The University of Richmond's 12-member jazz combo and its director, Mike Davison, took a spring break trip to Greece and played eight gigs in Athens and Thessaloniki.
The group played at sites from the Philharmonic of Greece to Mylos nightclub -- different venues that several jazz members said were some of the country's most popular.
Davison, who has been the Richmond jazz director for 25 years and toured with groups such as Motown and The Temptations, landed the Greece opportunity when a guidance counselor from the American Farm School in Thessaloniki heard his combo perform at a University of Richmond reception. The American Farm School provided the group with free housing and meals for the duration of its stay.
Davison described Greece as a "very friendly society." He said that people outside the United States loved jazz because long after World War II, many countries were not allowed to listen to jazz or watch American movies.
Kati Miller, a freshman tenor saxophone player, said that the audience would fawn after each performance, which made the combo members feel like superstars.
"The trip was amazing and totally unlike anything I was expecting," Miller said.
Sophomore drummer Taylor Wald said, "One of my favorite parts was realizing that no matter where you go, people are all the same -- just living their lives day by day."
Wald also said one of the most rewarding aspects of the trip was being able to play jazz in ways that the Greeks said they had never heard.
Senior vocalist Kerrissa Richards said it was the best spring break she had had during her time at Richmond.
"Greece was amazing, but now all I can think about is feta cheese," she said.
Apart from playing in several performances, the jazz combo had the opportunity to bond over sightseeing and the cuisine. Mt. Olympus, the Acropolis and the Parthenon were among some of the famous landmarks that the group visited.
Dan Schauder, senior guitarist, said that the jazz combo shared strong bonds because of frequent rehearsals, gigs and trips. Schauder and Wald agreed that the group even had a certain on-stage language that manifested from not being able to stop and talk during performances.
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Schauder said, "There is a ton of communication that goes on that isn't verbal."
Senior trumpeter Alex Kelly said: "Performing is a fun experience. It used to get me nervous, but now I love playing off of the crowd's energy and the band's energy."
Several members of the group said Davison, or "Doc" as the group called him, was nothing short of energetic.
"He is very passionate about what he does and is a lot of fun to be around on-and-off stage," Richards said.
Schauder said Davison was a unique aspect of University of Richmond jazz.
"He is such a character," Schauder said. "His philosophy about playing makes us all want to be better players."
Davison said that his favorite part about being Richmond's jazz director was watching the people grow.
"Jazz is music for the moment," he said. "Performance is very special."
Since his start at Richmond, Davison has taken his students on performance trips almost every year, which Richmond's music department and the dean of Arts and Sciences help to fund.
Contact Collegian reporter Markie Martin at email@example.com
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