17 September 2010

Slice of Life: Untimely Passing of UMass Minuteman Marching Band Director, George N. Parks

Far to often, people forget that their friends and family are truly the most important things in life.  No matter the highs we reach or the lows we approach, a gentle hand, a warm touch, a kind word, some inspirational wisdom, or even a swift kick in the pants can always be appreciated.  Then there are the kind of people whom you meet rarely and interact with extremely little but through their influential nature, have the ability to forever change your life.

George N. Parks was exactly that kind of person.  In my brief two years with the Delaware Marching Band, I had a rare chance to interact with Parks on a level that was yet unrealized until today.  Unfortunately, that realization comes upon the sad mind and heavy heart to report his passing.  While my personal interaction with Parks was extremely little, if at all, his tremendous reach and outward character has shaped the lives of many young women and men whom have an appreciation for music on all levels.

My wife, my friends, and myself have all learned the "Park's way" through one of his best friends and disciples, Delaware Marching Band Director, Heidi I. Sarver.  Through following Facebook feeds to support our mentor Sarv, we remember George's self-processed mantra that every person should be Santa Clause.  Individually be great, together be unsurpassed and do this every time in everything you do simply because you can.  Learn to do things the right way while having fun and making it so contagious that everyone around you will catch it.  That "it" obviously being tradition, education, leadership and values, and molding kids into adults.  Some of us got it during college, others not until our early professional career, but anyone who has ever been associated with Dr. Parks certainly understood his excitement for life.

That excitement for life is exactly what we need to remember today.  Not the legacy he leaves behind, nor the tradition and excellence that he taught and drilled into everyone of his band members,  Drum Major Academy students, or "baby band" members, but the fact that today is just as good as yesterday and we are going to do something fun!  Sarv captured that and spread it to her own program at Delaware and undoubtedly her students have spread it to area high school bands where they now teach.  It's in every one of us to remember that life is what we make it, and that we can all be Santa Clause and should be every day.  I admit, a small part of me has shed a few tears for a man I've barely known, but the memories and friendships forged through the experience of UDMB that was so inspired by what Parks' teachings, how could I not feel some sorrow?

With all of this said today, I feel only a fraction of a pain that can be expressed by those who were and are personally close to one of the greatest musical educators the world has ever known.  My thoughts, sympathies, prayers, and condolences go out to every member of the "baby band" community whether they wear Blue & Gold, Purple & Gold, Maroon & Black, or any other color that George Parks infected with his lively spirit.  To Mr. Park's family, may you find comfort in support from band members everywhere.

To Sarver:  I will say what I've already told you in your question of how you go on.  You go on Sarv with all of us behind you.  You continue to keep those feet together, that stomach in, your chest ouy, your elbows frozen, your chin most importantly up, and you can let tears of pride be shed.  A man's body is not nearly as strong as his spirit, and Dr. Parks knew that better than all but the greatest spiritual prophets that have walked this earth.  It is apparent to this band member, that God needed a band director this day, and he got a damned good one; the best one.  All of UD and UMass band members are behind you, because all of us were behind your great friend.  Even though your friend did it "My Way,"  we will make this easy for you Sarv, and do it HIS WAY!

And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend I'll say it clear
I'll state my case of which I'm certain

I've lived a life that's full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Regrets I've had a few
But then again too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Yes there were times I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out, I faced it all
And I stood tall and did it my way

I've loved, I've laughed and cried
I've had my fill, my share of losing
And now as tears subside
I find it all so amusing

To think I did all that
And may I say not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way

For what is a man what has he got
If not himself then he has not
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

Yes it was my way

1 comment:

  1. Just found this...don't even know who you are until I take a moment and find out. Regardless---thank you.