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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Pride of Arizona steps up

    Professor Jay C. Rees, director of the Pride of Arizona marching band, discusses the future of the band in his office Saturday afternoon.
    Professor Jay C. Rees, director of the Pride of Arizona marching band, discusses the future of the band in his office Saturday afternoon.

    The UA’s Pride of Arizona marching band was recently named one of the top five marching bands in the country. But beyond what people see during football games or at Friday night pep rallies, the band has come a long way since it was founded as an ROTC band with 12 members in 1902.

    Earlier this semester, the College Band Directors National Association designated the Pride of Arizona as one of the top five bands in the country.

    Bands are selected after they send in videos of their performances, which are then juried by the top people in the field, said Jay Rees, director of the Pride of Arizona.

    The award, which is given out every two years, was validation for all the work the marching band members do, Rees said.

    “”More than anything it’s the students on the field, they’re the ones who have to do it,”” he said. “”They have to believe in it. They have to trust me, they have to trust that this is a good process, that this is going to work and it’s going to be worth the time and the effort.””

    In the 1950s, Jack Lee became director, making history at UA by writing the song “”Bear Down”” and instituting such band traditions as the creation of a floating block A on the field during pre-game shows, Rees said.

    “”He was a huge influence on this band program,”” Rees said.

    Rees, who is also the associate director for all UA bands, became director of the Pride of Arizona in 1995. He said he has tried to develop the Pride of Arizona as a unique marching band.

    “”Our goal has been to really have an identity within the world of marching band,”” he said. “”I’m very proud to say that we have achieved that identity within the field. We are recognized as one of the top bands, and we are recognized as being one of the most innovative bands.””

    These days, the Pride of Arizona has between 250 and 270 members, including instrumentalists, the color guard, pom line and the baton twirling team.

    “”We consider the whole thing the Pride of Arizona,”” Rees said. “”We don’t delineate that you’re a different group or something. We are the Pride of Arizona.””

    The life of a marching band member is year-round, Rees said. Two weeks before school begins, all members attend band camp for 14 hours a day. During the fall semester, they practice up to four times a week.

    “”It’s pretty intense,”” Rees said. “”If it’s a game week, the students will put in close to 20 hours. It’s like a part-time job.””

    Spanish freshman Bobbie Morris, who played the trombone in the marching band this year, said the time commitment is considerable.

    “”It gets really, really hectic,”” she said. “”You don’t realize how much time it is until you have a free weekend where you don’t have anything.””

    There is also an optional leadership class held in the spring that teaches students to be more effective leaders and increase their marching skills.

    Auditions for next season’s section leaders were held Feb. 28 to March 1, and the new student staff was announced yesterday.

    “”We need people to be strong leaders, whether they have the title of section leader or not,”” he said.

    During the summer, mini camps are held for the drumline, and a weekly “”reading band”” is offered for students to get ahead on the music for the season.

    For the past several years, the band’s practices have bounced around campus and the surrounding city because of construction at the McKale sports complex, Rees said.

    The construction, including an indoor practice facility for basketball and volleyball, a gymnastics training facility and an aquatics facility, is essentially completed, said Steve Kozachik, associate director of athletics, facilities and capital projects.

    “”The only thing left to be done is to put the sod on the grass. It’s just dirt right now,”” Kozachik said.

    Rees said this is good news for the Pride of Arizona, which plans to practice outside McKale again in the fall.

    The band previously used Bear Down Field, which they share with the intramural sports programs from the Student Recreation Center.

    “”While this construction was going on there just wasn’t enough field space on campus,”” Rees said. “”Campus Rec was great about working with us and finding compromises so we could continue to do the things we need to be doing.””

    Rees said he estimates only about 15 percent of students in the band are music majors. The rest, are following completely different courses of study.

    “”They’ve got to be focused on their engineering classes and their architecture classes, whatever it is,”” Rees said. “”The kids who are successful in the band are really high level students who can manage all of that, and succeed with all of that, and do well academically.””

    As the Pride of Arizona prepares to deal with budget cuts along with the rest of the UA campus community, Rees said he was unsure how the band would be affected.

    “”We don’t know all of the ramifications, but we’ll be working closely with Athletics and the College of Fine Arts to find ways to continue to provide the resources that we need,”” he said.

    When everything is done, halftime performances have been finished, and the marching drills have been learned, the success of the Pride of Arizona comes down to its students.

    “”We attract the really high-level, overachieving, academically-successful, musically-talented kind of student,”” Rees said. “”There’s no secret magic pills to make you excellent. You’ve got to put in the time and the effort and work hard.””

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