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It all started with a simple flyer.

Music professor Dr. John Salmon sent junior Antonio Truyols an email with an attachment announcing the Bucharest International Jazz Competition in May, the same week as finals.

Some students might have been inclined to shrug their shoulders and hit delete. Not Truyols.

He set to work looking for others in the Miles Davis Jazz Program who’d be willing to make a few recordings, get their passports ready and take their finals early.

Daniel Faust and Joseph Dickey came on board and formed the trio, Unit Three, with Truyols on piano, Faust on drums and Dickey on bass.

In college, all the requirements are time-consuming. It’s easy to forget other people are playing out there.

Then they made a recording, sent it in and were informed they were one group out of 15 selected to participate. They were only one of two American groups in the competition.

Pretty exciting stuff.

They began checking out their competition, listening to the snippets of the other groups online, all of whom had a more modern sound than Unit Three.

“It boils down to an opinion of taste. We’re more traditional, straight ahead or mainstream,” Faust said. “Those groups didn’t have a foundation. It was jazz sprinkled over other types of music.”

That’s one of the things they appreciate about their UNCG education so far – they are learning the music from its roots, Dickey said.

It served them well. After the competition was over and they had a chance to have dinner with the judges they learned the judges wanted to hear more swinging in four-four time.

It netted them the “best band” award.

But before they earned that designation, they had to make it through two more rounds of competition. The initial round required them to play in two venues – a conventional space (a theater) and an unconventional space (the Hard Rock Café).

“Being in the Hard Rock was like being at a U.S. embassy,” Dickey said. “Everything was in English and familiar. It was like a safe haven.”

After the first round, the bands were narrowed down to three – Unit Three, the Stephan Braun Trio (a group from Hamburg, Germany), and Sendai, a group from England.

Their final performance took place at the Royal Palace National Museum of Art in Romania, with 27 ambassadors from the EU there to listen in.

The German group – seasoned musicians in their 30s – took top honors. Unit Three, with the youngest band members in the competition, was happy to be declared “best band” – the equivalent of second place. Sendai took third.

All agree the experience was exactly what they needed.

“It exposed us to different types of music,” Faust said. “It opened our minds to different concepts. In college, all the requirements are time-consuming. It’s easy to forget other people are playing out there. It gave us a new creative spark. It will push our music as a trio.”

And they will continue to work as a trio. Now that they’ve had this experience, it has whet their appetite for more.

“Our future goals are to travel and play,” Truyols said. “Even if it’s just playing in someone’s basement.”

Curious about their sound? Listen to samples of their music at antoniotruyols.wordpress.com.

Photography courtesy of Unit Three