Jazz Studies & Performance


Jazz Studies : FAQs

(Ten Most Frequently Asked Questions)

What are you looking for on my audition recording?

When creating your audition recording (suggested selections are listed in the Audition Information section of this website), choose selections that: 1) showcase your instrumental or vocal ability, including tone, phrasing, range and technical command; 2) show that you are able to improvise over sophisticated chord progressions (i.e., progressions that modulate or change key and require "playing over the changes"). We do not require a studio-quality recording. The recording should be clear, with not a lot of reverberation, echo or extraneous noise, and the instruments should be easily discernable.

Why are your auditions by recording only? Why no live auditions?

Currently, we have 24 U.S. states and nine foreign countries represented in the Program. Because our tuition rates are quite a bit lower than some of the other major jazz programs, finances are often a major consideration for our applicants. We have found that a significant number of applicants cannot afford the cross-country or international trip to New Jersey for a final, live audition round. Consequently, we made the decision over a decade ago to have all of our auditions via recording. Although some applicants thrive on the live audition situation, we find that most applicants feel confident submitting a recording that is their "best stuff," that represents the best of their playing.

How difficult is it to get admitted to the Jazz Studies Program? I've heard it's a very small program.

We are a purposely small program, with about 65 undergraduates and approximately 20 graduate students. There are approximately 10 students on each instrument or voice. The small size of the Program allows for a great deal of personal interaction between faculty and students; our typical classroom size is 12 students. We admit students only when a vacancy is created by the graduation of one of our current students. Consequently, we usually have about 3-4 openings in each instrument studio every fall. We accept about one in six or seven applicants. Some instruments such as saxophone, drums and guitar have more applicants, while others have fewer.

What does a typical fall freshman class schedule look like for a Jazz Studies major?

A typical freshman schedule includes a weekly private instrument or voice lesson, two small jazz ensembles each meeting twice per week (once with the faculty director and once independently), Jazz Improvisation, Music Theory, Eartraining, Class Piano, and one general education course.

What percentage of the degree program consists of music courses, and how much of the program is non-music General Education courses?

Our Jazz Studies degree contains a total of 130 credit hours. 100 credits of these are jazz courses and Music Department courses such as Music Theory. The other 30 of those overall degree credits (ten courses) are in such general studies areas as English, World History, Sociology, Psychology, Communications, Art or Theater, Math or Science, etc. There is no language requirement for the Jazz Program; there is one 3-credit requirement that may be a math or science course.

Are there performance opportunities for Jazz Studies students?

There are many! There are three types of performance opportunities for all jazz majors.

The first type is the required performances that their ensembles present every semester. Each of our 24 small groups, as well as the Jazz Orchestra, Latin Jazz Ensemble and Vocal Jazz Workshop present at least one performance per semester either as an opening act on the award-winning Jazz Room concert series, on the Midday Concert Series, or on the Java and Jazz series in the Student Center. Also, they each participate in one Dialogue Day, when they perform a selection and are critiqued by their peers and by the faculty.

The second type consists of the many on- and off-campus performer requests that come into the Jazz Office every semester. These can range from playing feature concerts as community events and on campus, to playing background music for receptions, parties, etc. These are paid performances, and are given to all upperclass students on a rotating basis; those upperclass students often, in turn, hire newer students to be in their groups.

The third type of performance opportunity is the "real world." Jazz students are encouraged to put together demo recordings and press kits, to approach club and restaurant owners on an ongoing basis to get "real gigs." A great percentage of our students are working steadily in the enormous but competitive music market in the New York metropolitan area.

Do Jazz students go into New York City often? How do they get there?

Yes, constantly, on a weekly basis. Our campus is located 18 miles from midtown Manhattan, and we are part of the New York jazz community. From our suburban location at the right time of day (i.e., not during the rush hours!), that trip takes less than an hour. Our students take full advantage of hearing the major jazz performances that occur each week in New York City, as well as attending the jam sessions that happen at many New York jazz clubs. There are student discounts available at a number of clubs.

Although there is public transportation available from the Wayne area to New York City, our students usually carpool. This is because their return trip home from a jazz club often begins after the last buses have left for the night. The art of on-the-street Greenwich Village parking is quickly learned, and the cost of driving and tolls is about equal to a bus fare.

What type of scholarships are available?

There are some smaller ($500-750) talent-based scholarships available from the Thad Jones Memorial Scholarship and the James Williams Memorial Scholarship. All of the large scholarships are academic-based; these are the Presidential Scholarships and Trustee Scholarships, which are full-tuition, four-year scholarships awarded to incoming freshman and some transfer students who are academically excellent. Interested applicants may apply for Presidential and Trustee Scholarships through the Admissions Office.

Do I get private instrument/voice lessons?

Applied private instrument or voice lessons are given on a weekly basis, twelve weeks per semester, to all jazz majors. There is never a need for students to travel to teachers' off-campus studios; all lessons are given in the Shea Performing Arts Center building, by members of the regular faculty who are world-class New York jazz performers and recording artists.

How do I get placed into an ensemble in the Jazz Program?

Ensemble assignments are made by the Director and Coordinator of Jazz Studies in the week prior to the start of each semester. Students may also request to form a Concept Group, which is an ensemble dedicated to the study and performance of one artist, composer, or genre; these requests are granted based upon the merit of the project and schedule availability of the students and requested faculty.