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Blue Band Repairman Using Passion To Inspire Students

Dave Cree’s father might just be one of the oldest living Penn State Blue Band members. With his father thriving at 98 years old, Cree hears plenty of stories about marching with the band in 1948. This isn’t Cree’s only connection to the band, though.

The Blue Band is known for its powerhouse of sound, size, and partnership with the football team. There isn’t a game in Beaver Stadium without the Blue Band’s march into the stadium and pregame ritual.

Behind every practice, band room door, repair room, and performance is Cree, the Blue Band’s instrument repairman.

But Cree is more than just the repairman.

Courtesy of Natalie Gonzalez

Originally raised in central Pennsylvania, Cree headed east to receive his undergraduate piano performance degree at West Chester University. After graduating, Cree traveled back home and was hired at Bellefonte High School. The week Cree was hired, the band director resigned.

“I chose to be the band director there. So, I was with the Bellefonte Area School District for 35 years, with 30 years teaching at the high school,” Cree said. “I had lots of great experiences. While I was teaching, I finished my studies by getting a master’s degree at Penn State in music education.”

During his time at Penn State, Cree took advantage of his resources and became close with the Blue Band’s assistant director, Dr. O. Richard Bundy, who eventually became the band’s director. He retired in 2015, welcoming Dr. Greg Drane as the current director.

When Bundy took over, Cree took the lead and asked if he needed extra help or any volunteers.

“It just happened to be at the right time that he really needed some help… I ended up helping him, and I’ve been at Penn State for 32 years,” Cree said. “My duties at Penn State have evolved over the years.”

Allison Rambler | Onward State

Initially, Cree helped Dr. Bundy with anything he needed — teaching on the field, helping with drills, conducting, and more. Simultaneously teaching at Bellefonte, he didn’t have much money for instrument repairs, so he took matters into his own hands.

“I started learning how to repair instruments. Over the years, I’ve went to workshops and completed an internship at Robert M. Sides in Williamsport… Then, I started doing repairs for the Blue Band and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since,” Cree said.

On top of his time teaching and volunteering at Penn State, Cree took over leadership positions within the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) and created the All-East Jazz Ensemble.

Now, Cree’s responsibilities involve the repair and maintenance of over 400 Blue Band instruments, carrying the medical bag for the band and being certified in first aid, and supervising the student managers of the band.

Cree has traveled with the band since his volunteer days and even headed to this year’s Rose Bowl. This year’s trip required some repairs, especially with Pasadena’s rainy conditions.

Courtesy of Natalie Gonzalez

“The students are just so darn good. They’re pretty careful about their horns,” Cree said.

Without Cree’s repairman position, the Blue Band would’ve had to send out its instruments for “professional” repairs, which can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. Cree takes pride in “making sure the instruments look fabulous and sharp” and are in the best hands possible.

He also has a knack for noticing when an instrument needs to be replaced, tuned up, or needs a new part. Every year he prepares a budget for his own repairs and executes them for the Blue Band members.

The members of the Blue Band not only look up to Cree because of his repair skills but for the role model figure he is and the passion for music he shares.

“I certainly know working with the Blue Band has been impactful on my life because I have met so many wonderful students… I’ve assisted them in any way that I could,” Cree said.

Senior drumline leader Michael Gilliland is one of the many students that recognizes Cree’s impact and how much he cheers on every member.

“He has been super in helping the Blue Band’s work ethic as a whole by telling us to raise our standards, expectations,” Gilliland said. “Mr. Cree has been helping me all throughout this season with leadership decisions, communicating on when to change drum heads, and has even listened to me practice and given me praise.”

“He is the nicest and sweetest man to be around, and I couldn’t have been successful in the Blue Band without him,” Gilliland continued.

Allison Rambler | Onward State

Senior sousaphone player Reese Holl quickly responded when hearing Cree’s name, excited to tell a story of how kind and understanding Cree was when he fixed an instrumentalist’s horn while in Pasadena.

“Everyone loves Mr. Cree,” Holl said.

Cree emphasized that Dr. Drane is “remarkable in creating a sense of family” and community within the organization. Similarly, during his time with the Blue Band, fixing instruments hasn’t been Cree’s only favorite job.

“It’s very enjoyable getting to know [the students]. They’re all smart, they’re all talented,” Cree said. “It’s always really great to be with them… The Blue Band is one of the very best bands… They all want to be there, they’re all enjoying being there, they have lots of pride in being a part of the organization.”

Courtesy of Natalie Gonzalez

Cree plays clarinet in community bands throughout State College and is “just happy” doing what he does with the bands. Playing music himself is a passion he’ll always have.

“Everybody is started in the band. You don’t sit [on] the bench in the band, do you? Everyone is a player,” Cree said. “The lessons that you learn being in music is dependability, hard work, the ability to complete tasks, to work with others, to have a common goal… The things that we learn and teach in band is what makes our students successful.”

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About the Author

Larkin Richards

Larkin is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. The only words that leave her mouth are "yinz" and "dippy eggs." Luckily, her writing has much more substance than that. As a Steelers and Pirates fan, sports can become a hot debate. Share your thoughts on dogs (specifically Boston Terriers) with her at: [email protected]

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