The Beat Goes on for Parks Music Education Award Winner
Member Spotlight: Thom Hannum
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 Teaching Music.
On November 12, 2016, Thom Hannum, associate director of the Minutemen Marching Band at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, received the 2016 George N. Parks Leadership in Music Education Award. This award holds a great deal of meaning for Hannum, in part because it is named for his colleague and friend of more than 30 years.
A NAfME member, Hannum is a prolific and respected percussion arranger, and has worked with percussion ensembles worldwide. He is also the director of the school’s Marimba Ensemble program, a clinician, and an active member of the Percussive Arts Society.
Developed by NAfME and Music for All, the George N. Parks Award is named for the late director of the Minutemen Marching Band. Considered a national authority on drum majoring, Parks led the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy, including at the Music for All Summer Symposium.
Thom Hannum is a “teacher of teachers who provides opportunities for future music educators to gain teaching experiences in a world-class music program.”
The George N. Parks Award honors an exemplary band director who embodies the characteristics and leadership that Parks showed his students every day.
The recipient must demonstrate the following:
- Collaborative spirit,
- Dedication to knowing students as individuals,
- Perseverance and enthusiasm,
- Ability to instill qualities in students beyond achievement in music.
The nominators note that Hannum exemplifies all of these traits. Bobby Glynn, a Foxborough, Massachusetts, music educator and student of Hannum, calls him a “teacher of teachers who provides opportunities for future music educators to gain teaching experiences in a world-class music program.”
In his nomination of Hannum, Glynn also said that on the day that Parks died suddenly, there was considerable turmoil. After a frantic rush to the hospital and informing students, Hannum led “a heartbroken 400-Minutemen Band to one of their largest and most spirited performances in their history.”
Glynn adds, “Thom Hannum . . . far exceeded his duties as associate director of the Minutemen Band” and “has carried on Parks’s vision to see situations in the larger context of life and the belief that everything must be done both intently and intensely, regardless of the situation at hand. These are the qualities Thom consistently embodied . . . and passed along to me, one of his many students.”
He was a member of the design team for the Tony Award–winning Broadway show Blast! In the summer of 2001, he was inducted into the Drum Corps International (DCI) Hall of Fame, and in 2008 he was inducted into the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame.
Hannum estimates that he has written hundreds of arrangements, and says that without formal music training, he learned to read music by writing it. “I didn’t attend any schools that had good music programs, so I didn’t play in a high school band,” he says with a laugh.
Hannum’s ties to drum corps and its music go back to when he was about five years old and his father led a local drum corps. He says he was the “mascot” for the marching ensemble. Since then, he has worked with a number of drum corps ensembles, including the Carolina Crown, the DCI World Champion Cadets of Bergen County, and Star of Indiana.
The Minutemen Band is beloved both on the field and off. The band played at America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and the current repertoire includes songs from Earth, Wind & Fire and Motown as well as traditional marching band music. The ensemble has been invited to march in the 2018 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.
Hannum was presented with the George N. Parks Award during the Opening Ceremony at the Bands of America Grand National Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana. The best part about receiving the award, he says, was that his two sons Greg and Will flew out from Massachusetts to be with him.