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Alumni Spotlight: Jim Rea '09, '12

A Creative Craftsman

The artistic community in Springfield, Missouri is cultivated by dedicated craftsmen such as Jim Rea - a man whose life has revolved around personal and community-wide advancement of the arts. At a young age, Jim became interested in music and performing. Rea believes that recording music goes hand in hand with performance. Today, as a “half-time” audio engineer and “half-time” performer, he has found the best of both worlds in his career.

Jim was born and raised in Springfield, Missouri. Today, the 36 year-old has a wife, a two-year-old son, a terrier dog, and a blind cat. Jim has been involved with music since the age of 12. He attended and graduated from Willard High School. After attending OTC and SMS, where he was encouraged to pursue audio production, he traveled the country doing some soul searching and found that being a creative musician was his calling. He joined local bands and found that the industry was a hard place to break into.

Before the digital boom in recording, personal music was not easily created. As Jim attended SMS, software was developed to help ease personal recording endeavors. He became interested in the audio effects of music, sound effects, television, and movies. Rea met Brian Shipman, now a mentor and good friend, who asked him to help with a project at Drury University. Brian is a current faculty member at Drury University and a Drury alum, graduating in 2012 with his Masters of Communication. Brian directed Jim to continue his education with a Master’s in Instructional Technology. Jim did earn his masters at DU in 2009 and continued to be an asset to the department. When he came to Drury, he started to become more involved with visual aspects of entertainment. He was a part of producing a show called Go Bluegrass, originally titled Bluegrass Local. After the wrap of this show, Jim and his team did a final season together of a show entitled, Mostly Music which focused on more genres and on-location recordings. Jim was also doing freelance work at the time for companies such as Bass Pro. Along with visual and audio recording, Jim was a part of renovating the entire audio and visual set up in Shewmaker Communication Center, after a donation from Carole Lambert for the Carole Lambert Studio. The equipment is now state of the art, with HD capable videoing, a full green screen, etc. Jim is very grateful to be a part of the Drury Media Department.

The Hillbenders is Jim’s band, which began ten years ago. It is an acoustic band, where Jim plays guitar, sings, and writes music. The band travels to performing arts centers, bluegrass festivals, colleges, and venues across the country. They have three records released and have finished recording their fourth album this January in honor of their 10th anniversary. It will be released in June. They recorded a bluegrass version of the rock opera Who’s Tommy which has gained them national recognition and expanded their performance venues. The band will be traveling with Keller Williams performing Tom Petty covers this year. The Hillbenders' records are on Spotify, ITunes and YouTube.

Recently, Jim has chosen a few projects a year to produce. He enjoys being involved in creating artistic projects, but has to make time for his band and traveling. Currently, he is working with local musician, Les Gallier, on recording his first album. Gallier has an old-school, rock-and-roll sound that is guitar oriented. The songs on his album are original and will include other local musicians. Jim also recorded Drury University faculty member, Dr. Natalie Wlodarczyk’s band, The Shandies last year. Jim makes himself available to artists in the area to approach him with a project. He chooses the projects he wants to work on. With this half-time job, he wants to be involved in creating a work of art, not just punching the clock.

A certain project of Jim’s has received national attention in the past year. Local band, Bella Donna, now known as Izabel Crane, recorded an album with Rea as the audio recorder, producer, and recording engineer. One of the songs on the album entitled “End of the World” was recently featured on ABC’s Once Upon a Time. This project is among Jim’s favorites because of “the talented and unique” sound of the band.

Jim thinks fondly back on the beginning days of working with Brian Shipman to develop the current Carole Lambert Studio. He is proud of the work he has done to develop the studio into a “music hub.” Producing his own music in the Drury studio has been a combination of both of his passions. Being a part of creation and creative endeavors is important to Jim. When the time his right, he hopes to have a permanent home at Drury.

Jim Rea is an excellent example of the impact that Drury University can have on students, artists, and the community. Learn more about becoming a donor or volunteer