New UNT jazz professor brings worldwide experience to the classroom

New UNT jazz professor brings worldwide experience to the classroom

New UNT jazz professor brings worldwide experience to the classroom
November 06
17:36 2017

Between international guitar competitions, tours in South America and a Japanese record label, Davy Mooney has had quite the worldly experience in music.

However, his career shifted from performing to teaching when he accepted an offer to teach jazz guitar at UNT.

Mooney’s interest in music began at 3 years old when he began playing the piano. After realizing he did not have much interest in the instrument, he instead switched to guitar when he was 9 years old and instantly loved it.

“At first, I was into rock ‘n’ roll and watched a lot of videos on MTV,” Mooney said. “I got into jazz when I was about 14 because my uncle played jazz piano.”

He attended a performing arts high school in New Orleans and then came to study at the UNT College of Music. After graduating, he returned to New Orleans to perform his music and came in third place in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, which helped progress his musical career.

“I was displaced after Hurricane Katrina and ended up in New York,” Mooney said. “I started playing there, and I think my performances and my experience in the competition really made things start to happen in my career.”

He soon became involved with a Japanese record label called LateSet Records and began performing in Japan, which led to him participating with the Thelonious Monk Institute, a nonprofit music education organization.

“Through that program, I met a lot of people and hooked up with a lot of great musicians,” Mooney said.

He then snagged a record deal with Sunnyside Records and organized various international tours in countries such as Mexico and Brazil, which he has been doing for the past five years.

“I enjoy going to all these places and performing with the locals,” Mooney said. “I get to see how musicians perform in different countries, and that’s a really cool experience.”

When he discovered the previous jazz guitar professor for UNT retired, Mooney decided to apply for the position. After going through the long and competitive process of interviews and applications, he eventually landed the job.

“The last professor retired at a time in my career where I had enough experience on my resume to apply,” Mooney said. “So far, the students here have been really inspiring to me. They always keep me on my toes. Every day, I have to challenge myself to be on top of things or they might leave me in their dust.”

Although Mooney has had jobs teaching at universities in the past, this is the first time in his career that teaching is his main profession.

“It’s nice to have just one job as opposed to five or six,” Mooney said. “I was always teaching at different universities, but this is the first time I’ve had a full-time teaching position at one place. It’s also nice to be at a great institution like this where all the students are at such a high level.”

Mooney’s colleagues and those in the program enjoy the atmosphere he provides for his students. Ethan Stalbaum, a jazz studies master student and one of Mooney’s teaching fellows, admires the knowledge he brings to the class.

“Davy has been a fantastic addition to the jazz program,” Stalbaum said. “He has a very deep understanding and appreciation for the tradition of jazz. His depth of knowledge is so inspiring.”

Aside from his array of experiences and knowledge of jazz, Mooney brings his own method of teaching while also following the lessons the previous professor, Fred Hamilton, taught before him.

“What I’ve been enjoying the most about studying with Dr. Mooney is his interest on embracing Professor Hamilton’s legacy while at the same time introducing new approaches in the guitar department,” said Daniel Pinilla, another teaching fellow and jazz studies master student.

Mooney also works to ensure every student progresses in their music. Through his teaching and what he has learned from his experiences in his career, he knows ways in which he can help each student.

“Davy pushes each student to work hard and challenge themselves,” Stalbaum said. “He always provides helpful and unique insight on every student he encounters.”

Pinilla also enjoys working with Mooney because of his lighthearted demeanor and eagerness to engage with people. Whether it is teaching students or just seeing what is going on around the school, Mooney is happily willing to get involved.

“He is an amazing player with a special ability to notice what aspects students should work on in order to advance to the next level,” Pinilla said. “He’s also very enthusiastic about everything that is happening in school and with his students.”

Mooney’s passion for both music and teaching centers around his love for playing jazz. Although he loves traveling and the unique opportunities he has had in his career, his main joy is playing his music.

“I really enjoy performing, whether it’s with students in lessons or with a band on stage,” Mooney said. “I just love jazz. I have since I started playing it, and I still do. It’s as simple as that.”

Featured Image: David Mooney plays guitar in his office. Mooney said he doesn’t teach but instead jams with his students. Zoee Acosta

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Ashlee Winters

Ashlee Winters

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