Van Riley: Jazz saxophonist headed for NYC

Van Riley played with a variety of UMass Dartmouth ensembles.

‌Van Riley '14 of Somerset, MA, is a music major specializing in jazz saxophone. He took advantage of every opportunity to improve his musicianship by playing with a variety of UMass Dartmouth ensembles—from jazz to steelpan, from be-bop to gamelan. Next, Van will re-locate to New York City to begin his musical career.

‌What made you decide to major in music?

I started playing the saxophone in the fifth grade, but my passion started sophomore year of high school. I went to my first real jazz show in Providence and saw the Rhode Island saxophonist Greg Abate. From then on, I’ve held a true love for music. I play alto and tenor saxophone, and my main area of interest is jazz performance.

What has been your experience working with the music faculty?

The music faculty is diversely talented here at UMass Dartmouth. After taking classes and getting to know most of the professors, I've found that each teacher has something that I can take away and use towards improving my overall musicianship. The music department is a very close, tight-knit group of individuals—a big family.

What has been your favorite experience at UMass Dartmouth?

I’ve taken part in a lot of ensembles here—Steelpan Ensemble, African Drum and Dance, Be-bop Improvisation Ensemble. One experience that sticks out is playing with my late professor/private instructor Rick Britto in his Avant-Garde Ensemble. Rick's clear definition and teaching style have made a prominent impact on my playing.

Tell us about one of the ensembles you’ve been involved in.

Gamelan is a traditional Indonesian ensemble we’re lucky to have here at UMass Dartmouth. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to play and learn this music from I.M. Hargito, a great person and teacher.

What are your plans following graduation?

I plan to launch my career as a musician in New York City.

What’s an important lesson you’ve learned?

I've learned to say yes to every opportunity. Accepting opportunities that come my way has made me a better person and musician. Saying no creates boundaries. Students should get involved in everything they can during their short time here at UMass Dartmouth.

College of Visual and Performing Arts, Features