The Minuteman Band of today was officially organized in 1935 under the direction of Mr. Charles Farnum. As great as this moment is in the Band's history, by no means was it the first.
In 1863, the Massachusetts Agricultural College was chartered into existence under the Morrill Land Grant Act. At this time, the College was comprised entirely of men, and were all enlisted in the military. Named after First Lieutenant Charles Morris, the Band was born during the nineteenth century. A Lieutenant in the 5th Army Artillery, Morris was the first leader of the Mass Aggie Band.
The Morris Drum Corps, as it was known, began as a military unit. Cadets at Massachusetts Agricultural College comprised the corps' membership, numbering fewer than twenty. The band was indicative of 1800's military bands - its musicians played fifes and drums. By the 1890s, the band was becoming more of a campus unit. It was renamed the Clark Memorial Cadet Band after M.A.C. President Clark. In 1892, the Cadet Band performed open-air concerts in a new bandstand located east of South College, near where the present library stands today. As the century closed, the band's instrumentation expanded, while membership continued to consist of military cadets.
Up until World War I, there was the ROTC military band. After the War, the band had begun to change. It was becoming a campus ornament. During the 1920's, the Massachusetts Agricultural College was growing at a quick pace and the band was now becoming a student activity. There was now a football band separate from the ROTC Band.
1931 brought about a new stage in the College's growth. It has now become the Massachusetts State College. In 1934, the College appointed its first instructor in music, Mr. Frank Stratton. A year later, in 1935, Mass State decided to formally organize its band program. Mr. Charles Farnum was hired as the first band director.
Visions of the Minuteman Band were now apparent. By 1938, the Massachusetts State College Band had completed its most successful season. It performed at all home football games and an away game versus the Coast Guard Academy at New London, Connecticut. There they performed with the Service Band in a parade and concert. Some innovations were introduced to the Band as well. The use of co-ed Drum Majors and the creation of a Band Constitution brought the band to a new level of excellence.
With the advent of World War II, many students became members of the armed forces. The Bands were disbanded from March of 1943 until September of 1945.
Mr. Farnum served as the Mass State Bandmaster until 1945. Mr. Doric Alviani, the College's first Music Department chair, assisted Farnum from 1942 until 1945 when Mr. Alviani took over. Mr. Alviani built on the strong program created by Charles Farnum.
Another important figure in the development of the Bands is Mr. Robert Bertram. A 1949 graduate of UMass, Bob Bertram served the Band as Drum Major. His influence is far greater than that. In 1942, Mr. Alviani asked Bob Bertram (pictured at left) to become the drillmaster and Drum Major of the ROTC band and the football band. He donned the role and garb of Metawampe, the legendary Indian Chief in 1950.
Returning veterans were not anxious to once again put on a uniform and "march". As a result, the band was indeed quite small in number. To augment the Band, Doric Alviani and Bob Bertram decided to organize a female "drill team" which, initially, consisted of 24 members, but increased to 44 in 1946 when Wally Kallaugher took over the drill team. The drill team was renamed the "Precisionettes" in 1952. The Precisionettes added to the flair of half-time shows. Each spring, over 200 applicants vied for approximately 25 spaces left by seniors.
In 1947, the Massachusetts State College had become the University of Massachusetts.
Mr. Alviani moved on to concentrate his work with other music ensembles.
In 1948 Mr. Ezra Schabas was hired to head the Band Program. His stay at Mass State was brief yet he made many achievements for the program. Since 1950, there has been a steady growth in the Bands program. Mr. Joseph Contino was hired as the director of the University Bands. The Precisionettes and the Redmen Marching Band grew in talent and prowess. A tradition that is true today is the popularity of halftime performances, no matter how well the team played. The Redmen Band had grown in stature and accomplishment, taking its place among many collegiate bands in the nation.
The 1960s were a great decade of change, especially at UMass. In 1963, Dr. John Jenkins replaced Mr. Contino as the band director. After having spent his undergraduate years at the University of Michigan, Jenkins brought along a wealth of knowledge to his field. His Michigan Band-mate, Mr. Jerry Bilik is one of the foremost arrangers in marching band history. Dr. Jenkins hired Bilik to write many arrangements for his Redmen Band. Using the 'Michigan Cadence,' Jenkins pushed the Redmen Band to the forefront of Collegiate Bands. Jenkins and the Band used their art form to present political and ideological messages in the late sixties.
Assisted by Larry Weed, Max Culpepper (1976-79), and Percussion Instructor Dr. Peter Tanner, Jenkins' band was known for its excellence and pioneering innovations.
Renamed the Minutemen in the early seventies, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst hired Director, Mr. George Parks, in 1977. In the years since, the Minuteman Band has performed in many venues. During the 1993 season, the band was immortalized in the documentary film, Building Power and Class and it performed before its largest national band audience at the Bands of America Grand National Championships.
Now a leading force in Collegiate Marching Bands, the Minuteman Band has benefitted from Directors George Parks, Thom Hannum, and musical arranger, Michael Klesch.
The band was awarded the 1998 Sudler Trophy, which signifies lasting contributions in the world of collegiate marching bands.
In 2010, the Band traveled back to their roots at the University of Michigan. Following a traditional performance at the hosting High School of the Band, Director George Parks passed away. The Band continued onto Michigan under the direction of Thom Hannum with the help of Michael Klesch. Hannum, named the Interim Director, together with Klesch, led the Band through their annual traditions and kept their heads high. Colin McNutt stepped up as the Drumline Instructor.
In the summer of 2011, Dr. Timothy Anderson was named the Director of the Minuteman Marching Band. Hannum became the Associate Director.
The start of the 2011 season marked the opening of the first ever Marching Band Building since Chapel was home to the Band. The George N. Parks Minuteman Marching Band Building and is big enough to host the 350 person Band and many more events.