Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mohawk Alum Marching in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Francesca Maroney teaches the "Jump!" tradition to a group of visiting middle and high school students. Photo credit Alyson Villard Photography.

Mohawk alumna Francesca Maroney (class of 2012) is a sophomore at UMass Amherst and a member of the UMass Marching Band (UMMB). Next week she will travel to New York City with her alto saxophone and perform with the band in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

In her years at Mohawk Francesca was a member of the Band, and she was Stage Manager and did other behind-the-scenes work for the All-School Musicals. She was awarded a Mohawk Music Association scholarship at Senior Awards Night.

She recently took some time from her busy academic and band schedule to answer some questions about her experiences with the UMass Marching Band.

Q.  First, what's going on in the photo at the top of this article?

A.  The sculpture is called Quinnipiac, but it is colloquially referred to as the "pants". In that picture, I'm greeting middle and high school students who have come to see the Multibands Pops Concert matinee, and so, leading them through a goofy tradition -- if you walk through the pants, you have to jump and shout, "Pants!" It's a great way to get the kids involved and excited for the concert.

Q.  You were a talented musician in the Mohawk Music Department. Were you prepared for the transition from a small high school band to a large university band with a national reputation of excellence?

A.  I was in no way prepared for the UMMB. I distinctly remember band camp last year. First off, there's much more to being in a marching band than playing an instrument. I don't believe we played a single note the first day of band camp. Instead we learned how to stand, how to hold our instruments, and how to walk. And when we were in our sections, well, the alto saxophones had more rookies than Mohawk had members in the band! And there were people who had been in marching bands in high school, and excellent marching bands, ones that competed. The first day of band camp, learning how to stand at attention, learning a chant that I can now repeat in my sleep (How are your feet? Together! Stomach? In! Chest? Out! Shoulders? Back! Elbows? Frozen! Chin? Up! Eyes? With pride!), I felt like I was just getting swept along for the ride. And then there was the rest of band camp. We were out on the fields at 8 in the morning, and worked, with breaks for lunch and dinner of course, straight through until after 11 at night for a week. I was legitimately terrified that band would be too much effort throughout the school year. It takes a lot of work to make an ensemble that doesn't turn away anybody into the best band anywhere. But after band camp, daily rehearsals were a breeze.

 Q. How much time do you devote to the UMMB in an average week? How do you balance band and academic demands?

A. We rehearse every school day from 4:40 ("band o'clock") to 6:10, but sectionals start 10 minutes early. I'd say that I, as your average, run-of-the-mill bando, put in about 2 hours a day... not including game days, which have us up before the sun. It does take effort to balance band and school work; I have to take advantage of the time I have and balance my priorities. Last year it took little effort to manage classes and band. This year presents more of a struggle, as I'm working as a peer mentor in a first-year residence hall on top of everything.

Q. What is your major at UMass? (and may I mention that you made Dean's List Honors last semester - congrats) 

A.  I am a Computer Systems Engineering major at UMass, and part of the Commonwealth Honors College.

Q.  How does it feel to know that on Thanksgiving Day you'll be performing in front of a live audience of an estimated 2 - 3 million viewers and 45 -50 million (wow!!) TV viewers?

A.  At this point in the semester, we are almost done with football season; our last game is on Saturday. So we're devoting more and more time to working on drill and music for Macy's, and are reminded on almost a daily basis how visible we are. It seems almost unreal, I guess. We're going on TV in front of millions of people who have never heard of the UMMB, and have a minute and 15 seconds of fame to show them who we are. But it's going to be like any other performance. I, personally, am simply going to do the best that I can, like I do every time I put on the uniform.

Q.  What will you say if you get a "Hi Mom!" moment with an NBC-TV camera?

A.  The odds of a "Hi Mom!" moment with an NBC TV camera are slim to none for me, unfortunately, so I haven't thought of what I would say. One of the great things about the UMMB is that we have so much student leadership; our drum majors are students, as are our field staff and section leaders, and we have student volunteers for administrative staff, from our band managers to travel, equipment, personnel, website, library, uniform, public relations... the list goes on and on. There's even a fraternity and sorority connected with the band-- Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma. The people involved in these things have devoted so much to the band, I'd hope they get some recognition!

To quote George N. Parks, "Being in the band is the greatest thing you could ever do and don't let anyone tell you differently." I'm so glad that I decided to stay with band at a collegiate level, and I would encourage any Mohawk Music alumni at UMass to join the marching band... or at least check us out at a football game! Comparing it to Mohawk music would be impossible, it's an entirely different animal, but being a part of it has helped me grow as a musician and as a person.

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will be broadcast on NBC-TV on Thanksgiving morning from 9 am to noon. According to a UMass press release, the UMass Marching Band is "scheduled to perform on NBC-TV in front of Macy’s flagship store at Broadway and 34th Street at 11:24 a.m. where it will play the fan favorite, “Big Noise from Winnetka.” Other songs the band will play along the route include “Fight UMass,” “God Bless America,” “Roll Down the Field” and “Sweet Caroline.”"

Watch the 2011 UMMB perform “Big Noise from Winnetka” on YouTube. Francesca says "the part of "Big Noise" we're playing is the end; the bit that starts at 4:10 in the video, since we only have 1:15 on the Macy's star".

The band will be performing a one hour practice march on Monday, November 25 on the UMass campus. Route and time details here.

Read more about the UMass Marching Band's Macy's parade:

Added 11/29/13  The March to Macy’s: The Story of the UMass Minuteman Marching Band series:

The UMass Marching Band performs in Boston in October, 2013. Photo credit Alyson Villard Photography.

Added 11/29/13  TV screenshots of the UMMB performance: