The UMass Marching Band experienced a shocking loss on its way to Ann Arbor, as its director, 57-year-old George N. Parks, died on Thursday following a performance in Ohio. The band made a stop to perform before continuing its trip to Ann Arbor, and Parks suddenly died of what is being called an "apparent heart attack."
A nationally recognized band leader, Parks' charismatic persona inspired thousands of band members who devoted endless hours to drills, practices, road trips and public performances while also pursuing their academic studies.
"This is an extraordinary loss," wrote Chancellor Robert Holub and James Staros in an e-mail to the campus community. "George's devotion to excellence, his creativity and his passion for teaching inspired us all and shaped the lives of thousands of students during the three decades that he directed The Power and Class of New England. Truly, he represented the best of UMass."
Under Park's leadership, the band received the Louis C. Sudler Trophy, the nation's top marching band honor, from the John Philip Sousa Foundation in 1998. Last year, the band was named one of the best in the country by the website Bleacher Report.