Sound travels as UCO Jazz Ensemble visits Spain and Portugal

(Photo: Joy Neel)

Students from Jazz Ensemble 1 at the University of Central Oklahoma are preparing for a jazz tour of Portugal and Spain beginning July 7, which allows them to perform for international audiences.  

This will be the first time the ensemble is able to travel internationally since 2010. Brian Gorrell, director of the ensemble, said the program had planned to do an international trip every 10 years but it had to be delayed because of travel and safety complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The ensemble will be on the tour for seven days during the all-expenses-paid trip. Gorrell said that numerous donors made this trip possible for the band.

The group will play three 90-minute sets in Lisbon, Portugal and Grenada, Spain. The biggest performance will be at the Grenada Music Festival.

They also have plans to visit Cascais, Estoril, Cabo da Roca, Belem, Seville, and Madrid.

“It’s beyond a learning experience, it’s a transformational experience,” Gorrell said. “It’s a huge deal to travel internationally and experience how other cultures, other people, react to American jazz music.”

Mason Longey, a trombone player in the ensemble, said that he is both excited and nervous to play in front of an international audience.

“Jazz is more prominent in other countries than in the United States, so I’m nervous that they’ll have a higher bar that we’ll have to pass to be good,” said Longey. “But more importantly, I want to enjoy my time there and not worry about that.”

Samuel Vaughn, an alto saxophone player in the ensemble, said that he has traveled across the United States with the ensemble, but this is his first time traveling out of the country with his classmates.

Vaughn said that he is looking forward to the performances the most.

“As a soloist, there’s pressure on playing a good solo in the moment,” Vaughn said. “But that’s the fun of playing jazz, and I’m thankful to do it with great musicians who I love to play with.

(Photo: Joy Neel)


The ensemble will depart from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport on July 7. They will arrive at their first stop in Lisbon, Portugal on July 8.

The first official day in Lisbon will include tours of historic and cultural sites in Cascais, Estoril, and Cabo de Roca.

The students will hold their first performance on July 9 at Forte de Albarquel, Setúbal. The ensemble partnered with the Setúbal City Council who included the performance in their city concert series.

On July 10, the students have another day of excursions planned including a visit to the Lisbon Cathedral, Belem, and Padrao dos Descobrimentos. Another performance is scheduled in Lisbon at Ruinas du Carmo that night.

The ensemble will travel to Seville for one night before moving to Grenada on July 12. In Grenada, they will tour La Capilla Real de Grenada and the Grenada Cathedral before attending the Grenada Music Festival. They will hold their final performance at Parque San Sebastian de Ogílares later that night.

For the remainder of the trip, the group will reside in Madrid where they will visit Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol before returning to the United States on July 14.

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