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.
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/music.
Debra Sea's experimental film balance is short clocking in at less than four minutes but that didn't keep it from catching the attention of the Academy.
Yes, that Academy.
Sea's film was a finalist for a Student Academy Award in the alternative category. An annual, national competition conducted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy Foundation, the Student Academy Award seeks to find and recognize talented young filmmakers.
Sea, a native of Bemidji, Minn., and an MFA student in film, has had other notable success with her film. It has been screened at 11 film festivals, including the Big Muddy and Cucalorus film festivals. The film won third place in the UNCG Sustainability Film Series and Best Experimental Film at the Reynolda Film Festival. A reviewer from the Ann Arbor Film Festival described the film as vibrant and decidedly original.
Shot with a simple Flip MinoHD camera attached to her bike, the film follows the path of Sea's bike tire as it transitions across a variety of landscapes and terrains.
The response to the film, her first as a graduate student, has taken Sea by surprise. It was such a fun film to make, she said. It combined two things I love new technology and riding my bike. Even after seeing it for what feels like a million times, it still makes me smile every time I watch it. I am glad it makes other people smile, too.
One has made a name for herself in folk music circles for her fierce banjo playing with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The other is a rising star with multiple talents as a singer, actress and model. But when you combine Cheryse McLeod Lewis '01 and Rhiannon Giddens, what may seem like artistic contradictions meld into beautiful music.
The two make up the classical vocal duo Eleganza, and recently released their first album, Because I Knew You…. The CD features a mix of songs as diverse as the performers' backgrounds, varying from musical theatre and Negro spirituals to sacred music and opera (Listen to clips: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/Eleganza).
The Greensboro natives started Eleganza in 2003 after meeting at their non-musical day job for an executive benefits company. Both classically trained vocalists Giddens is a soprano, Lewis a mezzo-soprano they decided to perform a concert together. They were encouraged by the response they received from the crowd and the sheer joy they found creating music together.
Soon after, they started tossing around the idea of making a record. The CD, the duo's first, was a labor of love five years in the works.
It was good to finally realize that dream that we had been talking about for so many years and that we'd wanted to do for so long, said Lewis. It was really a sense of accomplishment and a lot of fun.
And while the artists are busy working on their individual projects, they're committed to seeing Eleganza flourish.
We're both busy enough to not do it, but it's important enough to us and we're passionate enough about it that we want to keep it going, Lewis added.
Three poets with UNCG connections are featured in a book about the work of six Southern writers.
John Lang's new book Six Poets from the Mountain South addresses the themes of religion and home in the works of Professor Emeritus Fred Chappell, Kathryn Stripling Byer '68 MFA and Robert Morgan '68 MFA. The works of Jim Wayne Miller, Jeff Daniel Marion and Charles Wright are included as well.
One of the major effects of the poetry of these six Appalachian writers is to revivify the natural world, to encourage readers to see the miraculous in the common, in Emerson's phrase in Nature, Lang writes in his introduction.