Christopher Parks, Ed.D, was named the new athletic bands director for the tenth anniversary season of Stony Brook University’s marching band.
“I am super excited to be here,” Parks said. “I’m incredibly humbled because all of the work that happened in the last ten years has really set me up for success.”
He added that he feels an obligation to make sure that the community feeling and pride for the Stony Brook marching band never goes away. Having a student-centered band experience and high quality performances are the two most important aspects for Parks in his new role.
“We’re not building better bands with our people, we’re building better people with our band,” Parks said, adding that the band can be used as a vehicle for character and leadership development because of its home in Student Affairs.
Parks was officially hired less than two weeks before the start of band camp on Aug. 17, giving him only a few days to write and prepare shows that band directors usually work on for months in advance. Band camp is the week before school starts when the marching band comes to campus to rehearse for its upcoming season.
Parks added that the student leaders really stepped up and helped his late transition into Stony Brook be as seamless as possible.
The band recently had their first performance of the year at the football team’s first home game against North Dakota. It was only able to perform the first two out of the ten sets it had prepared for the show due to time constraints.
“Given that we learned the whole show during this one week that was band camp and the first football game was the first week of school, I think we did pretty well,” Luis Tobon, administrative coordinator for the band and senior English education major, said.
Parks, who was not looking for band director jobs when he decided to apply for the position at Stony Brook, said he could not let this opportunity slip away.
“The reason why I applied for this job is because it is housed in the Office of Student Affairs and the mission statement for the Athletic Band is the exact same as it is for Student Affairs,” Parks said.
Parks replaced Shayna Stahl, the band’s director from 2013 to 2016, after she left to pursue a doctorate degree in conducting at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Before heading to Stony Brook, Parks began his career as a musician and toured with Broadway shows as a trumpet player for five years. He performed in several classic Broadway shows including “Sweet Charity,” “The King and I” and “The Sound of Music.”
After touring, Parks became the director of athletic bands and Music Organization at Boston University where he worked from 2000 to 2010.
He had a successful career at Boston University and was awarded with the Athletic Department’s Joseph P. Mercurio Campus Community Recognition Award in 2009, which according to Boston’s athletic website, is presented to “an individual whose support over the past year has proven invaluable and limitless.”
During his time at Boston University, Parks was contacted by Stony Brook and was asked for advice on how to start their own Athletic Band program.
“I took everything that was at B.U. that was perfect, that I really enjoyed and then everything that I thought would make that even better,” he said regarding the advice he gave to Stony Brook, adding that the most important aspect was having a band housed in the Office of Student Affairs, which is committed to student success.
Parks is looking to bring a few changes to the band, but is mostly concerned with keeping up the standard of the band created by the past two directors.
One of the biggest changes he wants to bring to the band, according to Tobon, is the use of technology during practices.
“In years past we used to forbid technology in rehearsals but he’s actually embracing it,” said Tobon.
According to Tobon, Parks has allowed people to use their phones during rehearsal for drill and has provided them with a list of apps that can help improve practices, including a tuner app and an app that shows you what spot you are supposed to march to during rehearsals.
“You can follow how you fall into the whole choreography of the marching band,” Tobon said.
He also wants to focus heavily on fundraising for new equipment because according to Parks, the band has outgrown its equipment.
“Insurance companies will put a life expectancy on how long a trumpet should last, how long a tuba should last, and all of our equipment is outdated,” Parks said.
He would also like the band to move around and play more during the games.
“I think the band is the best kept secret in the Northeast because the band has not had the opportunity to go out and perform in public spaces other than football games,” Parks said. “My big goal for this year is to let the secret out, I want people to see the band and hear the band.”