Updated: Saturday, 18 Sep 2010, 5:04 AM EDT
Published : Friday, 17 Sep 2010, 8:53 AM EDT
AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP/AP) - The University of Massachusetts at Amherst is remembering their beloved band director George Parks. He has led the Minuteman Marching Band for the past 34 years.
He died late Thursday night in Ohio after the marching band played at a local high school. The marching band was on their way to the University of Michigan to play during Saturday's football game. Jeff Cox, the chair of UMass's music department, told 22News this was a trip that both Parks and his band members looked forward to. He said "All of us are stunned. We’re just trying to come to grips with what this means." He said Parks was "non-stop energy." He said he loved his students.
David Levin, a father of a past band member, told 22News George Parks changed his son’s life. He said "Mr. Parks made them feel like a part of the family. He took a special interest in them. He took an interest their careers, their studies." His son, Dave, is now getting his masters in music so he can become a band director, just like George Parks. Levin said Parks was a leader that didn't just teach about music. He said he taught "about life. He teaches them life skills."
Parks also dreamed about building a place where the band could rehearse. Carol-Ann Batchelder worked with Parks to fund raise for a new band building. She said the band currently practices rain or shine outside for four hours a day. She said she's thrilled a new facility will be built for the band. She wishes Parks could have seen it, especially since it will be called the George M. Parks Band Building. It's scheduled to be completed in March 2011. Parks did attend the groundbreaking for the building where he found out it would be named after him.
We asked Jeff Cox what Park's legacy will be. He said "His spirit, his energy, his excitement about music, his excitement about leadership, and that's going to be part of all those students over all these years that he's influenced." Levin said his legacy will be that "He will have impacted thousands of people and they will in turn impact others."
The marching band has decided to play at the University of Michigan on Saturday.
George Parks leaves behind a wife and two children. People at UMass told 22News their hearts go out to his family.