does not compete; we are driven primarily by our own vision of the program and what we want other to think of it. The program thus has powerful take away value as students learn that life is structured much in the same way. You’ll be much better off and much happier when you rely less on deadlines or fear of punishment as motivators, and more on your internalized understanding of what it means to be the example.”

-Christian Malo, ‘17, Drums

Music Education Major (concentration in Piano)

Playing through the Standards with the band for the first time ✅✅ #goumass

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“To me, marching band isn’t some extracurricular activity. We spend so much time together all semester. We go on overnight trips, we travel to Gillette for football games, and my freshman year we even traveled to New York to be in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! Because we spend so much time together, we become like family. In the drumline, everyone takes care of each other. That is one of the most important philosophies we have. It creates a sense of camaraderie and trust, and it makes these long trips more enjoyable! I love that everyone is so supportive. I feel like I can talk to anyone about anything and not be judged.”

-Casey Choi, ‘17, Snare Drum

Music Performance Major, BDIC in Arts/Entertainment Management

No matter how difficult it proves to be, the band is beloved by all who participate

“We are the largest section (hovering consistently at around 55 members) in the band, but everyone knows everyone within the drumline-sometimes to a fault. But our motto has been and will continue to be ‘take care of each other.’ We all have our differences and hail from different backgrounds, but at the end of the day, we’re all there to be a part of the finest percussion section in the country.”

-Christian Malo, ‘17, Drums

Music Education Major (concentration in Piano)

Section love.. Tennizles? #ummb

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“The best times I have had in band are the silly, crazy, hilarious, amazing things that happen in between the performances, and the people I have been able to meet and experience it all with. Being in band is honestly the greatest thing you could ever do, and I will not let anyone tell me any differently.”

-Emy Hardy, ‘18, Clarinet

History and Clarinet Performance Double Major

“The best part of my experience in this band has been representing this university and being a bigger part of the UMass experience. I think joining an organization this big helped me appreciate UMass and college more and made me more aware of my surroundings”

-Christopher Branco, ’16, Tenor Sax 

English Major 

One of many tenor traditions: taking a picture with the dance team #UMMB ?

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