On Sept. 11, 2012, Jay Souweine stood outside Durgin Hall and played a solitary rendition of taps, in honor of the country and all those who died. Across the country, other members of Buglers Across America (BAA) played taps at the same time, the hour the twin towers fell.
Souweine (pronounced Swayne), who has been a bugler for military funerals since he was nine years old, began learning to play trumpet and became the youngest member of BAA.
“Serving with Buglers Across America is a real honor,” says Souweine. “We provide live playing of taps, free of charge, for military funerals, so that vets have the honor they deserve. I’ve seen how moved the family is – taps is haunting music in memory of those who put their lives on the line.”
Military service runs in Souweine’s family. His mother works at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne. His father, both grandfathers and an uncle have been in uniform.
Playing 10 to 20 services each weekend can be physically tiring and climatically challenging – rain, snow, temperatures cold enough to freeze lips to the horn – but is always emotionally uplifting, he says.
On campus, Souweine plays in three groups: concert band, marching band and studio jazz. Ensembles require time and commitment, while each offers its own rewards.
“My primary training is in jazz, but I also love marching band,” he says. “It’s like a giant family and what we do with all the moves is fantastic, it’s making art.”
Souweine is glad he chose a university setting over a conservatory education.
“The university is more rounded,” he says. “You meet people who are not musicians, so you’re not competing constantly. I have friends in history or English. It’s more of a community, where we all have UMass Lowell in common. And for musicians, UMass Lowell is a great place with its programs in sound recording technology, music business and music education. We’re trained so well here, it’s an amazing school.”
In summer 2012, Souweine was an orientation leader, a great way to “learn about the University and about myself,” he says. “I met so many incoming students, all with their own individual personalities and the full range of emotions, from nerves to excitement. I helped show them around the campus, letting them know there is nothing to be afraid of here.”
Souweine also has taught trumpet for many years and enjoys “seeing the sparkle” when a student learns something new.
“As a musician, as a human being, you should not keep knowledge to yourself,” he says. “We should always be giving it away, letting others build their own talent.”
Souweine’s advice to students considering UMass Lowell for college?
“Give it a shot,” he says. “Join us.”