DownBeat Magazine, a music publication covering jazz and blues, named The University of Texas at Arlington Latin Combo as the top undergraduate Latin group in the nation at its 45th Annual Student Music Awards.
“The UTA Latin Combo really did an outstanding job at working on the music and preparing for their performances,” says Christian Valdés, adjunct assistant professor of music at UTA and the group’s mentor. “Learning Latin American jazz and music is not an easy challenge, but they really put their hearts into this, and their efforts paid off with this award.”
Drummer Jacob Farr says that when the group found out it had won, he felt “excited, proud and a little shocked.”
“We had all put in maximum effort and hearing that our hard work had paid off was validating,” says Farr.
The jazz studies program has several jazz combos; membership is open to all current students at UT Arlington, regardless of major.
“This not only honors them but all of us in the music program and UTA in general,” Valdés says. “I am very proud of them and look forward to more awards to come.”
Besides Farr, the members of the UTA Latin Combo are Yue Liu and Dylan Brown on saxophone, Rafael Escalera on piano and David Spates Conley on bass.
The DownBeat Student Music Awards are considered the most prestigious awards in jazz education. The students were judged blindly by professional musicians and educators solely on their demonstrated abilities from their submitted recordings.
Before studying at UTA, Farr had participated in a summer jazz camp hosted by the UT Arlington Music Department.
“Seeing the incredible staff working with students and just loving what they were doing drove me to study at UTA,” Farr says. “Jazz in particular is impactful because it gives me a means of expression that isn’t found in other more restrictive styles of music.”