The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

84° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Bear Down, Jack”

    A projection of Jack Lee, former band leader and composer of the Bear Down, Arizona fight song, hangs above the UA Wind Ensemble yesterday afternoon at a memorial concert honoring the legendary director. Lee led the university bands for more than 30 years, developing innovative marching techniques and directing the band during its performance in the first Super Bowl.
    A projection of Jack Lee, former band leader and composer of the ‘Bear Down, Arizona’ fight song, hangs above the UA Wind Ensemble yesterday afternoon at a memorial concert honoring the legendary director. Lee led the university bands for more than 30 years, developing innovative marching techniques and directing the band during its performance in the first Super Bowl.

    The UA Department of Bands paid tribute to Jack K. Lee, former UA Director of Bands and composer of “”Bear Down, Arizona,”” yesterday afternoon in a free concert in Centennial Hall.

    The event was a bittersweet occasion, with more than one patron moved to tears, as the concert hall was flooded with the happy memories of a long life that touched so many young musicians.

    The program consisted of four selections composed by Lee, including “”Bear Down, Arizona,”” as well as symphonic and marching band works that were favorites of Lee’s, as performed by the UA Wind ensemble under the direction of current UA director of bands Gregg Hanson.

    The concert also included dozens of photographs of Lee and his work on the football field projected over the stage as the performers honored his memory.

    “”I think the community should be aware of the things (Lee) has done and the works he’s written,”” said Shirlee Bertolini, a former student of Lee’s who later went on to found and coach the UA baton twirling squad. “”People should be aware of how grateful we are that he lived here and was band director for so many years.””

    The selections composed by Lee (other than “”Bear Down””) were performed yesterday for the first time in many years because the composer’s archives were misplaced after his retirement.

    “”Before my dad moved up to Phoenix, all his music was in cabinets,”” said John E. Lee, Jack’s son. “”One friend and former student offered to store them, and it just got lost over time and eventually found.””

    The discovery of the 12 cabinets filled with more than 80 pieces of published music, thousands of pages of unpublished pieces and hand-written scores prompted the Lee family, along with Hanson and the UA Department of Bands to organize the event shortly after the composer’s death in December.

    “”We read through a lot of his compositions before deciding on the four pieces we will do for the concert,”” Hanson said. “”It was a long and difficult process, since a lot of the music was scattered hither and thither.””

    Since their discovery, Lee’s archives are being organized and catalogued, and will eventually be preserved in the UA Music Library.

    The concert opened with a touching solo rendition of Lee’s hallmark composition performed by saxophonist Bruce Ammann, a former student of Lee. Ammann performed in a pitch-black hall while some in the audience hummed along with the familiar melody.

    Suddenly, the house lights were raised and the UA Pep Band poured into the aisles from the rear, filling the hall with the full-band version of the song that has embodied school spirit at the UA for more than 50 years as the crowd roared and clapped along with enthusiasm.

    The concert also featured the UA Alumni Band, which performed the school’s alma mater, “”All Hail Arizona,”” from the rear balcony of the hall.

    The alumni band featured graduates from many years, including some, like Barbara Chinworth, who played under Lee’s direction.

    “”As students we heard a lot of his music, and we played through some of his compositions for the first time,”” said Chinworth, a French horn player and 1961 music education graduate. “”When he told us we were playing something he wrote, it was usually accompanied by typical teenage groans, but we were always impressed that they were quite well-scored.””

    Other Lee compositions that were performed included “”A Civil War Rhapsody,”” an adventurous arrangement of a variety of Civil War-era marches and hymns, and “”The American Dream,”” a traditional military march that illustrated why Lee had earned the title of “”A modern-day John Philip Sousa.””

    The afternoon also featured a moving remembrance of Lee from Hanson and from students and friends, who reminded the audience of Lee’s countless honors, awards and accomplishments that made the UA Marching Band under Lee’s direction “”the best in the West.””

    “”(Lee) is a true legacy at the UA, and few faculty members can claim that,”” Hanson said. “”He was a motivator and innovator; a teacher and a friend.””

    More to Discover
    Activate Search