RIO GRANDE — Students from the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College Grande Chorale and Jazz Ensemble recently traveled to New York City to participate in Manhattan Concert Productions’ annual NYC Jazz Festival.
Dr. Sarin Williams, associate professor of music and director of choral activities, said she believes taking students on trips broadens their cultural experiences and provides them with more academic opportunities.
“Manhattan Concert Productions and I have been talking over the years about the opportunity to travel, and I felt this group of the Grande Chorale was ready to receive a wider critique from professionals beyond the classroom,” Williams said. “In general, many of our students have spent most of their lives in Southeast Ohio, and I think it’s a good cultural experience to visit different places. I felt that this would be a unique and interesting opportunity for the students, especially because of the competition-style atmosphere and the critique from a panel of jazz experts.”
Manhattan Concert Productions, a music tour company, hosts the festival each year at the Symphony Space allowing both vocal and instrumental ensembles to perform for an audience while receiving commentary from experts in the jazz genre. The students were also able to receive a clinic session from one of the vocal jazz adjudicators, Jennifer Barnes of the University of North Texas, and perform at Cuba-Rushford High School en route to New York City. Catie White, a freshman music education major with the Grande Chorale said the opportunity to travel through Rio while still in her first year of college allowed her to see the different possibilities for her future and her career.
“Being able to perform in front of different crowds and in New York was a great experience. People at the festival were very welcoming to us, and the chance to see a Broadway show in our free time was a lot of fun,” White said. “The trip really opened my eyes to the possibilities of what I could become not only as a performer but as an individual. As a freshman, it was a great growing experience.”
As some of the students attending the trip are also members of Rio’s Jazz Ensemble, the two groups decided to create a joint performance of both vocal and instrumental numbers for the festival. Dr. Chris Kenney, professor of music and director of the jazz ensemble said he is proud of the students’ performance at the festival and is glad they were able to gain knowledge to bring back to the classroom.
“The best part of this trip was seeing the students expand their horizons and rise above their comfort zones. The opportunity to see nationally and internationally known jazz musicians perform, and then perform themselves for equally enthusiastic audiences at Symphony Space is a great experience for them. You could see the students feeding off of that energy to go beyond what they’ve done before for this performance,” Kenney said. “It’s important for us to take these kinds of trips and get our students out of their comfort zones to see the wider world around them both in life and in their field.”
Brett Sisson, a College Credit Plus psychology major and jazz ensemble member, said she enjoyed being able to travel and take a trip to New York that centered on jazz music.
“As a student who is also still in high school, I’ve never gotten to go on a class trip like this one before. It was really exciting to visit a city with an amazing jazz scene as part of a jazz group and to be able to perform in such a large and well-known venue as Symphony Space,” Sisson said. “I loved being able to go to the jazz club Village Vanguard because it was the first time I’ve experienced live jazz music outside of a school concert. I think you should take the opportunity to travel wherever and whenever you can as often as possible because you can experience new things and meet people who live completely different lives, so I’m glad I had the chance to go on this trip through Rio.”
For more information on the School of Arts and Letters’ music department, contact Admissions at 740-245-7208.
Jessica Patterson is a communications specialist with the University of Rio Grande.