Jazz Studies

“Wind Machine” by Sammy Nestico
The VCU Jazz Orchestra I performs Sammy Nestico’s “Wind Machine”.

Jumpin’ at the Westside by Antonio García
The VCU Jazz Orchestra I performs director Antonio García’s “Jumpin’ at the Westside” with guest saxophonist Michael Pendowski.
ASCAP/BMI/SESAC: Original Manuscript

The VCU Jazz Studies program offers a professional course of study that teaches the skills required to:

  • Excel in the creation and performance of written and unwritten music (pre-planned and improvised), especially that described by the term “jazz”
  • Consider one’s own educational experiences as a springboard for future teaching and audience development
  • Interact in the world of media, technology and business so as to bring one’s creative works effectively into the public’s awareness and thus sustain a successful career

The VCU Jazz Studies program provides its students outstanding opportunities to pursue jazz performance and writing, as evidenced in part by such successful former students as Steve Wilson (sax, Chick Corea’s Origin); James Genus (bass, Saturday Night Live Band; recordings with Dave Douglas, Michael Brecker, Mike Stern and John Abercrombie); Victor Goines (sax/clarinet, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra; director, Juilliard Jazz Studies); Alvester Garnett (drums, recordings with Abbey Lincoln, Cyrus Chestnut, James Carter); Mark Shim (sax, Blue Note recording artist, member of Terence Blanchard sextet); Al Waters (sax, featured with Ray Charles); Alvin Walker (trombone, Count Basie Orchestra); Daniel Clark (pianist, Mandy Moore, k.d. lang); and Emre Kartari (drums; Jazz Department, Yasar University, Izmir, Turkey).

“Heat Wave” by Irving Berlin
The VCU Jazz Orchestra I performs Ray Santos’ arrangement of Irving Berlin’s “Heat Wave.” ASCAP/BMI/SESAC: ASCAP

Some 60 majors are enrolled in VCU’s Jazz Studies Program, providing a diverse community of students dedicated to playing and writing jazz music. VCU’s student jazz orchestras have been recognized for winning top honors in four appearances at the Notre Dame Intercollegiate Jazz Festival, appearing at the Smithsonian Institution and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festivals and producing eight acclaimed recordings: “The Tattooed Bride,” “Things to Come,” “Mood Indigo,” “The World on a String,” “It Could Happen to You,” “A Joyful Noise,” “Front Burner,” and “Leap of Faith.”

VCU students have benefited from visits by numerous guest artists and clinicians including violinist Joe Kennedy Jr.; vocalist René Marie; saxophonists Steve Lacy, Frank Foster, Benny Carter, Branford Marsalis, George Coleman, Jimmy Heath, Fred Haas, and alumni Victor Goines and Steve Wilson; trumpeters Clark Terry, Woody Shaw, Thad Jones, Wynton Marsalis and Brian Lynch; trombonists Art Baron and Ray Anderson; guitarists Gene Bertoncini and Jimmy Bruno; pianists Jaki Byard, Barry Harris and Billy Taylor; bassists Dave Holland, Chris Lightcap and alumnus James Genus; percussionist Mayra Casales; drummers Louie Bellson, Max Roach and alumnus Alvester Garnett; composer Gunther Schuller; and the Woody Herman and Count Basie orchestras.

If you have questions about the VCU Jazz Studies program, contact Antonio García, director of Jazz Studies, at ajgarcia@vcu.edu or (804) 827-0699.

Interested in auditioning? Please view the jazz studies audition tips.


The faculty of VCU’s Jazz Studies program have been recognized by students, alumni and the jazz community for their accomplishments as musicians, instructors and much more. To learn more about their experience and achievements on the stage, in the classroom and in the community, select a faculty member from the list below.

Jazz Studies Faculty

Faculty Videos

“Moon Alley” by Tom Harrell
Profs. J.C. Kuhl (sax), Antonio García (trombone/vocals), Mike Ess (guitar), Victor Dvoskin (bass), and Tony Martucci (drums) perform Tom Harrell’s “Moon Alley.”

“Moontrane” by Woody Shaw
Profs. J.C. Kuhl (sax), Taylor Barnett (trumpet), Antonio García (trombone), Mike Ess (guitar), Victor Dvoskin (bass), and Tony Martucci (drums) perform Woody Shaw’s “Moontrane.”

Alumni Videos