Jazz Studies


The Bachelor of Music, Performance Concentration, Jazz Studies Option is a professional degree program that offers instrumental students a balanced course of study in performance and academic classes to help them develop their skills as jazz artists and educators. Jazz Studies students can study jazz history, theory, improvisation, pedagogy, and composition and arranging, in addition to taking private lessons with traditional applied faculty and jazz specialists. 

The degree is intended to give the student the necessary skills to pursue a career in performing jazz and other popular styles while also learning the core performance skills and musicological knowledge of a traditional Bachelor of Music in Performance. Jazz Studies is designed to prepare students to perform jazz at a high level in public performance and continue graduate work in jazz and other genres. 

Ensembles in the Jazz Studies area consist of two large jazz ensembles and two smaller jazz combos. The ensembles and combos expose students to classic and contemporary jazz literature and styles and emphasize quality performance and education. 

The B.M., Performance Concentration, Jazz Studies Option and a music minor are available to undergraduate jazz students who play the following instruments:  

  • Saxophone 
  • Trumpet 
  • Trombone 
  • Percussion 
  • Piano 
  • Double Bass 
  • Guitar 

 While CSU Music does not offer a graduate jazz degree, a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) for the Jazz Area is offered and includes a stipend. The jazz GTA position is awarded to a graduate student with jazz experience and is usually a 2-year appointment. The GTA duties include directing one or two combos, serving as the jazz librarian, and general assistance with Jazz Area operations, working with Wil Swindler, director of Jazz Bands. CSU graduate students are welcome to audition for jazz ensembles and combos and take lessons with jazz faculty. Contact Wil Swindler for jazz GTA position details. 

Auditions for the jazz ensembles are open to all CSU students. Ensemble audition excerpts and instructions are available at music.colostate.edu/auditions.

Program-level Learning Objectives

  • Ability to perform music from a variety of historical/ style periods and exhibit the appropriate skills for musical self-expression in juried performances. These skills include technique, musicianship, tone, diction/articulation, style, interpretation, sight-reading, rhythm, improvisation, and artistry.
  • Keyboard skills.
  • The capacity to create original or derivative music in the jazz idiom as an improviser and composer/arranger
  • Understanding of the common elements and organizational patterns of music, including musical forms, processes, and structures.
  • Knowledge of music history and repertory, including representative composers and works according to the area of specialization, as well as study and experiences with music in addition to that of the primary culture encompassing the area of specialization.
  • Students are also expected to learn music literature from all periods through aural and score analysis. Performance skills are tested at the end of the sophomore year and in a graduation recital if required by the degree option. Some programs require satisfactory completion of supervised student teaching, an internship, or a senior project.

Jazz Studies students are highly encouraged to develop their talents in the context of a wide musical world while still learning the classic music of the jazz masters.

  • The select nature of the CSU Jazz Program gives students the opportunity for more individual attention and time with their faculty mentors.
  • Students develop skills that can be immediately applied to a range of career performance opportunities, both on and off campus.
  • Students get to learn from and perform with a wide range of regular guest artists and clinicians. Past guests include John Fedchock, John Riley, Dave Pietro, Paul McKee, Walt Weiskopf, Scott Wendholt, Rich Perry, Greg Gisbert, Zach Brock, Erik Deutsch, Art Lande, Nguyen Le, Ron Miles, Michael Weiss, and many more.
  • Repertoire for our two big bands and multiple small combos includes classic literature and modern music, and students are pushed to write and arrange their own music to share with their peers and the public in our regular concerts each semester.

Audition Requirements

In addition to the performance degree audition requirements listed on the individual instrument web pages, students must also audition for the jazz area.

  • Prepare two jazz standards and/or classics of your choice, including melody and improvisation (accompaniment will be provided, or the auditioning student can provide an audio track)
    • Pianists should also be prepared to play accompaniment (comp) on the chord progression
    • Bassists should also be prepared to play a bass line in the appropriate style on the chord progression
    • Drummers should prepare multiple jazz styles including swing, bossa nova, samba, ballad, funk and rock, as well as ¾ time. Drummers should also be prepared to demonstrate knowledge of blues and AABA form.
  • Sight reading will also be included in all auditions

Study With

Wil Swindler

  • Instructor of Music
  • Coordinator of Jazz Studies
  • Director of Jazz Bands


Peter Sommer

  • Professor of Music
  • Director of the Department of Music


Jazz Studies Events

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Jazz Studies News

Wil Swindler's Elevenet

Jazz professor Wil Swindler featured at Jazz Education Network Conference


The head of CSU Jazz Studies, Wil Swindler, and his band, The Elevenet were featured performers at the 2023 Jazz Education Network Conference. The fourteenth annual conference was held on Jan. 4-7 in Orlando, Florida. According to the organization’s website, the conference offers a variety of events, including sessions and clinics to fit every attendee’s […]

Peter Sopmmer playing saxophone

Saxophone Professor Peter Sommer is making music!


CSU Music Professor, Peter Sommer, has had a prolific season of music-making. Here are recent activities by the head of CSU’s Woodwind Area: Soulful Songs and Spirits, original music and arrangements for jazz sextet was released in June by the Peter Sommer Septet. According to the KUVO Jazz calendar, the release was inspired by his […]

2018 Rocky Mountain Saxophone Summit promotional poster

The Rocky Mountain Saxophone Summit


By Viola Cai, Publicity Intern “It is almost like a saxophone party!” The Rocky Mountain Saxophone Summit at the University Center for the Arts invites saxophonists of all ages and levels to join their party. There will be masterclasses during daytime and a capstone recital in the evening. Tim Glesmann from Sax Alley will be […]

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