Marching through time

An inside look at the history of the UT pre-game music and the man behind its composition

David+Jex+is+the+second+in+a+line+of+three+generations+of+his+family+who+attended+UT+including+his+parents+and+his+sons.+In+1973+he+was+approached+to+compose+the+UT+March+and+fanfare.
David Jex is the second in a line of three generations of his family who attended UT including his parents and his sons. In 1973 he was approached to compose the UT March and fanfare.

David Jex is the second in a line of three generations of his family who attended UT including his parents and his sons. In 1973 he was approached to compose the UT March and fanfare.

Abigail Sullivan

Abigail Sullivan

David Jex is the second in a line of three generations of his family who attended UT including his parents and his sons. In 1973 he was approached to compose the UT March and fanfare.

Trevor Stearns, News Editor

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Helmets crash, a whistle blows, a cannon is fired and the crowd goes wild — but this crescendo of school spirit might not echo across campus with­out a pregame show that catapults the fans into a Rocket fever from the start.

Before the game begins, the University of Toledo Rocket Marching Band play the iconic UT March and Fanfare that drum the crowd into excite­ment. Although often un­seen by the crowds watch­ing the marching band play, the composer behind our pregame music is UT’s own David Jex.

Jex is a professor of music and an alumnus of UT. He’s also one of three generations of Rockets; his parents and sons at­tended school here too.

“We feel pretty strong­ly about UT,” he said.

That’s why in 1973, when he was asked to help compose a new and original march for UT, he wrote the music that is still played at UT games to this day.

“The band director at that particular time — Ja­mie Hafner — he said, ‘Well for the pre-game show, I want to have a stock fanfare that is rec­ognizable as the UT Fan­fare and I want to have a full-size march,’” Jex said.

At that time, UT’s fight song and Alma Ma­ter were the only pieces original to the school. Jex said those pieces were around “well be­fore” him.

But the fight song and Al­ma Mater had an effect on Jex’s composition process.

“The fanfare has little bits of the alma mater and little bits of the themes that are in the march as well,” he said.

Additionally, Jex uti­lized the UT archives for inspiration. He riffed on the music that was al­ready a part of UT’s cul­ture and history.

“I mean, it’s kind of a blended song because the actual tunes have been written by other people … especially the first two strings before you get to the trio, because the last trio string is the UT Fight Song,” he said.

Once he composed the song — which he com­posed on hardcopy man­uscripts because there was no way to compose digitally — he sent it to the band to practice.

He said the first run-through for a piece isn’t always pretty, especially with challenging music; however, the UT band got it almost perfect on the first try.

“The first time [I] heard, away from just diddling away on a pia­no, was passing out the parts and the band play­ing it. And it worked pretty well the first time,” Jex said. “And that’s always a good sign. Because if the group struggles with it, it’s not going to work because rehearsal time is very compact, especially for a marching band.”

That original score didn’t go without change though. Jex said that as the directors have changed, tweaks have been made to make it easier to play. And as time goes on, the music of UT will continue to change and morph — Jex just hopes the music tra­dition and his impacts stick around.

Almost 40 years after the creation of these pieces, Jex said he “still gets a kick” out of hear­ing his music played at football games.

“It’s always fun to have the music you write played,” Jex said, “Every game I go to, I’m always there for pre-game so I can hear the fanfare and the march.”

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Marching through time