Today we feature first-generation college student Luis Ozoria, a senior Jazz studies major from Galloway (Atlantic County). Luis has been a part of the jazz band, wind ensemble, some time in the orchestra, small jazz ensembles, Rowan brass band and the choir.
Why did you choose your major?
I always knew I wanted to go into music, but coming to Rowan I was not necessarily sure what in music I wanted to do. When you are in regular schooling like elementary school to high school you see classical music pretty commonly. So I started as a Music Education major and I figured everyone goes to music ed. It’s just a safe thing to do and studying classical music is very normal but the opportunity came that I got to study classical and jazz here. I really liked it even though I was not very knowledgeable of it. This staff really promoted that I could learn it here. So I took advantage of it and completely switched to jazz. It was the spring of my sophomore year that I made the switch.
What do you want to do with your degree?
I came into school as a music education major because I wanted to teach and I still really want to teach. But I want to do something closer to what the jazz professors do. I want to play and have a career but I want to use that to influence students in the future. I want to be a professor, I want to run a jazz studies department and I want to prepare kids who want to play as well. Currently I am applying for graduate programs in the tri-state area.
Tell me about a club or group of friends that made Rowan feel at home for you?
Actually, this is the reason why I switched my major. It was the other people in the Jazz department. Specifically out of all the programs in the music department the jazz studies is one of the smallest ones and I can probably count all the people in the major right now. But the community is so tight and together. One thing we do is go out and see other schools and professionals play. We are so small that we always got together before COVID-19 obviously and would go and see people play. That is what made me feel really secure here. We were all very promoting of each other. Promoting growth and we were not judgmental of where we were. We were all at different levels. Some people came in stronger than others. But we all wanted each other to grow and we are all now applying to the same graduate schools. So that is definitely what made me comfortable at Rowan.
You mention security, do you think the professors had any part in that too?
Definitely. What I think is so cool about this school is their professors that they hire have a big influence. A lot of them are alumni of the school and are very local people. They give you a lot of realistic examples of what it means to be in this area. They have a bunch of outside connections and they have done touring and things like that. They are very supportive and very honest and that was one of the big things that I have received. They would say things like “You are going to be fine” and “You are succeeding in this, but you should take a lot at this because this is an element that would take you farther if you focus on it a little more.” So I would definitely say they are very big mentors and it was not very specific to your instrument. It is literally anyone in the jazz program and anyone in the classical program. It is definitely a community.
Was there any professor in particular that has had an impact on you?
Yes, my classical trumpet professor, Bryan Appleby-Wineberg. He is great. He has really shown me that you can be excellent without giving up too much of your life. A lot of people talk about when people go into the arts they go crazy because they are so passionate about something that they kind of forget who they are. But he is so humble and since he was a kid he has wanted to be a teacher. He is an amazing trumpet player but his goal has always been to be amazing at trumpet to be an amazing teacher. He balances his life really well. He does a lot of things, he has a podcast, he is a photographer, has a family and I really admire that. He shows us that it is possible to be great in all ways.
Is there anything you want to mention?
I feel like this is a really good school to have aspirations even if you’re not positive what track you should be on. You can come here and have a faculty that is going to support you and guide you to where you want to be. Especially with my own personal situation, I did not come here wanting to be a performance major in jazz. I am behind the game theoretically more than people who have been ready to do this since they were born. So it is really good to know that I have been pushed to a direction that is don’t waste your time doing these things, I know where you want to be so this is what you have gotta do. Rowan in general is a teaching school we don’t require that you come here already knowing something but we are going to let you leave with something.
Any advice for someone who may be coming in as a similar situation as you.
I feel like I was also very strong in deciding who my mentors were going to be and what goals I had for myself. One thing I wish I did earlier was figuring out what I wanted from a year from now, 3 years, when I graduated and so on. It would of helped me navigate exactly what I want and created a timeline to get it. I did that a little later in my career but I still did it and it helped a lot. I wish I did it earlier and when I came in and clearly defined what I wanted from the school. One thing I did well was finding a mentor and becoming close with professors that I knew would be able to guide me.
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Story and photography by: Stephanie Batista, sophomore Music Industry major