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Ray Vega Joins UVM Faculty, Helps Build Burlington's Reputation as 'Jazz Capital of New England'


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Ray Vega is multi-tasking.

He sat for a chat Wednesday in the University of Vermont Recital Hall, in the same building where the newest faculty member in UVM's jazz-studies program is rushing to set up his new office in time for Tuesday's start of the school year. While in the Recital Hall he fielded a few calls on his cell phone -- two from his wife, Miriam, about work a contractor is doing on the home they're trying to sell back in New York City and one from Alex Stewart, director of the jazz-studies program, asking when Vega wanted to go shopping for a chair for that new office of his.

All of this is happening in a month when the South Bronx native is settling into his new home in South Burlington with his wife and three children. Oh, and the in-demand trumpet player is also a working musician: Vega just returned from a trip to Australia where he taught at a university for a week and played in the continent's concert premiere of the Gil Evans/Miles Davis collaboration “Sketches of Spain."

Playing the trumpet starts with taking a deep breath, something Vega has had to do a lot of lately.

The university's jazz-studies program has been growing, and Vega, 47, raises its profile another notch. He's well known in the field of Latin jazz, having played in the band of one of the genre's giants, Tito Puente. Vega has also released four albums with his own band, two of which came out on Concord Records, the renowned jazz label that listed Puente on its roster.

Vega doesn't just want to increase the profile of UVM's jazz-studies program. He wants that excitement about jazz to trickle down the hill from the campus and infiltrate Burlington not just during 10 days in June with the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival but all year long.

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