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Jazz at UWEC  


The basic purpose of the Jazz Studies Area is to provide the opportunity for students to participate in quality jazz organizations such as jazz ensembles, jazz combos, rehearsal big bands, specialized jazz combos, and large lab bands. In addition to the performing groups, the student may supplement his/her playing by participating in some or all of the jazz courses such as jazz improvisation, jazz arranging/composing, and jazz history. Independent studies are also offered on a variety of jazz topics.

By participating in the performing jazz ensembles, the student who aspires to become a professional player will perform in a professional atmosphere with many of the same professional responsibilities. Likewise, the student who has aspirations of becoming a music educator will have the opportunity to work with jazz faculty members whose teaching strategies can be of assistance to the future music educator. In both rehearsal and performance situations, future music educators and/or the aspiring professional jazz musician will be exposed to many different teaching techniques and concepts, in addition to administrative realities dealt with by competent music educators.

Although the top jazz ensembles will be performance-oriented, certain performance quality expectations will be made of all jazz ensembles. It is through the medium of performance quality that students can learn to judge musical value and eventually apply what they have learned. Students tend to teach what they are taught and demand of their students what was demanded of them. For the undergraduate student, the many ensemble and course offerings in the jazz area make it possible receive one of the finest undergraduate jazz educations in the United States. Since there is no undergraduate jazz major, the student may select a balanced program of classical and jazz courses so that upon graduation, the student will have a solid background in the fundamentals of musicianship. As a result of this exposure to a balanced classical and jazz education, the student is prepared to perform in a variety of professional musical organizations and situations. In addition, a student with this musical experience has the background necessary to successfully teach in a junior high or secondary school environment.

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The Jazz Studies Area is an integral and vital part of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the Department of Music and Theatre Arts and the Eau Claire community. The existing jazz ensembles offer all of UW-Eau Claire's students, music and non-music majors alike, the opportunity to perform in jazz ensembles of recognized excellence and participate in stimulating academic classes. Basic concepts that lead to creativity and self-expression in jazz are learned by participating musicians from their experience in large and small vocal and instrumental jazz ensembles.

Performance standards are such that future musicians/educators/listeners establish attitudes toward music and performance that will be of critical importance in their musical and cultural endeavors. UW-Eau Claire's jazz ensembles support the cultural, educational and career goals of a large number of students while at the same time provide an enjoyable, refreshing, aesthetic experience for all students as well as for the audience.

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire offers a strong preparation in jazz performance and pedagogy at the bachelor's degree level. The Area offers numerous opportunities for performance with a number of outstanding small jazz combos, large jazz ensembles and vocal jazz ensembles. A variety of academic classes are also available, including Jazz History, Jazz Pedagogy, Jazz Improvisation and Jazz Arranging. In addition, Independent Study Courses are offered in the areas of Jazz Studies Planning and Development, Advanced Jazz Arranging, Advanced Jazz Improvisation and Jazz Administration.

Finally, the UW-Eau Claire Jazz Studies Area serves as one of the University's most effective recruiting and public relations organizations, having been recognized as one of the most outstanding jazz areas in the United States. The Jazz Studies Area at UW-Eau Claire is designed with the hope of perpetuating an art form both unique and indigenous to the American people.

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The Jazz Studies Area at UW-Eau Claire started under the direction of Joseph Casey in 1965. It was firmly established under the direction of Dominic Spera (1968-1977) and Ron Keezer with the inclusion of formal course work and by the mid 1970's several more jazz ensembles were added to the curriculum. In 1985 a Vocal Jazz group was formed by Dan Newman. Before Robert Baca's arrival in 1986, James Olcott and Henry Mautner acted as director of jazz studies. Due to student interest the Jazz Studies Area has broadened from 1986 to the present with five large jazz ensembles and a large combo program. The present Jazz Studies Area has been stabilized with confirmed student interest and participation. More that 110 students are enrolled in jazz-related courses during the school year. 

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The Jazz Studies Area at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is designed to provide the future jazz player/student with the opportunity to obtain the best education possible and to prepare him/her for real life experiences as a professional jazz artist or professional educator. The goal may be partially obtained by participating in small and large instrumental and vocal jazz ensembles, studying jazz improvisation, jazz arranging, basic recording techniques, sound engineering, jazz styles and interpretation, attending jazz master classes and jazz concerts, and performing in concert with outstanding internationally-known jazz artists.

In addition to providing a program of excellence in jazz performance and education, the Jazz Studies Area is aware that student involvement in areas of change such as those in contemporary commercial arranging/composing and marketing, and sound reinforcement applications is very important. As there is limited funding to support these new areas, the Jazz Studies Area will continue to offer workshops and seminars featuring outstanding artists/educators in contemporary media and music. The UW-Eau Claire Jazz Studies Area will continue to be known as an initiator on change as well as a producer of quality.

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Entrance Requirements

Any admitted UW-Eau Claire student may participate in jazz ensemble. All undergraduate students who wish to major in music at UW-Eau Claire on a full-time basis must submit appropriate undergraduate applications to the Department of Music and Theatre Arts and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. These application forms can be requested from the Music Department Office, UW-Eau Claire, Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004, or can be found on-line at: He/she must also complete a department of music application and set up an in-person audition. At this audition visit, the student would also take a theory and piano placement exam. Please note that a student may select an undeclared major and then audition when he/she arrives on campus. Being an undeclared major does nor preclude the student's participation in any UW-Eau Claire Department of Music ensembles.

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Job Placement

During the undergraduate students' tenure at UW-Eau Claire, instructors take an active interest and participate in the students' search for jobs whether it is to continue performing in the jazz area, or to seek a teaching position in a Junior High, High School, or College. Although the Jazz Studies Area cannot guarantee the student a job, we will assist the student in writing curriculum vitae, letter of application, organizing all supporting materials and making phone calls on their behalf. We encourage each future UW-Eau Claire student to talk with some of our former students about the jazz area. The Jazz Studies Area considers placement of its students to be one of its major responsibilities and strengths. (See Student Accolades page.) 

Perfomance Opportunities For UWEC Jazz Studies Students

It is strongly recommended that Jazz Studies Area students seek employment involving training in their future profession during the school year and summer. Because of its reputation, UW-Eau Claire Jazz Studies students have been extremely successful in attaining assistantships for post graduate work (See Student Accolades page.) summer jobs in professional performing and educational settings. The following is an abbreviated list of summer positions held by students in the past:

  • Performing for National Broadway Shows at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis, MN
  • Internships at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, MN
  • Touring member of The Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Jimmy Dorsey Band, The Wolverines, Marvin Smitty Smith, Five by Design, Martha Reeves, Sam Moore
  • Touring member with Princess, Carnival, Disney, Royal Carribean, and Holland America Cruise Lines
  • Member of Disney World Jazz Orchestra, Disneyland Jazz Orchestra, Busch Gardens Orchestra, Dorney Park Orchestra, Valley Fair Jazz Orchestra, and Mall of America Amusement Park Band
  • Performances with The Dale Warland Singers, The Lake Street Foundation, Janet Planet
  • Member of Kids of Wisconsin
  • Summer Stock Theater Series, Winona, MN
  • Faculty/Staff at Shell Lake Music Camp, Spring Valley High School Summer Camp


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