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Jazz Studies


Part of the William Paterson University Department of Music, the Jazz Studies Program is unique among college programs. It is one of the few in the country with real emphasis on small-group playing and a genuine commitment to the jazz tradition. Its artist/teacher faculty is made up of world-class New York area professionals and is second to none. The Program is a true jazz environment in which students learn firsthand about the jazz world and the requirements for becoming a successful professional musician.

In addition to being musically talented, the student who enters the William Paterson Jazz Major Program is highly motivated, independent and, above all, flexible. William Paterson Jazz Majors come from all parts of the United States and all corners of the world. Many talented first-year students come from high schools across the United States; transfer applications are also welcome from students currently enrolled in other colleges or conservatories.

Many Jazz Studies majors choose to live on campus. William Paterson University is located in Wayne, New Jersey, 20 miles west of New York City on a 250-acre wooded suburban hilltop campus. Full dormitory residence and recreational facilities are provided.

Visit the William Paterson University Living Jazz Archives.

Undergraduate Jazz Degrees

Jazz can be studied in our various programs including:
  • Music education
  • Music and Entertainment Industries
  • Sound Engineering Arts
  • Performance
    • Drums
    • Keyboard
    • Vocal
    • Wind, Mallet, Strings

Twenty-four Jazz Ensembles Performing Each Semester

Duos, trios, quintets, sextets, Big Band, Latin Band, Repertory Band, VocalWorkshop, Vocal Lab. Focus on improvisation, learning of repertoire and group performance techniques. Each jazz major performs in a minimum of two ensembles each semester.

WPU Jazz Faculty

Veteran New York musicians with international reputations as performers, recording artists, arrangers and conductors: in residence, accessible and dedicated to teaching.

Small Class Sizes

Jazz Program enrollment is limited to sixty select students, allowing for individualized instruction and a close rapport between students and faculty.

Low Tuition

Affordable in-state and out-of- state tuition.

Campus Atmosphere

250-acre suburban hilltop campus located 20 miles west of New York City. Full on-campus residential and recreational facilities.

Performance Opportunities

Jazz majors perform in four weekly ensemble rehearsals. Student groups are featured as opening for professional jazz artists in WPC's renowned Jazz Room Concert Series, in the College's Midday Recital Series and in a number of area jazz clubs.

Private instruction

All jazz majors have private instrument/ vocal study with William Paterson's respected resident and adjunct faculty.

Challenging Curriculum

Students benefit from challenging, full-course sequences in improvisation, ear training, jazz history and analysis, small group and big band arranging, piano and comprehensive musicianship.

Dialogue Days

Twice each semester student small groups play for the jazz faculty and for each other. After each performance, a member of the Jazz faculty moderates an open-ended critique, ranging from the technical to the philosophical aspects of the performance.

Campus Music Facilities

Shea Center for Performing Arts, which houses the Department of Music, contains a 960-seat auditorium, an 85-seat recital hall, and a multitrack recording studio. The David and Lorraine Cheng Library holds a large and well-organized jazz album, CD and video collection, as well as numerous books, periodical and reference collections relating to jazz. A recital hall and large ensemble rehearsal room are currently under construction.    

Recordings of Student Performances

All student performances are recorded by students and faculty of the Sound Engineering Arts program.

Vanguard Jazz Orchestra in Permanent Residence

The world-renowned Vanguard Jazz Orchestra is in permanent residence at William Paterson University. Students benefit from annual concerts, clinics and workshops with VJO members.

Guest Lectures

Guest lecturers include Clark Terry, Dr. Billy Taylor, Freddie Hubbard, Pat Metheny, Joe Lovano, Bob Mintzer, Kenny Werner, Steve Lacy, Ray Brown, Hal Galper, Lewis Porter, Jeri Brown, and many others.

Inaugurated in 1978, the prestigious Jazz Room has emerged as the nation's longest-running campus-based jazz series, encompassing the complete spectrum of the genre.

Over the years, Jazz Room concerts have featured such distinguished performers as Joe Williams, Sonny Rollins, J.J. Johnson (in his final small-group concert appearance), Slide Hampton, Benny Golson, Kenny Burrell, John Scofield, Marian McPartland, Michael Brecker and Muhal Richard Abrams. The series also includes performances by large groups including the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (in permanent residence at William Paterson) and has presented the bands of Mel Lewis and Toshiko Akiyoshi, along with smaller ensembles such as the New York String Trio and the Eliane Elias Trio.

