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Jazz Ensembles

The VCU Jazz community fosters the spirit of creative exploration. Our faculty and students have numerous opportunities for creative expression in the department’s jazz orchestras and small jazz ensembles. Jazz Studies ensembles and orchestras have received recognition and top honors for their performances and recordings. Ranging from small jazz combos to big band, the jazz ensembles incorporate a variety of styles and works.

Spring 2017 Audition Dates

As noted in the Jazz Handbook, students aiming to return to a Small Jazz Ensemble will not have to re-audition in January. In lieu of auditions, the Director of Jazz Studies uses input from your studio teachers as well as your Fall ensemble performances.

 

However, if interested in an SJE you must upload your schedule to the URL provided below by the listed deadline — which is shown in the Handbook and on the Jazz bulletin board as Tuesday, January 17 by 4:30 p.m. Please note that this is the first day of classes.

 

The Jazz Director will be traveling most of the first week of the Spring semester (directing an all-state high school jazz band) so will be strongly encouraging you to upload your schedule the week before classes begin. You can always adjust your private lessons to work around SJEs, and he will check in with the large-ensemble directors for their placement-updates before placing you in an SJE.

 

All ensemble placement is subject to space availability. Once the ensemble placements are posted during that first week of Spring classes, each student is responsible for properly registering for or dropping from the SJE course as designated.

Audition Information and Requirements

All interested students are required to read the applicable portions of the VCU Jazz Studies Handbook  [PDF] regarding audition scheduling and policies.

We are no longer using paper grids for jazz ensemble (JO and SJE) availability. Through an online system, you will provide your interest in various ensembles, your schedule of conflicts regarding ensembles, and your related contact information. Complete it prior to your audition. Visit http://jazzschedule.vcu.edu/registration/register (optimized for Firefox) starting Monday, January 9. to enter your information. You may only do so once. Information entered prior to January 9 may be erased. For instructions, see the Student Schedule Instructions.

There are no sign-ups for Spring on the Jazz bulletin board outside Music Center 2014. Returning students will be evaluated as noted above. New students must contact ajgarcia@vcu.edu immediately.
Below describes typical audition expectations.
  • Horns: Unaccompanied performance of a melody and, if possible, improvised solo over a tune of your choice, especially swing, bossa, Afro-Cuban and samba. You may be asked to perform an accompanied improvised solo over a tune of your or the jurors’ choice, as well as basic scales to assess range, tone and/or technique.
  • Piano: Performance of a melody and accompaniment and, if possible, improvised solo over a tune of your choice, especially swing, bossa, Afro-Cuban and samba. You may be asked to perform basic scales to assess range, tone and/or technique, as well as comping of a variety of styles on request, especially swing, bossa and samba.
  • Guitar and bass: Performance of a melody and, if possible, improvised solo over a tune of your choice, especially swing, bossa, Afro-Cuban and samba. You may be asked to perform an accompanied improvised solo over a tune of your or the jurors’ choice, as well as basic scales to assess range, tone and/or technique, and comping of a variety of styles on request, especially swing, bossa and samba.
  • Drums: Unaccompanied performance of a variety of styles on request, including swing, ballad, waltz, bossa, samba and Afro-Cuban, plus possibly trading fours. Drummers are required to bring their own cymbals, hi-hat clutch, sticks and brushes.
  • Percussion: Unaccompanied performance of styles including bossa, samba and Afro-Cuban. Congas, bongos and some hand percussion are available at the audition.
  • All: Sight-reading as provided by the jurors.

Required Rhythmic Reading

All students auditioning for jazz ensembles must download the following jazz rhythm documents: Audition Rhythms sheet and practice with swing and even eighths to prepare for your audition. Bring this sheet with you to your audition as you may be asked to start and stop at any measure.

You are also expected to review the examples below.
Since swing phrasing typically presents a greater challenge than even-eighths, this page is marked to reveal how and why medium-swing phrases are articulated. While viewing this sheet online, click “Example 1” in the upper-left corner to hear a sound-file of the audition rhythms being played with acceptable style. Practice reading either of these two sheets while listening to the sound-file to check to check your playing for errors.
jazz-rhythem1
An additional example (below) also allows you to view and listen to the audition rhythms being played with unacceptable style, followed by proper phrasing. Click “Example 2” in the upper-left corner to hear a sound-file of the audition rhythms being played with unacceptable style.
jazz-rhythem2