Jazz Ensemble

Jazz Ensemble

The UNCSA Jazz Ensemble receives widespread acclaim performing across the state and around the Southeast at jazz festivals, concert halls, public schools and other colleges. The band includes talented student musicians from the graduate, undergraduate and high school divisions of the School of Music.

The group's repertoire includes an extensive variety of big band jazz ranging from traditional greats like Count Basie and Duke Ellington to Latin and contemporary styles. The band, directed by faculty member Ron Rudkin, presents several on-campus concerts each year in the beautiful Freedman Theatre.

Serving as a "swing dance band," the ensemble has enjoyed exuberant receptions at numerous regional swing dance events, performing the most popular hits of the swing era. The band has presented "classical" jazz compositions including Leonard Bernstein's "Prelude, Fugue and Riffs," George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" (original dance band orchestration), Morton Gould’s “Derivations” and Bill Smith’s “Concerto for Clarinet and Jazz Combo,” all featuring UNCSA artist-faculty as guest soloists. In the late 2000’s the group was enthusiastically received as part of the school’s former summer performance festival at the Outer Banks in Manteo, NC.

An integral component of the jazz program at UNCSA is a year-long Jazz Improvisation Lab offering instruction in various approaches and concepts of improvised jazz, including jazz theory and harmony.

Festivals and Awards

Appearances of the UNCSA Jazz Ensemble include the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, the Umbria Jazz Festival in Raleigh, the Hilton Head Jazz Society in South Carolina, the Piedmont Triad Jazz Festival, jazz festivals at UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Charlotte, the ArtSchool in Carrboro and the Count Basie Orchestra Festival in Hampton, Va. where the group won first place in the college jazz band division.

Student jazz combos have performed on summer tours of Italy, Germany and France as part of UNCSA's former International Music Program and have appeared at the Morro Bay Jazz Festival in California. One combo won an award in Downbeat magazine's annual student "DB" competition.

Alumni Accomplishments

Alumni of the UNCSA jazz program have gone on to win prestigious positions at the Thelonious Monk Institute in Los Angeles and the Dave Brubeck Institute in northern California, performing with jazz greats Herbie Hancock, Dave Brubeck, Christian McBride and Wayne Shorter, among others. Alumnus John Ellis won second place in the Thelonious Monk Saxophone Competition and another placed in the ASCAP jazz composition competition. A recent alumnus, Eddie Barbash, is now the saxophonist on the CBS Late Show with Stephen Colbert as a member of Jon Batiste and Stay Human. 

Alumni have performed and recorded with members of the Marsalis family and the Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey and Woody Herman orchestras, while others have performed and recorded with prominent jazz artists, including Donald Harrison, Nicholas Payton and Charlie Hunter.

Guest Artists

Guest jazz artists who have performed and given clinics at UNCSA, and appeared with the UNCSA Jazz Ensemble include:

  • MINAS Brazilian Jazz Duo
  • Allen Vizzutti
  • Joe Chambers
  • Ray Anderson
  • Ralph Bowen
  • Jens Lindemann
  • Phil Markowitz
  • Bob Sheppard
  • Bruce Forman
  • Lew Tabackin
  • Chris Potter
  • Gary Smulyan
  • Bob Mintzer
  • Eddie Daniels
  • Mark Levine
  • Carl Fontana
  • Marvin Stamm
  • Don Menza
  • Gary Burton
  • Frank Foster
  • Jim Snidero
  • Lennie Picket
  • Brubeck-Laverne Trio
  • Free Flight
  • Steve Houghton and Tom Warrington
  • Woody Herman Band
  • Hal Galper Trio
  • Chris Vadala
  • Ed Shaughnessy Quintet
  • David Friesen
  • Gene Bertoncini & Michael Moore
  • Herbie Mann