George Nathan Parks, 57, of Amherst, Massachusetts, passed away on September 16 at Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, following a UMass Marching Band performance.
For 33 years, he served was the Marching Band Director at University of Massachusetts. Besides serving as director of the band known as The Power and Class of New England, Parks was professor of music at UMass. He received the university’s Distinguished Teacher Award and the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Service. He was named an Honorary Alumnus of the University of Massachusetts.
Born May 23, 1953, in Buffalo, NY, George grew up in Newark, Delaware, graduating from Christiana High School. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education from West Chester University, PA, and a Master of Music in Tuba Performance from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. George began teaching at UMass in 1977, and began the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy the following summer. In 1979, Thom Hannum joined George for a legendary band partnership that lasted 31 years.
A tireless fund-raiser, Parks was the driving force behind the $5.7 million Minuteman Marching Band Building, currently under construction. The new building is named in his honor.
George’s work in music and leadership has inspired thousands of high school and college students to find the best in themselves. Some of his recent students were the children of his first students at the University.
George was a devoted husband and father, who enjoyed watching his son Michael’s hockey games and daughter Kathryn’s equestrian pursuits. George often came to Springfield Central High School to support wife Jeanne and her choral students. Among his favorite things were family trips to Disney World (where he would often run into DMA students), golfing, playing volleyball with the Band staff, watching movies, and choosing music for his favorite meal, spaghetti with meat sauce. He loved to have a houseful of people playing Axis and Allies. George was a communicant of the First Baptist Church of Amherst, where he often played tuba and sang in the choir.
George is survived by his wife of 31 years, Jeanne (nee Clayton), daughter, Kathryn, son, Michael, his mother, Vesta Parks and brother Patrick, of Newark, DE, sisters and brothers-in-law Barbara and Ed Firchak of Ocean City, MD, Pamela and Dan Kopec of Louisiana, brother and sister-in-law Jon and Lorie Parks of Delaware, and his in-laws, Harvey and Barbara Clayton of Jensen Beach, FL, and brother-in-law Robert Clayton of Celebration, FL. He will be greatly missed by his many nieces, nephews, close friends, 390 present “bandos,” and thousands of UMass band and DMA alum. George was pre-deceased by his father, Norman Parks.