A 10-year run that included four straight state division band champions will end shortly as Martin Rhees, Hoover High School’s director of instrumental music, announced he will step down at the end of this school year to spend more time with his family.
Rhees purchased a home in Eastvale in Riverside County two years ago and had been making a roughly 104-mile round trip daily, which came with personal costs.
Rhees sent an email and open letter to supporters last week explaining his increasing difficulty to run the program that he turned into a school beacon.
“Life has forced me to admit that all of the things I care about in the world have been deteriorating: my responsibility as a husband and father, my ability to be an inspiring and effective role model and teacher for our students, and my career as a professional horn player,” Rhees said. “All had been suffering, and I knew it.”
He added, “A choice to decelerate at Hoover would be a disservice to the culture we have built here, and I knew that I would not be able to do that and stand in front of these students.”
Rhees said he accepted an assistant band position at Eastvale Eleanor Roosevelt High School and can “walk to work.”
While Rhees was perhaps best known for his Hoover Tornado Marching Band, which won the California State Band Championship Division 4-A title a fourth consecutive time last November in Huntington Beach, the brass chamber musician is in charge of many groups.
Rhees oversaw the school’s eight ensembles, which included the marching band, a string orchestra, jazz band and marching percussion band.
Rhees’ impact, though, expanded beyond the classroom.
“Marty is always willing to share his knowledge and advice and gave his support to the other music programs in the district,” said Amy Rangel, director of instrumental music at Glendale High, who is also a Grammy Teacher of the Year finalist.
“I don’t know if he realizes this, but at the [Glendale Unified] music festival each year, I make a special point to hear his top band, and I know other music teachers do as well,” Rangel added. “The sound he can pull out of those kids is incredible.”
Crescenta Valley High’s Mathew Schick said he appreciated that, despite recognition heaped upon his counterpart, Rhees stayed humble.
“We spent some time just talking about life,” Schick said. “Not about music or our programs, but just about our lives. I like it that Marty, even though he produces stellar results, recognizes that it’s not all about work and results. It’s about slowing down sometimes and connecting with others.”
Hoover principal Jennifer Earl, who hired Rhees a decade ago, said she has enjoyed watching her school’s music department develop and blossom.
“He transformed our program from some high school music classes to what we now call ‘Hoover Instrumental Music,’” Earl said.
Earl added, “Rhees has brought tradition, reminded us of the history of our incredible school and raised our school pride.”