ASU athletic bands director receives Arizona Educator of the Year Award

James “Hud” Hudson, director of Arizona State University’s athletic bands and professor of practice in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre, received the 2023 Arizona Educator of the Year Award at the Arizona Music Educators Association’s (AMEA's) annual conference.

The award is the highest honor bestowed by AMEA, with the recipient exemplifying excellence in teaching, leadership and advocacy for music and arts education in Arizona.

Hudson has been a member of the Arizona Music Educators Association for 17 years and has been involved with music, education and teaching for more than 40 years.

This year marks his 17th year as director of ASU’s athletic bands program. His duties include coordination and direction of the Sun Devil Marching Band and Athletic Bands. During his tenure, the band has consistently been selected by the College Band Directors National Association as an exemplary collegiate program.

Hudson started his career as a public school band director and thought that would be his focus in his music career.

“I loved watching the students grow up from when they started playing their instruments until they graduated,” said Hudson. “The growth and effect we had on them was always very important to me.”

After completing his Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Music in conducting degrees, he discovered that working with athletic bands was what he really enjoyed the most.

Even when teaching, Hudson said he has always been involved with marching band. He has been a student of drill design, programming and arranging for the band. In addition, he adjudicates for many different Arizona and national organizations and also serves as coordinator of the Midwest Music Camps.

Hudson said he believes that marching band, and specifically the Sun Devil Marching Band, is a family and a culture.

“It’s just different than a concert band setting,” he said. “The friends you make in your college band, especially in a marching band (in my opinion) will be friends for the rest of your life.”

“Because of all of his years leading and working with the students of a marching band, Hud has inspired and helped several generations of music educators,” said Jason Caslor, director of ASU bands and associate professor in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. “He fosters his students through music whether or not they end up with a music career. Many do go on to become music educators in their own right, and that is a nice full-circle moment.”

Hudson was nominated for the award by George Hattendorf, a previous award recipient and former band director of Mountain Ridge High School. He said Hudson embodied all of the requirements for the award, including his ability to inspire positive attitudes among students, the school, the community and members of AMEA, as well as making outstanding contributions to music education by active involvement in local district, state, regional and professional organizations.

Hattendorf said he has known Hudson since the 1980s and has had the opportunity to judge Hudson’s prior marching bands during the midwest summer marching seasons, which included bands from Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

“James Hudson has created such a remarkable program and musical experience for his students over the years,” said Hattendorf. “He has given so much to ASU and the students and band programs of Arizona that this award recognition is a very small way of saying, ‘Thank you and job well done.’”

When asked about the impact Hudson has had on them, several marching band students were eager to sing his praises, saying he made them better musicians, leaders and people in general.

“His love of his band and his students is something unparalleled," one student said, "and only further exhibits his passion for music education.”

Lynne MacDonald