Each Sunday, one of William Paterson University's 24 outstanding small jazz groups are featured prominently by opening the concert. The pre-concert "Sittin' In" meet-the-artist sessions have established their place as a special element of each Sunday's program where audiences can meet and speak with well-known artists in an intimate setting.

The Jazz Room has received grant support from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State for over 22 consecutive years, as well as from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. The series has regularly been featured on national and metropolitan-area media, including recorded broadcasts. Veteran jazz critic George Kanzler writes, "The Jazz Room occupies a very special place in jazz in New Jersey...It is first and foremost a listening room, where you can hear jazz in optimum conditions. Even a casual jazz fan who attended Jazz Room events regularly could boast of having seen and heard many of the best jazz musicians of the time."

Recent Jazz Room artists and guest lecturers:

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra - in permanent residence at WP
Rufus Reid
- Professor Emeritus
Sonny Rollins
Kenny Burrell*
- Yearlong residency
Benny Golson*
- two-year residency
Clark Terry
Dr. Billy Taylor
J.J. Johnson
- his last small-group concert performance
Stanley Turrentine*
Joe Williams*
Joe Henderson*
Randy Weston*
Muhal Richard Abrams*
George Coleman*
Michael Brecker*
Randy Brecker*
Jim McNeely*
Slide Hampton*
Bob Mintzer*
Frank Wess*
Marian McPartland
Mulgrew Miller
Wayne Shorter
Steve Lacy
Ray Brown
Carl Allen
- WP alumnus
Joe Lovano
Dave Liebman



Phil Woods
John Patitucci
Roy Haynes
Jack DeJohnette
Paquito D'Rivera
Greg Osby
Curtis Fuller
Christian McBride
Matt Wilson
Kenny Werner Trio
Mulgrew Miller
Eeric Alexander
- WP alumnus
Andy LaVerne
John Abercrombie
John Scofield
Mike Stern
Rashied Ali Quintet
with Ravi Coltrane and Lonnie Plaxico
Hilton Ruiz Duo
Ray Barretto
with The WP Latin Band
Hal Galper
Bill Evans - WP alumnus
Ray Drummond
Renee Rosnes
with Chris Potter and Billy Drummond

*Soloist with the WP Jazz Ensemble

Jazz Awards

  • Best College Jazz Instrumental Group, Down beat magazine Annual Student Music Awards Competition – 10 years
  • Caelan Cardello: Winner, Sixth Annual BMI Future Jazz Master Award
  • Walter Gorra: Down Beat Magazine Student Jazz Awards – Best Small Group Latin Jazz Composition
  • Yu Nishiyama: ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards
  • Mariela Versola: Down Beat Magazine Student Jazz Awards – Best Latin Jazz Group – College Graduate Winner
  • Outstanding Combo, Outstanding Instrumentalist Awards: Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz Festival - 7 years
  • WPUNJ Sextet: $10,000 grand prize winner of Casio College Playoff held at The Bottom Line, New York City
  • Winner, Jazz Combo Competition, First Annual Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, New York City
  • WPUNJ Sextet: Award-winners at 4th Duke Ellington International Conference
  • WPUNJ New Jazz Ensemble: Finalists in Southern Comfort "All That Jazz" national competition; Performances on National Public Radio and Public Television
  • Gold Award: First Annual Down Beat MusicFest
  • Student groups selected three times to perform at JVC Jazz Festival in New York City, including opening for Monty Alexander, outdoor concert for 25,000 attendees at Bryant Park, midtown Manhattan, and at 2007 10th anniversary concert.
  • Numerous performances at IAJE International Conventions including performances with guest soloist Stanley Turrentine, in New York City, New Orleans, Washington, DC, Boston, and Miami, and at MENC National Conventions
  • Jazz Room and Summer Jazz Week supported by over 20 consecutive years of grant support by New Jersey Arts Council, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts
  • Judy Bady - Best Jazz Vocalist, Down Beat Student Jazz Awards Competition - 2 consecutive years and Outstanding Performance Award
  • Three student bassists winners of Milt Hinton International Bass Scholarships
  • Eight brass students awarded New York Brass Conference Scholarships

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Are there performance opportunities for Jazz Studies students?

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.