TSU Jazz Collegiates Help Open Exchange Opportunities in Colombia Through Music

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is hoping a trip to Colombia, South America this summer by the University’s Collegiate Jazz Band will open doors for both educational and cultural exchange opportunities for students in the near future.

This past August, the 20-piece jazz band was invited to perform at the Flower Festival, Colombia’s largest jazz festival that attracts thousands from around the country. Acting as ambassadors for the University, the band was the only American university to perform, exposing more than 6,000 attendees to their special brand of music and performance style.

“They were basically treated like rock stars,” said Dr. Jewell Winn, TSU Chief Diversity Officer. “They were able to bridge the cultural gap through their music. The band was very well received wherever they went, and not only helped to open doors for other TSU students to travel here, but also students from Colombia to come to Tennessee State as part of cultural and academic exchange programs.”

The trip came about after Dr. Winn gave a presentation last spring on diversity and exchange programs currently taking place at the University.  The Director of the Colombo Americano Center of Medellin also presented at the meeting and extended an invitation to TSU, Julliard and the University of Vermont to conduct jazz workshops at local universities throughout Colombia.  This initiative was so successful that after the quartet returned to Nashville, Winn received a call not only inviting the Jazz Collegians to perform at the Mardi Gras-style festival, but also inviting her to meet with different universities to discuss exchange opportunities.

(Watch the Tennessee State University’s Big Band Jazz in Medellín, Colombia)


“It was exciting because I was able to meet with university officials one-on-one to discuss study abroad and exchange projects,” she added. “I missed the Education USA conference due to other commitments, so to be given this personal opportunity to meet with university and government officials, and students in Medellin, Bucaramanga, and Choco, was quite exciting.”

During the seven-day trip, Winn met with five different universities including the University of Antioquia, ESUMER University, the Technological University of Choco, EAFIT University and Pontifica Bolivariana University.

During each visit, according to Winn, administrators were interested in exchange programs with TSU faculty to conduct research and teach at their institutions as well as providing opportunities for their students to attend graduate school at TSU.

“It was all about establishing relationships with these sister institutions,” added Winn.  “The next step is to sign Memorandums of Understanding. This is the perfect opportunity to recruit high-achieving students from Latin American countries to attend TSU, especially because of the growth of the Latino population in Nashville.”

While Dr. Winn was visiting universities around the capitol city, the Collegiate Jazz Band was busy preforming not only at the festival, but smaller venues such as malls and schools.

“It really was an eye-opening experience for us,” said James Sexton, Director of Collegiate Bands. “It showed that no matter the cultural or language difference, that music really is something that transcends any cultural gap.”

The band played six concerts during their seven-day stay, and according to Sexton, at least 3,000 people attended each.

“It was a thrill to see the audience and their excitement for each of our performances,” added Sexton.  “The audiences had never experienced the high-energy type shows we perform and they showed their appreciation through multiple standing ovations. Their love of music definitely showed through.”

Both Winn and Sexton believe the trip was successful as far as planting the seeds of future exchange programs. In the near future, Colombian students will attend TSU band camps to learn the mechanics and performance styles of a marching band, and in an unprecedented move, the entire Aristocrat of Bands has been invited to perform in the 2014 Flower Festival.

“This is going to allow us to provide cross-cultural experiences to our students so they can appreciate and learn the differences we all have especially now in a shrinking global environment,” said Winn.



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With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university and is a comprehensive, urban, coeducational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top Universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912 Tennessee State University celebrates 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu