What Your Child Won’t Tell You About College Band

Mckenzie band

The College of the Holy Cross is an undergraduate Roman Catholic liberal arts college located in Worcester, Massachusetts. First formed in 1845, the College of the Holy Cross “Goodtime” Marching Band is the oldest continually running student organization on campus. Performing at football games since 1910, the band’s role has expanded significantly and grown to include a cross-section of students who have immense school spirit and strong camaraderie, always looking to share their Purple Pride with others. In addition to Holy Cross students, the Band also accepts members from schools in the Worcester Consortium. The Band currently consists of members from all classes, musical backgrounds, and academic disciplines.

During the fall, the "Goodtime" Marching Band practices three times a week for 90-minutes each session and performs at all home football games as well as select away games. Performances responsibilities at each sporting event include a pre-game show of traditional Holy Cross music, playing pop songs in the stands, a halftime field show, a “5th Quarter” post-game show, as well as a variety of traditional “crazy antics.”

This letter from Director Nicholas McKenzie was posted on the band's Facebook page on Monday, September 10, 2012.

—Kathleen

Dearest “Goodtime” Band Parents,

Three-weeks ago you sent your child back to Mount St. James. Over the course of these few weeks, your child has made 40 new friends they see every day, has rehearsed alongside a world-famous recording artist, has performed multiple times for crowds ranging from 700 to 17,000 individuals, and is now getting ready to parade every trustee, administrator, and VIP on campus to the Inaugural Ceremony of Holy Cross’ 32nd President, Reverend Philip Boroughs. Most importantly, however, is the way your child has taken in the excitement ever-present around our program and refocused it to be reflected in every aspect of their life. Below is an email I received last week from a Professor on campus. This is not the first time I have had a faculty member reach out to me with this sort of message, and I am certain it will not be the last:

“Nicholas,

As you are aware, today marked the beginning of the first full week of classes on the Hill. Having now met with my [Intro class] three times, I have begun the process of identifying which students will need extra attention and which will excel under their own momentum. There are three students however who I was able to identify as high-achievers since the first time they entered the room. [They] arrived to the first class early, sat in the front row, had notebooks and (matching) pens ready and listened attentively, going as far as to volunteer for a scenario we created. Initially I attributed this to common first-day enthusiasm, but imagine my surprise when they continued this behavior at our next two sessions. I asked the trio to remain after class so that I may speak with them, assured that the three must come from the same preparatory school and have been trained this way. Imagine my surprise when [they] attributed these qualities to what they had been learning in the [marching] band!

I am normally very skeptical of student involvement in such time consuming activities. Many groups, including [other musical ensembles], are guilty of pushing their members to the point of slipping grades and class absences. After speaking with [these three students], I would like to thank you for putting in place a system that encourages well-rounded excellence, both academically and in your band.

(PS. You will also be glad to know that [your students] promptly proceeded to invite me to their performance on the 15th!)"

This note brought a smile to my face not simply because it demonstrates how these three first-year students have done what we’ve hoped and stayed true to their academic commitments, but more-so because it reminds me of my own college experiences. Joining a nationally renowned band program, time commitments were precisely that: commitments. We rehearsed 4:40-6:15 pm Monday through Friday, traveled overnight Friday, and performed at various events all weekend, every weekend. Conflicts didn’t exist; You were either in band, or you were not in band. This high-demand on our time taught us how to study properly, how to prioritize time, and how to live a balanced life.  This being the case, during my time in college, the average GPA of Band Members was 0.13 higher than that of non-members, and there were zero incidents of Band Members being arrested, suspended, or academically disciplined. This is a comparison that holds just as true at Holy Cross as it did at my alma mater: At Holy Cross in 2011, the average GPA of Freshman Band Members was 0.18 higher than that of Freshman non-members, there were zero incidents of discipline involving Band Members, and the College’s retention rate for students involved in the Band Program was 100%, in comparison to the 95% campus-wide retention rate.

To quote a band parent who had a large influence on my life, “It’s a little bit about music. It’s a lot about life.” We aim to provide your student with the greatest possible experience while they are at Holy Cross, and these experiences won’t always be musical. Band will be difficult at times. Band will test your child’s ability to prioritize responsibilities. Band will have a lasting, positive influence on your child, and will put into practice skills which would otherwise lie theoretical until years later.

mckenzie parents

Building off of the enthusiasm our Band Parents brought to the “Goodtime” program last year, we are taking steps to make sure our Band Parents are a more “included” part of what we do. Occasional newsletters highlighting recent achievements and interviews with your children, announcement of upcoming performances throughout the Northeast and where you can see the Band, providing “Band Parent” apparel, giving you a chance to connect with other Band Parents, etc… all of this intended to make sure that YOU have the opportunity to be as involved as you wish in an activity that means so much to your son or daughter.

Thank you again for trusting us with your children. Without your faith and support, the “Goodtime” Band would simply not exist.

With Pride,

Nicholas J. McKenzie, Director
College of the Holy Cross “Goodtime” Marching Band

mckenzie profile_picNicholas J. McKenzie graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2008. While at UMass, he had the privilege of studying under three of the foremost names in the field of marching arts: Michael Klesch (brass arranger: Cadets, Crossmen, Carolina Crown, CT Hurricanes), Thomas P. Hannum (percussion arranger: Cadets, Star of Indiana, Blast & Blast 2: Shockwave), and George N. Parks (founder of Drum Major Academy, World Drum Corps Hall of Fame member).

Mr. McKenzie was an active participant in the Minuteman Marching Band (1998 Sudler Trophy recipient), and served as a member of the Minuteman Band's Administrative Staff.

Mr. McKenzie is an alumnus of the World-Champion Reading Buccaneers Drum & Bugle Corps, as well as the East Coast Jazz Drum & Bugle Corps.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *