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Rock Prairie Perfoming Arts Association

RPPAA History in Print....


Congratulations to last year’s 2013 UAA HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES.... Jeff Suarez

Jeff Suarez has impacted the musical arts in Rock County as an educator, director, performer, board member and coordinator of a variety of arts endeavors.

In 1998, he began teaching at Beloit College, where he taught music theory courses, private French horn lessons and music composition lessons and directed multiple ensembles, bands, and the Help Yourself youth choir. He continues to teach there today.

Suarez became an assistant professor of music in 2002 at UW-Rock County, where he formed an orchestra, restarted the big band and brought new life to the school’s music program. He was promoted to associate professor in 2009, a position he still holds today.

Suarez took over direction of the Rock Prairie Concert Band and founded the Rock Prairie Chamber Orchestra, the Rock Prairie Big Band, the Rock Prairie Jazz Combo and a pep band and co-founding the Rock Prairie Youth Orchestra.

He has given free public performances of his own music compositions and others’ music as well as public lectures on music topics. Suarez wrote the lyrics for and composed the music to the UW-Rock County school song, “Go, Rattlers, Go.”

Suarez has served as Walk-In Messiah music director; local church choir director; Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra personnel/production manager and principal French horn player; Spotlight on Kids music director; and French horn player with Brassa Nova, the Janesville Choral Union and other groups throughout Rock County.

Suarez was a board member of Theatre Unlimited and directed a show for the organization in 2011. He served as the UW-Rock County representative to the United Arts Alliance for one year and was board vice president of the newly formed Turtle Creek Chamber Orchestra in 2012.

Thanks to;


Music will return for July 4th concert

Kathleen Foody, The Janesville Gazette, Janesville, Wisconsin (

June 25, 2009

JANESVILLE — It wouldn't be the Fourth of July without fireworks, a hot grill and patriotic music.

When the Beloit Janesville Symphony canceled its annual concert, a former member was determined to keep the music playing.

"It's very important to keep traditions alive, and this one was an integral part of the community," Jeff Suarez said.

The Rock Prairie band and orchestra will step in with a concert at 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 3 in Lower Courthouse Park.

Suarez played French horn in the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra from 2001-05 and became involved with the Rock Prairie Orchestra when he began teaching at UW-Rock County in 2002.

Many members of the group also play in the BJS and readily agreed to perform, he said.

"We're hopeful the symphony can right their ship," he said. "(The July concert) has always been their largest concert as far as attendance goes from my own experience and always has been a free concert, although it costs the symphony a fair amount to put on."

The groups offered to perform the next day in Beloit, but the city had already made plans with the Beloit Memorial High School jazz band.

"We approached the band to perform at our July Fourth event," said Therese Oldenburg with Visit Beloit. "They've won many awards and are very high quality."

Beloit's event begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Harry Moore Pavilion in Riverside Park.

The Rock Prairie band and orchestra usually play separately but are uniting to carry on the symphony's tradition in Janesville.

"Think of us as maybe the ‘B' team in a major league ball club," said band member Scott Kjornes of Janesville.

Admission is free, but donations are welcome. Half the money collected will go to the BJS.

BJS office manager Melinda Schumacher said the symphony couldn't afford the $18,000 necessary to put on the concert this year. Advertisers and sponsors were providing less funding in the struggling economy.

"With a professional orchestra and all that we pay them, when things get tough that had to be first thing to go," she said. "But we're … going to try to find a different formula."

Thanks to;


Professor tunes in with music

FRANK J. SCHULTZ, The Janesville Gazette, Janesville, Wisconsin (

January 20, 2008

JANESVILLE — Jeff Suarez is having a two-story garage built at his rural Janesville home. The top floor will be dedicated to his hobby.

He figures it’ll take 30 years or so to fill the upper floor to capacity with a model railroad.

Suarez thinks long term. When he became a music professor at UW-Rock County in 2003, he also took a long view.

His vision had developed over the years since 2000 when he played French horn for the Beloit Janesville Symphony, serving also as the BJS’s personnel and production manager.

He considered what Rock County might look in 30 years: More people. More cultural offerings. More need for musicians.

The area has taken cultural steps forward recently, Suarez believes, but wonders if enough skilled musicians will be available as the area starts creating even more of its own homegrown productions.

So when Suarez took the UW-Rock job, he saw an opportunity to dedicate his career to this goal.

His first task was to revitalize the campus’ concert band, recruiting new members and giving it a new name: Rock Prairie Concert Band.

Then he branched out, founding the Rock Prairie Chamber Orchestra, Rock Prairie Big Band and the Rock Prairie Youth Orchestra.

His idea is that those groups can be homes for musicians who haven’t played in a while, those who are just starting to build their skills and those who are “retiring” after playing with other groups.

“It’s kind of a farm system, in a sense,” he said.

The result, Suarez hopes, will be a growing pool of talent.

“We need to do this, because sooner or later, it’s going to happen,” he said.

Sure, it’s nice to enjoy the culture of the surrounding big cities, but Suarez is passionate on this point: “We should be able to be culturally independent, and we should be able to develop our own culture.”

Suarez’s passion, however, requires pain. More precisely, it requires long hours of work.

Just consider all the rehearsal time needed for the various groups and add to that his class schedule and various other projects, including performing for UW-Rock’s musical theater productions.

Suarez works so hard that he’s been warned by his boss to be careful about overextending himself, he said.

The boss is UW-Rock Dean Diane Pillard.

It’s normal for a UW professor to have projects in the community, Pillard said, but Suarez is exceptional.

“Of all the people I know, he is one of the people with the highest energy level, the most enthusiastic, and the highest passion for his work,” she said.

Scott Kjornes is one of those local players who predates Suarez but loves Suarez as a conductor and organizer of musical groups.

“He’s one of the most affable, easy-going people, but in the same regard, he knows when a job has to get done, as well,” Kjornes said.

“I owe him a lot for what my playing ability has evolved into,” Kjornes added.

Kjornes is working with Suarez on a new organization, the Rock Prairie Performing Arts, which will raise money and organize volunteers to support the music groups.

Suarez sees RPPA providing organization, volunteers and money that it will take to branch out, taking its performances off campus and into the community.


Age: 36

Community: Janesville

Occupation: Assistant professor of music at UW-Rock County and a horn instructor at Beloit College

Hobbies: Modifying, or “modding,” computer games

Favorite music: Suarez likes to judge music on its own merits, and he isn’t the kind of person to keep a list of faves.

Favorite movie: Well, not one particular movie, but he likes the “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” series.

Books: Recent reads include “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn and “The Atlantic Campaign” by Dan van der Vat

Role models: A series of teachers, from junior high all the way through grad school, who got him interested and guided his development in music.

Notable: Suarez composed the UW-Rock athletics fight song, “Go, Rattlers, Go!”

That name: Yes, Suarez is Hispanic, but he’s not Latino. His great-grandfather immigrated to the United States from Spain, part of a small migration that included the forebears of UW-Madison athletics director Barry Alvarez. Alvarez and Suarez are distant cousins.

Thanks to;

Photos by; Al Hoch - The Janesville Gazette

Janesville's Jeff Suarez adds to local pool of musical talent.