Frost alumnus brings talent as the new band director

The University of Miami’s Frost Band of the Hour can be heard playing Daft Punk songs on the intramural field under the leadership of new band director Jay C. Rees.

Rees is an accomplished musician who has made a name for himself in the marching band world with his diverse musical selections. An alumnus of both Frost and its marching band, he returns to his alma mater to provide students with his expertise.

“The departure of our former director Tom Keck gave us the opportunity to search for the best person in the country to lead the Frost Band of the Hour,” said Shelton G. Berg, dean of the Frost School of Music. “Our search narrowed down to a few stellar individuals, but for me as well as the faculty search committee, it was Jay Rees, an alumnus of the Frost School and the band, that was the hands-down favorite.”

The Frost Band of the Hour is UM’s official marching band. Since 1933, the band has been a staple of UM tradition, performing at football games and events both home and away. As its new director, Rees intends to take conventional marching band and give it a new spin.

“The previous approach here with the most recent director was more traditional,” he said. “I’ve carved out a career in marching band, specifically doing things that are a little more unexpected. So that’s what we’re going to do.”

Before coming to UM, Rees directed at University of Arizona (U of A) for 21 years. Under his guidance, U of A was ranked in the Top 5 College Bands in 2009 by the College Band Directors National Association, while earning media attention from Fox Sports, the Today Show, and Sports Illustrated.

Berg looks forward to what Rees’ fresh directing style will bring.

 “Jay Rees is known as an innovator, a great and inspiring teacher, and a brilliant musical arranger for marching bands,” he said. “Under his direction, our future is bright.”

Rees aims to break the mold of the traditionally rigid marching band, not only through the musical selections, but also through the motions on the field.

“We’re called ‘marching band,’ not ‘standing band,’” Rees said. “I think that the visual component can be just as interesting as the music we’re playing. In fact, if it’s not as interesting as the music we’re playing, then we’ve kind of missed the point.”

Rees’ commitment has inspired band members like senior Wyatt Jenkins.

“Professor Rees asks for one thing: excellence,” said Jenkins, a drum major. “And the amazing thing is that he knows each and everyone of us has the potential to be amazing. He can bring the best out of the entire band.”

Freshman trombonist Emily Guilmette is also motivated by Rees’ spirit.

“It’s very evident that Rees not only knows what he’s doing, but that he’s also passionate about it,” she said. “Everybody respects him for it.”

Rees’ style is in part due to his musical upbringing. He grew up listening to everything from the rock ‘n’ roll of the Beatles to the classical works of Amadeus Mozart to jazz artist Miles Davis. According to Rees, no one genre is superior, and he uses this mentality to combine styles on the field.

In addition to his work as a band director, Rees is a professional jazz musician and composer. He performs and records with a professional ensemble called Sylvan Street, which boasts two CDs on the Summit jazz label and with music available on iTunes.

Compositions by Rees are played by marching bands throughout the country, including those of Wright State University, Kansas State University, and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Rees will arrange all the music Frost Band of the Hour plays.

“He has definitely pushed us all far beyond what we previously thought we could have accomplished together in a season,” said junior Colton Frietas, a drum major. “And we haven’t even performed at our first game yet.”