Making music in The Magic City: UAB graduate made most of his time here

From performing in the Marching Blazers and Department of Music ensembles to busking at Railroad Park, saxophonist Kevin Mooney has been busy while completing his degree.

Kevin Mooney made a lot of music while he was in The Magic City.

Mooney, from Mobile, Alabama, graduates from the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Dec. 12 with a degree in computer science and music technology.  

From performing in the Marching Blazers and ensembles in the College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Music to busking on beautiful days at Railroad Park, he has been busy while completing his degree. WVTM caught up with him recently and captured a performance.

Mooney has been one of the most active non-majors in the Department of Music, and one of the few students who has played in every wind group offered, says Steven Roberts, DMA, associate professor of jazz studies and trumpet at UAB. He started as a double major but decided to focus his major on computer science and make music technology his minor. 

“Kevin is currently in the Honors Jazz Combo, where he wrote an original arrangement and performed the lead part,” Roberts said. “In previous semesters, he was in the Big Band, the Pino combo and the 5 o’clock combo. He came with us on our Europe tour last summer and is always great to work with.” Mooney also played in the Wind Symphony, Concert Band and Jazz Ensemble and for the UAB Gospel Choir.

His favorite music to play at UAB was jazz, because it offers “a lot more flexibility to do more songs and free rein to play what you want,” Mooney said. 

Mooney.3Mooney started playing music in the third grade, at first trying the violin. A few years later, his father bought him a saxophone. He played music in school, then had opportunities to play outside of school. He started busking at age 14 and played at Mobile’s ArtWalk with a musician playing bass clarinet. Mobile’s street culture is much more like New Orleans’ than Birmingham’s, so busking led to lots of opportunities to play with a diverse group of musicians. He won a scholarship competition, was in a movie and got to meet actor Nicolas Cage.  

The music he chooses to play can vary depending on the area; but American pop music, R&B, jazz, and even K-Pop are a few genres he mentions off the bat. He takes requests, looks up sheet music on his phone, learns songs and files them under categories, so has built an extensive library. He has even shared his arrangements with fans he meets. Some folks even go home and get an instrument to come back and play, though he struggles to get people to play outside with him — stage fright. 

The experiences Mooney has had performing spontaneously, on such a broad selection of music and with so many musicians, benefit him musically, Roberts says.  

“Kevin has been working on improvisation since he was young, and I’m really glad he has stuck with it,” Roberts said. “A lot of people tell me they regret giving up music when they decide it’s not their career choice, but he has made a concerted effort to continue developing his composition and improv skills and shared it with the community.

“Our program caters to students like Kevin and gives them the flexibility to participate in our ensembles while fulfilling their other academic responsibilities,” Roberts said. Non-music majors even have the opportunity to qualify for scholarships.

Mooney hopes to combine computer science and music in his career. He has a job lined up that begins in March. Until then, he plans to rest, work on side jobs in music and computer science, and maybe travel.