Title/Position: Director of Athletic Bands,
Professor of Music
Why did you choose music as your career?
My early musical experiences were very traditional; piano lessons as a boy, playing trumpet in school bands, and guitar and bass in garage rock bands with friends. Through it all I came to realize that there is nothing more immediate and transparent than the act of music-making. Music is a completely unique experience. Whether in a rehearsal or performance, it’s important to be engaged in the moment that is artistic creation as often as possible, and at the highest possible level. For me, this happens through performing, composing, teaching, and conducting. I want to make music every day with inspiring, accomplished musicians as well as fledgling younger musicians. Every music-making experience has the potential to be magical.
Who are your greatest musical influences, and why?
Many people refer to the three “B’s” of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. But for me, I will always turn to the three “M’s” of Mozart, Miles (Davis), and McCartney (Paul). At various points throughout my life and career, the music of Mozart, Miles Davis, and The Beatles have been incredibly powerful and transformative. Although these musicians are extremely different from one another, I think the common thread that speaks to me most is the incredible sense of melody and complete lack of pretension that each brings to their work.
What can students expect from you? What do you hope to pass on to your students?
Honesty. My students can count on the fact that I will be completely honest with them at all times and in all situations. I will tell them when things are going well AND when they are not. The teacher who creates a false sense of success by telling students what they think the student needs to hear is ultimately doing a disservice to the students and their music education. I hope to pass on to my students a commitment to honesty, not only in the sense of being truthful, but also the idea of artistic and musical honesty. Music cannot be contrived or forced, music is an intrinsic expression of the student’s artistic sensibility in that moment.
What would students be surprised to learn about you?
In high school and my first few years at UM, I was nationally ranked in the sport of fencing, with my sights set on the 1984 Olympic team. Ultimately, my passion for music was much greater and became my focus, but I still value and utilize many of the lessons I learned during my intensive sports training.
What are a few of your career highlights that stand out over the years?
Performing and recording with my jazz-fusion group Sylvan Street; choreographing 10,000 citizens into a live human flag in honor of the events of 9/11/2001 (photographed and featured on CNN and in a special issue of Sports Illustrated); my marching band being named one of the top college bands in the country by the College Band Directors National Association; composing and conducting my first original work for Wind Ensemble; performing with Jimmy Cobb, drummer on the Miles Davis “Kind of Blue” LP; and performing on a professional level with my son, an accomplished jazz pianist.
Jay C. Rees is professor of music and director of athletic bands at the University of Miami Frost School of Music [effective July 1, 2014]. His responsibilities include leading the Frost Band of the Hour, the marching and pep bands of the University of Miami, at UM sporting events such as nationally televised Miami Hurricanes football and basketball games, and expanding the band’s reach and reputation throughout the region. Rees was previously professor of music and director of athletic bands at The University of Arizona in Tucson, where his bands released CD recordings, appeared on NBC-TV’s Today Show and Fox Sports, and were named top in the country by the prestigious CBDNA. Rees’ contemporary arrangements and inventive drill design have gained national presence and he is referenced extensively in the book “Marching Bands and Drumlines: Secrets of Success from the Best of the Best.”
An alumnus of the University of Miami Frost School of Music (B.M. ’84, jazz performance and music education), Jay Rees is an accomplished bassist with international touring credits and still actively performs. He has a large catalog of published original music for jazz, wind ensemble, concert bands, and athletic bands, commissioned and performed by major universities and high schools nationwide. He also travels as a clinician, guest speaker, adjudicator, and conductor for band programs across the country.
In 2001, Rees choreographed a live “human flag” for the Tucson community in response to the events of 9/11. His iconic design incorporated 10,000 citizens and became a national symbol. The image appeared on CNN and was published in a special issue of Sports Illustrated.
Rees is listed in Who’s Who In America for the 21st Century as well as Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. He is a member of ASCAP, The Recording Academy, and CBDNA.