Benefit for former Hemet High Band Leader Jeff Tower who died July 4

Funeral services are pending for the gifted and renowned Hemet High School music teacher and jazz musician Jeff Tower who died of an aggressive brain cancer Tuesday, July 4. Funeral Services are now pending at McWane Family Funeral Home and have yet to be announced by the family.

Tower, 63, had just recovered from another illness when he was diagnosed by doctors having glioblastoma, a very aggressive brain cancer. Because of he and his family’s mounting medical costs only weeks before his death, his many former students, alumni, friends and members of the Diamond Valley Arts Council, of which he was a member, scheduled a special benefit performance Thursday, July 13, to help.

Tower, was best known for guiding his Hemet High School band students into to becoming a nationally known marching band, concert band, a jazz band, jazz combo band and performing for the musical theater. Many of his high school students, because of his tutelage have become professional musicians and music teachers. Among those is Jessica Arellano, known as one of the nation’s top smooth jazz and Latin pop artists, and Jason Strain, noted singer-songwriter of Country, Rock & Blues who now performs in San Diego.

He earned the title of one of the nation’s top high school band teachers after guiding the Hemet High School Bulldog bands into Rose Parade appearances, the Aloha Bowl, the Monteux and Playboy festivals and multiple WIBC, Midwest and IAJE conventions. The band and orchestras won many sweepstakes awards as various World of Music Festivals and was selected as a Grammy Signature Program.

In his career, he has played his trombone and performed with such music greats as Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Mel Torme, Sarah Vaughn, Ray Charles, Sammy Davis Jr. and Tony Bennett among others.

Elena Kern, an artist at the Diamond Valley Arts Center, said Tower had his own jazz band that played on the DVAC stage that included Hemet Police Chief Dave Brown, Strait and a number of other local musicians and high school music teachers.

“Jeff worked his students pretty hard,” said Kern, “but he made them the musicians that they are today. They all owe their success to him.”

In 2016 Tower was inaugurated into the California Alliance for Jazz’s Education Lifetime Award. An honor afforded few musicians in the state.

Master of Music degree in Trombone Performance at the University of Redlands. He later earned an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Pacific Western University. He came to Hemet High School as its Director of Bands in 1977 and retired 30 years later after bringing the high schools bands to national recognition and recording albums of their tours across the nation.

Many of his students today are music teachers in local schools and band directors in other schools across the nation. Some of those students will be joining in the benefit performances for Tower at DVAC’s “Jeff Tower/Friend Jamm” Thursday, July 13. Kern said all proceeds from the concert will go to help the Tower family.

Exact time and dates for funeral services will be announced by the family this coming week.

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