It’s not unusual to see Steve Haines jamming alongside his students at Tate Street Coffee House on a Thursday night.
Since the professor of jazz arrived on the UNC Greensboro campus nearly 20 years ago, he’s been deeply invested in the musical development and personal growth of his students. Often, this means jam sessions and local performances together, and informal gatherings to talk about music.
It’s a personal touch that’s hard to find at other top jazz programs across the country.
“The focus here is the quality of our students’ learning. We have intense auditions and we accept fewer musicians, but it allows our jazz faculty to really mentor our students,” Haines explains. “We offer a world-class education for a small percentage of what others are paying.”
The Spartan Jazz Collective is one way that students in the Miles Davis Jazz Studies Program work closely with faculty. The jazz septet includes a few faculty and a handful of students who rotate in and out of the group. Each semester, the group picks an artist to focus on – this time it’s jazz legend Herbie Hancock – and students create their own unique arrangements of the artist’s songs.
The work often culminates in a public performance. The current group will bring the music of Hancock to Greensboro’s Carolina Theatre this week, with a special performance on Friday, Nov. 16. In February, Hancock will visit campus as part of the University Concert and Lecture Series.
In addition to teaching, mentoring, and performing with students, Haines has performed on about 20 albums and has produced three as the leader. In February, he’ll release a new album, “Steve Haines and the Third Floor Orchestra,” featuring Becca Stevens, Joey Calderazzo, and fellow UNCG faculty member Chad Eby, in addition to a full symphony orchestra.
Haines’ career has been one marked by success and creative fulfillment – and Haines wants the same for his students.
Jazz is a lifetime – students can’t learn everything in four years. Therefore, the jazz faculty is focused on teaching students how to learn. Haines’ job is to introduce students to concepts and expose them to as much music as he can, and then allow the students to choose their own path.
After they graduate, faculty members continue to keep in touch with former students.
“Our faculty has a lot of contacts, so we introduce our graduates to others in the industry,” Haines says. “I’m really passionate about music, and I try to share all of my experiences with my students to help make them more successful.”
It’s a recipe of proven success for students, and one that keeps Haines passionate about his work.
“What I love about our program is to see how far our students can come in four years and how far they can develop musically. That’s really rewarding for me.”
To learn more the UNCG Miles Davis Jazz Studies Program, visit the program’s webpage.
Check out the Q&A with Haines in the video below.
Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications
Videography by Grant Evan Gilliard, University Communications