“Come with me/And you’ll be/In a a world of/Pure imagination,” sung Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. “If you want to hear paradise/Simply look around and hear it.” It was paradise on October 12, 2013 at Gillette Stadium for the over 3,500 band students from 73 high schools in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. They all had come to Gillette for UMass Band Day, an annual event where band students come and play the UMass halftime show with the UMass Marching Band.
The excitement never let up during the 29th annual Band Day. This was the first year that the MHS Marching Band went to Band Day, and it was one of the trips that new Band Director Scott Winship was pioneering for the year, and one that he hopes becomes tradition. The day started with the bus leaving at 7:30 and arriving at Gillette around 8:30. After unloading the bus and getting instruments, the band members were brought into the stadium where they lined up according to sections (clarinets were with the clarinets, bass drums with the bass drums, etc). The UMass Band then came while students were still arriving at the stadium. While waiting for everyone to finish lining up, the UMass drumline performed and then the real fun began.
The point of UMass Band Day is that marching bands get to perform with other marching bands and students from seven other states who are as passionate about music as they are. So when over 3,500 students (and the UMass marching band) lined up on the field at Gillette Stadium to play a Willy Wonka medley, it was pretty incredible. The field was completely filled with band members, instruments, a color guard, and baton twirlers. Every single one of them was performing together, in one massive group. After practicing the medley a few times together, each section split off to iron out the details and work on drills. The trumpets all worked together on learning the Oompa Loompa dance while the drumline waved their sticks like the iconic lighters at a concert during the ballad. The sections all came back together to rehearse as a group once more and practice marching on to the field together. The latter part was the trickiest as over 3,500 students with instruments had to run onto the field, get into their sections and begin playing in around a minute. But all of the details were sorted out and by lunchtime the haltime show was ready to be performed for an audience of around 20,000 plus football fans!
The bands watched the first quarter of the game (during which a football came over the net behind the field goal post and hit someone in the band section) and then got in position during the second quarter. Once halftime began, all of the marching band students filed onto the sidelines of the field. They were each in assigned groups (A, B, C, and D) from the morning rehearsal and remained in those groups as they marched on. The UMass band played two songs and then welcomed the 73 high schools onto the field. What followed was unforgettable performance.