Caribbean trumpeters bring the beats

April 30, 2013

Ovid Williams and Kyle Mills

By Tim Belter ’13

When the cold, blustery winds of winter blow, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would leave the sunny Caribbean for the gray Midwest, but for two students from St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Bradley’s music program played an irresistible tune.

“Bradley has a good program, and the teachers are always willing to help out,” said Ovid Williams, a senior music major. “They’ve definitely taken me to a whole different level.”

Williams and his childhood friend Kyle Mills, a senior music performance major, are trumpeters in Bradley’s Jazz Ensemble. Both were born and raised on St. Thomas and began playing music at an early age. Williams was singing and playing piano by age five and started learning trumpet at 12. Mills has played trumpet for most of his life after his cousin, also a trumpeter, sparked his interest.

Moving to a new country to pursue a passion can be difficult, but having a familiar face, along with many new friendly faces, makes things easier.

“Although it was uncomfortable at first, I’m very comfortable now,” Williams said of his choice to attend Bradley. “I’ve made some good friends here.”

They first heard of the University when another friend of theirs from home came to the Hilltop to study music. The pair later visited her on campus. Although they both initially went off to separate colleges, Williams and Mills transferred to Bradley in 2010 and will graduate this May.

Dr. Todd Kelly, associate professor of trumpet and director of the Bradley Jazz Ensemble, said working with the two students has been a joy. He first met the duo when they came to Bradley with their high school band director and former Bradley trumpet student Dionne Donadelle ’02.

“I gave each of them a lesson, and they both told me on the spot that they had decided to transfer to Bradley,” Dr. Kelly said. “They are respectful and work very hard. Kyle and Ovid are just great people.”

In their travels, the students have discovered that music is an important part of people’s lives everywhere, but certain differences make each place unique.

“Music is a tool that humans use to express themselves,” said Williams. “We all use it for the same purpose.”

“Back home, people appreciate the art more,” Mills said. “But the music scene, if I want to do big things, is better in the States.”

Through Bradley, they’ve gotten to do some big things already, such as playing a series of concerts in Italy and in the Bradley Jazz Festival.

“Playing on a big stage for 4,000 people, that was an experience for me,” said Mills. “It was amazing.”

Kyle Mills will return to the balmy waters of the Caribbean in June.   He has accepted a position as a lead trumpet in the big band on board the Norwegian Cruise Lines.