Band of the Hour ready for 2015 season

The Band of the Hour rehearses at the IM Fields for Saturday's upcoming game against Bethune-Cookman. Sophie Barros // Contributing Photographer
The Band of the Hour rehearses at the IM Fields for Saturday’s upcoming game against Bethune-Cookman. Sophie Barros // Contributing Photographer

Comprised of more than 100 student members, the Band of the Hour is one of UM’s oldest student organizations, dating back to 1933. The band is comprised of woodwinds, brass, percussion, the Color Guard and the Hurricanette dance line, making it both a musical and visual experience.

When the Hurricanes kick off their football season against Bethune-Cookman in their new Adidas uniforms this Saturday, the Band of the Hour will also debut new uniforms as they strive to keep thousands of fans energized through one collective sound.  The result of a donation from alumna Judi Prokop Newman and her husband Robert Newman, the new uniforms and instruments are the visual unifier of a band bonded beyond their music and dance routines.

Senior Colton Freitas joined the Frost Band of the Hour as a trombone player during his freshman year and now leads the band as drum major in his final year. Like Freitas, many other Band of the Hour members have found a second home in band and a way to share their passion for music in the UM community.

“The closest thing I can relate it to is an extended family,” Freitas said. “Everyone here, you know they have your back because of how hard we work and how hard we push each other. It’s never in a competitive way; we try to inspire each other to be the best musicians and hard workers and just people that we can be all the time.”

The group is directed by Professor Jay Rees, a UM Frost School of Music alum who went on to become a recognized jazz musician and educator. During his college years, he led the Frost Band of the Hour as drum major for three years, and after a long career as director of athletic bands at the University of Arizona, he returned to his alma mater in July 2014 to lead the Band of the Hour to new standards.

“It’s a wonderful symmetry to my academic life,” Rees said. “My college years started here, and now, later in my career, I’m back at the U and I’m excited to take the Band of The Hour to a new height of excellence and innovation.”

Student members have been preparing intensively for the beginning of the football season and, under Rees’s leadership, have been rehearsing new drills and song numbers to energize the crowd. The Frost Band of the Hour is currently working on a Rihanna mash up.

“I have always believed that some marching bands all too often repeat the same old stale tunes,” Rees said. “There are a lot of marching bands that play relatively predictable songs, and I’m not interested in being predictable, and I don’t think the students at UM are interested in being predictable or pedantic. I think that UM is a great university because it’s innovative – the Frost School of Music is absolutely innovative – so I really wanted to pick music that would be unusual for a marching band to play, while still being something that the audience would really enjoy and potentially recognize.”

The idea for the Rihanna set came from Rees’s wife, Wendy, who is also a musician and recognized the energy these songs could bring to both the marching band and the audience.

“I’m very excited because I love Rihanna, and her music is a new experience for marching band,” said Janiela Mabo, a Florida International University student who has been playing in the Band of the Hour for five years. “It will definitely get the crowd pumped up and more excited, so hopefully they’ll stay and watch us during half time.”

Rees’s passion and energy transfers to student members, who have noticed an improvement in their performance and new levels of inspiration.

“First and foremost, his energy level is off the charts all the time, so it’s completely different than the environment that I’ve been used to,” Freitas said. “Sometimes he has to force the energy out of us, but he’s big into trying to inspire us to inspire each other, which I think is a great message not only for a band but for life, just trying to inspire each other and be the best we can be. The music and the drill that we have is a little more ambitious than anything we’ve had, at least in a long time.”

“I think a lot of people don’t understand how incredibly complex this activity is,” Rees said. “Playing music at a high level is already an extremely complex activity, and then we’re asking people to do that and basically be a dancer while they do it. It’s as if we were asking the Symphony Orchestra to not only play Swan Lake, but also be the ballerinas dancing to it while they play it.”

The Frost Band of the Hour prepared extensively during Band Camp one and a half weeks before classes, in which student members practiced for 12 to 14 hours outdoors every day and rehearsed their instruments indoors.

“I think that the goals in any org are really the same, and it’s the medium that might be different,” Rees said. “The goals in a football team are to have the teammates come together, and achieve excellence and try to over-achieve and be as successful as they can be, maybe even more successful than they thought possible.

Besides performing during athletic events, the Frost Band of the Hour will also perform at Disney on their way back from the UM vs. FSU away game, and at the Flanagan Marching Band Competition in early October. The Band of the Hour also hosts mini pep rallies outside the Rat every Friday afternoon before a home game, and puts a final cap on home games by performing a couple of songs and the alma mater around the lake when they are back on campus.