Frequently Asked Questions

1) What is the Jazz Arts Academy?


Jazz Arts Academy is a comprehensive jazz studies program which includes performing ensembles, improvisation training, general musicianship coaching, special workshops & jam sessions. It is a unique music education program presented by the non-profit organization Jazz Arts Project in partnership with the Count Basie Center for the Arts.




2) What is Jazz Arts Academy Mission


As an organization, we are dedicated to advancing the art of jazz by presenting world-class artists in professional performances and by providing comprehensive educational workshops, ensembles and classes for area youth throughout the year. Our youth programs provide transformative opportunities for students to participate in customized classes and ensembles coached by world class jazz artists and educators in a fun, safe and professional atmosphere.




3) What is the age range, and what are the required skills and experience necessary to participate in this program?


Generally, Jazz Arts Academy accepts students between the ages of 13 - 18 who have had at least 3 or 4 years participating in a school instrumental music program and/or taking private lessons. Students also should have the ability to read and understand music notes and rhythms and play at least 4 or 5 of the major scales from memory. Other helpful knowledge (but not required) includes major triads (or arpeggios) and an understanding of major, minor and dominant 7th chords.




4) What if the student is a beginner


If you are just beginning, for example someone who has never played an instrument before, your best option is to start with private lessons or to join your school band for a few years before enrolling in this jazz intensive program.




5) How does this program compare to the middle school or high school jazz band program?


For some students, participation in the program may require an adjustment from what they’re used to within their native school experiences. Most school band programs introduce jazz via big band “charts”, where students simply read the music that is on the page. (this is very similar to how classical music is taught in orchestra or in concert band). In the Jazz Arts Academy, by contrast, an emphasis is placed on learning about jazz improvisation which is a significant element of performing Jazz music. This entails learning more about music theory, song forms, chord progressions and how to create a new melody, instead of just reading the music. The chords and progressions taught in the program are from universally accepted common song forms and jazz standards.




6) Is knowing music theory really necessary for performance playing?


The connection between the theory and the instrumental performance is what allows young musicians to achieve a higher level. It helps us listen to music more deeply and to perform more intelligently. It also allows the performer to be creative and “in the moment” with a confidence that helps us explore all the elements of the human experience through music.




7) What if a student is shy about performing?


Don’t Worry, Be Jazzy! Some students may be shy or may feel overwhelmed at first with all the new information being added. They may also feel like everyone else in the class is so much more advanced. We always encourage students to ask questions if they don’t understand something in class. Even if after class they may need some extra help it is always available.




8) Are there different class levels?


Depending on enrollment different levels of classes and ensembles may be formed however, at times musicians of all ages and abilities may meet at the same time together. This is a good thing as it serves to challenge the younger players and show them how much they can achieve if they keep at it. It is important to keep in mind that every one of the advanced students started out knowing very little at first. If they stick with it and practice and experience or absorb as much as possible, they will be playing at a much higher level in no time.




9) What is the curriculum?


The Jazz Arts Academy uses a performance-based curriculum providing students with the tools, knowledge and experience in order to progress quickly and perform at increasingly higher artistic levels. Music theory, ear training, and scale studies are completely integrated with instrumental performance techniques and ensemble playing. Students are trained in major, minor and modal scales as well as and chordal structure and song forms creating a path for the ability to improvise on any song.




10) What is the teaching philosophy?


The program features group lessons, individual coaching, and listening sessions, as well as master classes with visiting artists. Students have fun learning to improvise, improving on their instrument, performing in ensembles and meeting other young musicians in the process. From time to time students may attend special free additional sessions, workshops and jams and they may participate in performing opportunities at various community events in the local area as an added experience in a real world setting.




11) Are need-based scholarships available?


Please do not ever make your decision about joining the Jazz Arts Academy based on money issues. Jazz Arts Project believes that every student who is interested in learning more about Jazz should be given the opportunity regardless of the ability to pay. We have some generous donors who make scholarships and partial tuition assistance funds available for needs based circumstances. If you would like to inquire about this program, please contact the registration office early as scholarship funds are limited.