Although Parker Hawkins, ’12, chose a different path for his major, he has made his passion for bass an integral part of his education at the University of Richmond. “Everyone thinks I’m a music major because I’m just always in that building for all hours of the day,” he says.

Hawkins first picked up his father’s bass in sixth grade. He stopped formal lessons after two sessions and taught himself to play. “When I came to Richmond I was pretty competent at playing blues and funk and more simple music, because I always just play by ear,” Hawkins says. However, the demands of the University Jazz Ensemble and his music minor required a deeper understanding of music. “By necessity I figured out how to read music pretty quickly, and my music minor taught me a lot of really useful things about music theory.”

Playing for the Jazz Ensemble has also given Hawkins unexpected professional experience. He says the regular performances at local Richmond clubs and concert halls equipped him with the organizational skills to play music in “real life” settings. “It’s essentially like an internship for a musician,” Hawkins says. “There’s so much more to it than just playing music.”

After building up its repertoire on the local level, the Jazz Ensemble travels abroad annually to perform in international settings. In the last three years, the ensemble has played in Australia, Costa Rica, and Greece. Fortunately for Hawkins — an international studies major with a focus on Latin America — the destination of this year’s spring break trip is southern Spain and Portugal.

“[Because of my major,] I’ve always indirectly had to study Spain,” said Hawkins. “I’m really excited to go to southern Spain where the culture is so rich and there’s flamenco — so much music heritage and great architecture.”

Hawkins’ weaving together of music and international studies isn’t limited to Jazz Ensemble trips. As a junior, he studied abroad in Valparaíso, Chile, where he co-authored a study on the ethnomusicology of Chile during the shift from dictatorship to its current government.

But it’s the Jazz Ensemble trips that offer a stage for Hawkins and his bass. “I was hurting so bad for my bass the entire time I was in Chile,” Hawkins explains, as most Chilean music today is either a single guitar and singer or reggaeton/electronica. “The first thing I did when I got home was [I] hugged my mom and dad and sister, and picked up my bass. It was good to be back.”

Hawkins hopes to learn more about Latin jazz through the trip — a style he never knew before attending Richmond, but has since studied and played extensively alongside Mike Davison, director of the Jazz Ensemble.

“Apparently southern Spain is really into jazz, so hopefully there will be some opportunities to experience that aspect,” Hawkins says. “It’s exciting to become more and more familiar with styles of music that you’re playing.”