A Tribute to Outgoing Pride of Arizona Band Director, Jay Rees

July 28, 2014

Video produced by Kirk Sibley

Those who have befriended, worked and studied under Jay Rees over his nearly 20 years at the University of Arizona describe him as a tenacious leader who, through fierce commitment, has worked to elevate music education and the Pride of Arizona marching band's image and stature.

Rees – who served as a School of Music professor and the Pride of Arizona director – announced earlier this year that he would return to his alma mater, the University of Miami. Leading up to his departure, community members, colleagues and former and current students shared their memories of Rees and the lessons he has left behind.

To learn more about Rees' UA tenure, read: "Beloved Band Leader Jay Rees Leaving the UA."

"Jay Rees maintained the legacy of former UA band conductors and brought national attention to the Pride of Arizona by asserting an innovative, fresh approach to marching band. He sees the function of what marching bands create as not only entertainment, but also as performance art. He explored what, at the time, were unusual choices of material and challenged students with kinetic, vigorous movement that approaches an athletic form of dance. Students responded to the challenge and a new era began for the UA athletic bands. Soon bands throughout the state and across the nation were taking notice and incorporating elements of his work into their own presentations." -Rex Woods, the UA School of Music director

Photo credit: Rick Faust

"One of my favorite memories of Jay came this past September at the UA Alumni Association's annual Wildcat for Life Leadership Council meeting. For this particular event I asked Jay if a few members of the band could stop by after their three-hour afternoon practice and play a little something as our council, over 100 proud alums, walked to dinner. Jay didn't bring just a few instruments; he brought the entire 250-plus members of the Pride of Arizona including the Pom Line, flag and baton twirlers. Being able to walk in the middle of the band performing and feel the force brought grown men to tears. Our guests could not stop talking about how that was the highlight of any of their UA experiences and it just made them so proud to be Wildcats. I will always be grateful to Jay and the many moments he made people proud to be Wildcats." -Jill Hall, vice president of student and alumni outreach for the UA Alumni Association

Photo credit: Jacob Chinn

"One might wonder how a music professor could teach a cardiovascular nurse anything relevant in health care. But, throughout my time as a student, a staff member and a friend, I have not had a mentor quite like professor Jay C. Rees. He is the teacher who truly cares for each of his students, recognizes their accomplishments and deeply wants them to succeed." -Lindsay Johnson, a UA alumna

Photo credit: Patrick McArdle/UANews

"During our 30 years as friends and colleagues, I learned that Jay expects dedication, imagination, vision and commitment from everyone he touches, but he also expects this from himself. In 1994, we nicknamed him 'JQ' because he was always dressed cool and looked cool. Not so surprising then that our cool director of bands would create the coolest band brand in the country, and the coolest shows and drills, attaining national recognition for innovation." -Jane McCollum, general manager for the Marshall Foundation

"As a Pride of Arizona baritone and tuba player during my undergraduate years at the UA, I fell in love with the band, our work ethic, our music and our fans. This is due to the great leadership of Professor Rees. He instilled in us a sense of teamwork and a never ending desire to reach our highest potential." -UA alumna Karin K. Nolan, the UA College of Fine Arts coordinator of field experiences

"When I think of the most passionate and talented professor I have had at the University of Arizona, professor Rees is at the top of the list. As a direct result of these two essential characteristics, when I think of the most inspirational professor I have ever had at the University of Arizona, professor Rees is at the very top of the list. -Rebecca Durazo, UA alumna who will begin the UA master's program in accounting in the fall 

Photo credit: Patrick McArdle/UANews

"Professor Rees molded my college experience without realizing it. Going into college, I was a timid, shy and quiet student. I did what I needed to do, but I was a 'no name' freshman, as Rees put it. Rees broke down my shell and allowed me to become a leader, a trait he saw in me before I was even able to see it myself. Professor Rees is a powerful and motivating individual who can sense your true potential often before you can, especially in my case. I will never forget – during the last day of band day – the Muse show, my freshman year, during the final run-through. Rees was watching from the top of the stadium and freaking out. He was jumping and screaming and slapping the railing, his ponytail becoming undone from pure excitement. He is so passionate about everything that he does that sometimes he cannot physically handle how amazing his masterpiece is when it comes to life. His dedication and passion is inspiring, and I cannot be more grateful to be surrounded by a true leader." -Kelsi Sullivan, UA alumna

Photo credit: Norma Jean Gargasz/UANews

"I can honestly say that through working with Professor Rees as drum major while at the University of Arizona, my life changed. He changed me from a simple clarinet player with big dreams into an actual music educator. Professor Rees is the sole reason why I am pursuing a career in music education; he taught me to think, analyze, listen, and most of all, he taught me to perform." -B. Drew Eary, UA senior studying music education, history and the clarinet

Photo credit: Patrick McArdle/UANews

"It has been an honor working with Jay and the Pride of Arizona. Seeing what Jay is able to accomplish with these musicians is inspirational. Two of our children marched under Jay, and the friendships and life lessons they came away with help to mold who they've become today. Our son graduated in 2005, yet we still come back every year to be a part of this amazing organization. ​We wish Jay well on his new adventure. His passion and vision will be missed." -Rick and Terri Faust, parents of former Pride of Arizona members

Photo credit: Jacob Chinn

Categories: