What is the Summer Jazz Workshop and when is it held?

The Workshop is a week-long intensive experience in small-group jazz performance and improvisation, for all experience levels, featuring daily jazz classes and rehearsals, performances and concerts led by well-known jazz professionals who are dedicated teachers. It is held during the third week of July every summer.

What student ages and levels can attend the workshop?

Participants are welcome from age 14 and up, or about to go into the ninth grade. In the past, most of our participants were between the ages of 15-17, yet we have had a number of 14-year-olds every year, as well as a small number of college-age participants and adults. This year we are officially opening the workshop to all ages!

The experience level runs from beginner improvisers to advanced, experienced jazz players. Although no improvisation experience is necessary at the beginning level, we do require that participants are able to read music, have at least three years of instrumental or vocal experience, and know their major scales.

How do these different levels all manage to work and learn together?

The opening night of the workshop features placement auditions, where everyone plays informally in a group to determine their level of experience and development. We place participants in class and jazz ensemble levels through the results of these auditions, so they are playing and studying with others at their own level.

What do I need to prepare for the audition on the first day?

We suggest that everyone come to that first workshop day ready to play and improvise on at least one common jazz tune or popular song standard. If participants have not had enough experience to improvise at all, we can place them with that knowledge.

Who teaches at the Summer Jazz Workshop?

The resident faculty of the Summer Jazz Workshop is made up of world-class professional performers who are experienced teachers from our renowned William Paterson University Jazz Studies Program. Ongoing, hourly interaction with these top professionals is at the core of the Summer Workshop curriculum.

Members of the resident staff (all recent graduates of the WP Jazz Studies Program and now young professionals on the New York jazz scene) also serve as teaching assistants. These talented counselor/teaching assistants are performers who make wonderful role models for the participants as they build their own careers in the music industry.

What is a typical weekday schedule at the Jazz Workshop?

There are morning classes in Jazz Improvisation (three levels from beginning to advanced), Jazz History and Listening, and Arranging from 9:00-12:00 p.m. In the afternoon, participants rehearse with their assigned six- to nine- piece small jazz groups for three hours, led by our faculty. These rehearsals are centered around the performance of well-known jazz repertoire, applied jazz improvisation instruction, and rehearsal for the final concert (see details of this concert below).

Every day at 4:00 p.m., all participants and staff gather in Shea Room 101 for a meet-the-artist Q & A with that evening’s guest artist. These sessions give young participants a chance to have personal interaction with some of the biggest names in jazz. Past guests have included legendary pianist and educator Dr. Billy Taylor, trumpeters Clark Terry, Cecil Bridgewater and Ingrid Jensen, saxophonists Frank Wess, Chris Potter and Lenny Pickett, multi-instrumentalist Tom “Bones” Malone from the David Letterman Show and the Blues Brothers Band, and vocalists Freddy Cole and Joe Piscopo in his Sinatra tribute.

Every evening at 7:30 p.m., there is a major concert event upstairs in the 1000-seat Shea Auditorium featuring these major performers. Participants are admitted to these concerts free of charge as part of their enrollment at the Jazz Workshop. Prior to and after the concert, there is time for informal practice, optional private lessons (lesson signups available on the Workshop bulletin board), instrumental and vocal master classes and jam sessions.

What should I bring?

  • Linen, pillow, and towels (Residents only)
  • Emergency Health Form
  • Padlocks (combination preferable) to be used at assigned lockers in Shea Arts Center
  • Music staff notebook and pencil for classes
  • Concert dress for the final concert: dress shirt, slacks and shoes (no t-shirts, jeans or sneakers)
  • All guitarists and bass players must bring their own amp and cords. Secure storage is available.
  • Drummers must bring their own snare drum, sticks, cymbals, stands, bass drum pedal, and seat. PLEASE NOTE: Some drummers will be asked to bring their complete set.

Is there on-campus housing for the Workshop? How is the dormitory supervised?

Workshop participants 17 years old and younger can choose to commute or reside on campus. Those 18 and older must commute; currently we do not have dormitories for adults. Full dormitory housing and meal plan is provided for residents. There is full supervision in the dormitory, with a Resident Assistant on duty at all times, fully trained in case of any emergency. The Summer Jazz Workshop staff, all talented graduates of the renowned WP Jazz Program, live in the dorms, acting as full-time counselors, mentors and chaperones for the participants. The ratio is approximately one counselor for each twelve participants, including female counselors.

What are the schedules for the opening Sunday, and the final Saturday of the weeklong workshop?

Sunday includes registration and move-in during the afternoon, a dinnertime meeting, and placement auditions for the combos and classes after dinner. These are not entry auditions, but are used to place each student at their appropriate level in their ensembles and their classes for the week. The day starts at 2:00 p.m., but it's a busy schedule after that.

Saturday features the Final Concert beginning at 1:00 p.m., usually ending around 4:30 p.m. Participants must be able to perform in this concert to participate in the Workshop. There are nine ensembles featured, each performing a short two-tune set that demonstrates what they have been working on for the week. Families are, of course, invited to this Shea Auditorium event at no admission charge. That Saturday morning is dedicated to final rehearsals, sound checks on the main Shea Auditorium stage, as well as dorm checkout.

What can students hope to gain from attending the Workshop?

The week’s intense but fun-filled schedule often includes as much actual jazz rehearsal and performance as a public school student would encounter in a full year, because participants are performing and playing in ensemble rehearsals, as well as in classes and optional private lessons. Participants make huge advances not only as musicians and players, but also in their own personal confidence and sense of responsibility, as they take on the role of a one-to-a-part member of our small jazz groups.