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Editorial: UMass show its prowess with band, battery, dirt

  • University of Massachusetts Marching Band members Sean Gentry, front left, and Alex Young, front right, rehearse during December on a practice field near the Mullins Center. The band will perform in the Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 1. BULLETIN FILE PHOTO


Thursday, December 28, 2017

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is showing off its national prowess with its marching band, a $1.14 million grant for a storage battery, and dirt.

Millions will see the UMass Marching Band — the “Power and Class of New England” — in the Tournament of Roses Parade that begins at 11 a.m. (EST) Monday in Pasadena, California. It will be the second major holiday parade appearance for the UMass band in the last five years, after it performed in the 2013 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

“When you think of what are the big parades in the U.S., if not the world, it’s the Macy’s Parade in New York City and Rose Parade in Pasadena,” says Tim Anderson, who has directed the band for seven years. “When you think about it, 44 million people watch the (Rose Bowl) program on television each year, so that’s one of the biggest audiences for anything UMass will ever have had.”

The band has been practicing in Amherst this month before flying to California this week. The UMass Band, which was selected in in 2016, is the only college or university band in the parade, other than those from the universities of Georgia and Oklahoma that will play in the Rose Bowl football game.

UMass Band members will show off new uniforms — half in maroon and half in white — in Pasadena. “The uniforms will be a bold new look for us,” Anderson says. “The half in white and half in maroon is emphasizing what the marching band is all about, power and class.”

Anderson succeeded George N. Parks, who directed the band from 1977 to 2010, when he died of a heart attack at age 57. Anderson says that Parks would be proud to know that the band he led for so long will play in the Rose Parade.

“This is the next step for the band he created. It’s a great opportunity to show the world what UMass is all about.”

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A $1.14 million grant awarded to UMass earlier this month will help improve the energy storage market in Massachusetts and provide educational opportunities for the university’s students.

UMass is partnering with Tesla Energy, which will design and construct a one-megawatt lithium ion battery storage system as part of a 15-year project. The company also will provide paid internships, career mentorship and curriculum development in the fields of solar power and energy storage valued at $80,000.

“The project will help us optimize our on-campus renewable energy generation, increase resiliency and further diversify our utility portfolio,” says Raymond Jackson, the physical plant director at UMass.

Gov. Charlie Baker adds, “The development and deployment of energy storage projects will be vital to the commonwealth’s ability to continue leading the nation in energy efficiency. Funding these storage projects is an investment in our energy portfolio that will reduce costs for ratepayers and help create a clean and resilient energy future.”

We congratulate the university for being part of that cutting-edge research that will benefit consumers and its students.

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When backyard gardeners, farmers or businesses have questions about their dirt, they turn to the Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Laboratory at UMass. Thousands of bags of dirt are sent from all over the country every year for testing by a team led by Tracy Allen that includes two scientists, a lab technician and student interns.

“Pretty much anybody who has concerns about their soil sends us little bags of dirt,” says Allen. “We’ve got customers from all over the place, different occupations and reasons for testing.”

Some of the clients are nearby. Holyoke Community College relies on the UMass lab to help keep its grass green. Twenty years ago, test results from UMass showed the soil at HCC was low in potassium and calcium. After adjustments were made, the grass at that campus remains green.

The UMass lab charges $15 and in about two weeks after receiving a bag of dirt sends back a two-page report about the soil’s nutrient and mineral content and its acidity level.

“It’s not just dirt,” Allen says. “People don’t realize what’s beneath their feet. It’s something that seems so simple, but it is so complicated and I just find the interaction between all these elements fascinating.”

Her love of dirt has helped grow lots of healthy produce and made the grass greener on many lawns.