Angel Gonzalez will never forget the moment that jazz band director Steve Haines overheard him singing in the band room. Haines gave Angel a challenge. Or maybe you could call it a prediction.

“He told me that I’d be singing the next day in front of the class,” the rising sophomore said. “I tried to get out of it three times.”

But when Angel stepped up to the microphone and belted out a Sinatra tune, his classmates were floored. “They said it was unbelievable. They thought I had training, but I had never sung in front of people before.”

By the end of the semester, Angel gave his first vocal performance at the UNCG Jazz Ensemble concert. The microphone trembled in his hand, but he finished the song to a standing ovation.

Despite full scholarships to other schools, he selected the School of Music, Theatre and Dance for its excellent reputation and faculty. “I was amazed by the level of talent at UNCG; it was like nowhere else in the state.” Someday Angel wants to inspire students of his own the way Haines inspires and challenges him.

“Steve Haines was the main reason I picked UNCG,” he said, “and it was the best decision I made.”

Angel, who is pursuing a major in music education with a concentration in trumpet, plays with three ensembles: the Jazz band, the Pep band and the Trumpet Ensemble. Visiting Associate Professor Mark Clodfelter, an internationally acclaimed trumpet player and Grammy-nominated artist, is another valued mentor. “If that man is teaching me, then there is hope for me to sound like that one day.”

Angel grew up listening to jazz, doo-wop, Motown and old soul. But singing wasn’t his thing. Nor was music a career option. Working with his high school band director, Greg Murphy, changed it all. “To see the positive effects that the band directors can have on their students is amazing,” Angel said.

He hopes to make that same kind of impact. He also sees himself as a future advocate for the importance of music education and the performing arts overall. He is realistic, but confident, about the challenges facing the arts – budget cuts and students’ lack of interest. “People need to realize that the arts transcend all subjects. Those who play music usually excel in the other subjects, too.”

Musicology is Angel’s favorite subject because it teaches music with a historical and cultural perspective. The music education curriculum gives him the opportunity to interact with middle school students. This is when he loves weaving in “little pieces of history” to help them understand the music better. “The great thing about UNCG is that they teach us how to do that.”

Community service is another priority. He volunteers at nursing homes with his fraternity brothers from Phi Mu Alpha. Soon he will become a Peer Academic Leader at Grogan Residence Hall. “I want to be a teacher,” Angel said. “Being a PAL helps connect with students and will give me the opportunity to practice teaching.”

His classmates want to see him singing in Vegas or recording his own album. But Angel wants to pursue his own dream.

“All the fun stuff aside, the crowd cheering and the standing ovation, I really want to be a teacher because that’s what I came here to do – to learn how to be a better teacher, a better musician, and a better person.”

By Aparna Das, Contributor

Photography by David Wilson