Evan Ringel’s senior spring break trip – full of big sounds and breathtaking sights – was one he’ll never forget.

Along with three fellow seniors and three professors in UNCG’s nationally-renowned Miles Davis Jazz Studies Program, Ringel traveled to the University of Rennes 2 in Rennes, France, last month in what was the program’s first international trip.

And it certainly won’t be the last.

Over the course of the week, students and faculty performed with French musicians, taught jazz clinics and traveled the country to see some of France’s most iconic sites, including the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower.

Group photo of students and faculty sightseeing in France

UNCG students and faculty in the Miles Davis Jazz Studies Program visit Mont Saint Michel in France.
From left to right: Senior Evan Ringel (trombone), Assistant Professor Brandon Lee (trumpet), Program Director Steve Haines (bass), Associate Professor Chad Eby (saxophone), senior Aaron Matson (guitar), senior Kassem Williams (drums), and senior Dan Hitchcock (saxophone).

“It was an incredible experience,” Ringel said. “It gave me new excitement and passion about playing jazz. I hope to return to Rennes in the near future.”

The majority of the music performed by the large, collaborative group of UNCG and Rennes students was arranged and orchestrated by UNCG students months before the trip.

“I’m very proud of our students,” said Steve Haines, associate professor and director of the program. “Not only did they arrange, orchestrate and perform beautiful music, but they also learned a lot about French culture and immersed themselves in it.”

UNCG’s trip to Rennes was just the beginning of an exciting partnership between the two institutions. Next spring, Rennes students and faculty plan to visit UNCG to perform, collaborate and share cultures.

According to Haines, it’s the small size of the program that allows for these kinds of unique opportunities.

“We only accept six to eight students each year,” Haines said. “We’re a very close-knit group.”

And it’s not just the versatility of the program that makes it attractive to the nation’s top jazz musicians – it’s also the mentorship that students receive.

According to Associate Professor of Music Chad Eby, jazz education has become too classroom-centered, with professors teaching from a whiteboard instead of playing music and engaging with students. Jazz faculty at UNCG follow the mentorship model that created the greatest jazz performers of the 20th century – think John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong, among others.

The program’s mentorship was on full display in France, with students and faculty performing, teaching and traveling with one another.

“It’s a hands-on experience,” said senior Kassem Williams, who participated in the once-in-a-lifetime trip. “Our professors really support us.”

“There’s a collaboration between professors and students that I think is pretty unique among jazz programs,” Ringel said. “As a student, it’s incredibly beneficial to have teachers performing alongside you.”


Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Relations
Photography provided by Steve Haines