UAB music students perform internationally during summer tours

From singing in Welsh to teaching jazz to Colombian students, students in the UAB Department of Music got the opportunity to learn and explore the world as part of their education.

gc bus selfie photo by peMusic students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham learned how to sing in Welsh and played jazz in Colombia this summer as they traveled with their peers.

The students performed in the United Kingdom and in South America on trips with the Department of Music, part of UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences.  

“We believe international education and touring is an essential part of our mentoring of young musicians and young citizens,” said UAB Department of Music Chair Patrick Evans. “International touring is an important part of a UAB musical education, and we are grateful to be back.”

UAB Gospel Choir: London and Wales, United Kingdom

The first group landed in London on May 30 to begin the UAB Gospel Choir tour of Wales. The trip culminated with UAB as the featured choir in performance at the Urdd Eisteddfod — the largest youth music festival in Europe — which was broadcast live on Welsh national television June 3. Because it is a Welsh language and culture festival, the songs they performed had to be sung in Welsh. UAB Assistant Professor and Gospel Choir Director James Reginald Jackson, Ph.D., worked with colleagues and students for many months to learn and teach the language for their songs.

In addition to the festival and other performances, the group of 25 students, two faculty and two staff members visited with and learned from communities in Cardiff and Aberystwyth, where UAB has a study abroad site. UAB Gospel Choir members sang in the Senned, or Welsh Parliament, with an audience that included the First Minister, other members of Parliament and the family of John Petts, a Welsh artist. 

Petts was so moved by the injustice of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham in 1963, he created a stained-glass window, which Welsh children raised money to have transported and installed in the church in 1965. In the National Archives at Aberystwyth University, the group viewed the Petts collection, including early studies for the window, as well as contemporaneous news reports at the time. 

UAB’s musical collaboration with Wales started in late 2019, when Welsh government officials were in Birmingham to commemorate the Wales window at the 16th Street Baptist Church. As part of that commemoration, they attended a UAB Gospel Choir concert. The choir was then invited to be the featured choir for the 2020 Eisteddfod, which was delayed due to the global COVID pandemic. In spring 2022, the UAB Department of Music hosted Welsh national college choir Côr yr Urdd, which performed with the UAB Gospel Choir, and organized a Civil Rights study tour with them.  

UAB Jazz: Colombia, South America

A jazz quintet from UAB traveled to South America from June 11-24 to participate in “Promising Artists of the 21st Century,” a jazz collaboration program organized by the Colombo Americano of Medellin and Manizales, Colombia. 

The incredible two-week performance and teaching tour was led by Associate Professor Steven Roberts, DMA, and UAB adjunct faculty member Carlos Pino, with students and recent graduates Amber Frazier, Eric Hurley, Joseph Lewis and Eli Tylicki. All expenses except the international airfare were paid by the Colombo Americano, a nonprofit educational and cultural organization that promotes development through programs and services that foster the exchange of knowledge among Colombia, the United States and other countries. Two jazz quartets from United States universities were invited to teach and perform in three or four cities in Colombia.

The UAB group traveled to the cities of Pereira, Armenia, Manizales and Medellin, did more than 35 hours of clinics as part of jazz camps, and performed five feature concerts in large concert halls and auditoriums. Their last week was spent in Medellin alongside a group from Purdue University, where they led clinics together every morning to support a jazz camp happening at the Colombo Americano Medellin. Each group had a feature performance at the end of the week in a 1,000-seat concert hall. Roberts says members enjoyed pouring their hearts into teaching and playing around their beautiful and hospitable country.