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.

Undergraduate 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

Jazz Ensembles Concert: Jazz Modern

September 26, 2024 at 7:30 PM
Jazz Modern Jazz Ensembles I and II, under the direction of Wil Swindler and Shilo Stroman, present a program demonstrating the style of modern jazz. The concert showcases the current state of jazz as art music in America, featuring music from living artists reflecting contemporary life.

Jazz Combos Concert

October 30, 2024 at 7:30 PM
Join us for an evening of small-group jazz directed by the jazz faculty and graduate teaching assistant Sam Lumsden. The program includes jazz standards, great hidden gems, and original music by combo members.

Jazz Ensembles Concert: Jazz Recombination

November 14, 2024 at 7:30 PM
Jazz Recombination  Jazz Ensemble II and Jazz Combo I, directed by Shilo Stroman and Seth Lewis, present a program of large and small ensemble jazz music from modern and historical periods. 

Jazz Studies News

Jazz Ensemble performance photo

CSU Jazz Ensembles Kick it with Fort Collins High School


Ticket Information Tickets for the performance are no charge for Full-fee paying CSU students, $1 for youth (under 18), and $12 for the public. Tickets are available at the University Center for the Arts (UCA) ticket office in the UCA lobby Monday through Friday, 3:30-5:30 p.m. and 60 minutes prior to performances, by phone at […]

Jazz Ensembles concert photo

CSU Jazz Ensembles Honor one of The Greats


Written by Brandon Adams Jazz is a sacred art, one that began in the early 20th century, and is constantly being refined and transformed. Throughout history, many jazz composers have left their mark – from Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie to Count Basie and Herbie Hancock – putting a personal touch on a collaborative masterpiece. […]

Colorado State University Center for the Arts Exterior

May 2016 Faculty Notes


Colorado State University retirees, as well as employees achieving a decade of service or more were honored at the annual Celebrate! CSU Milestones event on April 28, in the Lory Student Center Ballroom. Six School of Music, Theatre and Dance faculty and staff were honored for their years of service to CSU including Double Bass Professor […]

Guest Artists

Guest Artists and Poster Gallery