I woke up this afternoon (yes this afternoon), cooked some breakfast (yes, for lunch) to notice it was the birthday of my long time teacher, mentor and one of THEEE best human beings I know, Jay Hunsberger. I posted the obligatory birthday salute on Facebook, hit post and started to inhale my meal. 10 seconds later I found my self deleting the post, realizing that Jay certainly deserved better.
I have known Jay for over 20 years now. Of all the teachers of music I’ve had the pleasure to learn from in my 38 years (I have had many), Jay has been the singularly the best all around. He has the ability to push his students to the very edges of their ability and beyond. His pedagogical approach (which constantly is evolving) is intelligent and attacks from multiple points of view beside just the Tuba. Jay is one of those rare teachers that does not just show you how to play your instrument but rather teaches MUSIC and even more importantly How to be a great musician by serving as a shining example of what a great musician, teacher and person is. Jay can both ‘do’ and ‘teach’. He is always beyond positive, the best cheerleader one would have. He is relentlessly giving of his time and energy. He is a gem and I am not the first to refer to him as Florida’s best kept secret (although I doubt the secret will stay so much longer).
I met Jay as a high school student at Winter Park High School in the late 80’s (sorry, now they know how old me we are). He was one of the low brass clinicians for summer band camp. I had never really heard a great tuba soloist before. Lucky for me Jay would be the first; (Encounters 2, if I recall and a few excerpts). I was floored. I had heard recordings and good ones. But to actually, in the flesh, see it was possible to make this giant hunk of metal speak the way Jay could, truly inspired me. I was bit. From then on, I would practice everyday after school for hours and hours. Luckily my band director, Dr. Ken Williams another huge, formative influence on me was also a tuba player and also very generous with solos and recordings which were instrumental (no pun intended) in my musical studies. I remember him telling Jay during a break once, “[tim] is gonna be one of the good guys” It made my spirit soar. Remarkably enough, several years later, I would be one of his first students at the University of South Florida. I remember the excitement all the Tuba players had when we heard news Jay would be joining the faculty. Everyone was buzzing (sorry, another pun) and it never really went away. Even today, Jay is viewed by his faculty colleagues as a leader and go to person in the school of music.
I never got a degree in Tuba. I ended up changing majors to composition and as such, would see less and less of Jay as the tuba studio (now one of the best hands down) got bigger and better. I have strayed from music (for years at a stretch) a few times in my life. They have always ended up being my lowest points. Whenever I finally came to my senses though, It was always Jay who, as if I was never away, was willing to let me back into the fold with open arms, a smile and a school horn. For this and all the wonderful opportunities Jay has given me. I am eternally thankful. Happy Birthday Jay.