Conducting a jazz revolution


A practicing jazz trumpeter and senior lecturer for the UVM music department is orchestrating a jazz revolution within the UVM music community.

The product of a fusion of jazz and salsa culture in the heart of New York City, professor Ray Vega’s passion for music connects him with his students and pushes them to succeed.

“When I came here [in 2008] I needed to think are students going to come out of here really playing better and are they going to stay interested in music if they take my classes,” Vega said in his small office, sipping Puerto Rican coffee listening to jazz music.

Vega said that around 90-95 percent of his workload involves direct contact with his students.

He said he believes that in spending time with them, he has the opportunity to show students that hard work and dedication to music leads to a higher quality of life.

“I’ll tell you the truth, 99 percent of them all come to me and say that the music helps to balance out a heavy academic workload. It’s just a left brain right brain thing. They come here and its like ‘woah, this is cool.’”

In his teaching, with classes ranging from nine-piece jazz ensembles to 85 student jazz history lectures, he also tries to show that hard work and dedication leads to success.

“I’ll tell you, the biggest smiles I get from these kids is when everybody gets really really serious, and everybody works, then everybody stops and goes ‘wow, this is really good.’ That’s the proof in the pudding,” Vega said.

For the average UVM student, Vega said people need to slow down and listen to music, something he feels is lacking in our generation.

“When people put headphones in, they hear the music – but do they really listen to it? If theres a certain groove or beat that they like, they should really listen to it and listen intently to it.”

Sitting down quietly and listening to music is key, he said.

“Whatever it is you listen to, listen to it with a little bit more of an educated approach,” Vega said.

Vega said he is also an active participant in the Burlington music community, having a resume boasting appearances at the Flynn Main Stage and the Memorial Auditorium downtown. He  performs on the trumpet regularly with the Ray Vega Quintet in the Burlington area.