The Jazz Studies program includes big bands, combos, jazz improvisation courses, and jazz history. Many students perform in multiple ensembles and get a variety of playing opportunities throughout the School of Music.
NAU Jazz Studies has a notable history, having taken first place honors multiple times at the Western States Jazz Festival. Jazz Ensemble One has performed at the Playboy Jazz Festival, Notre Dame Jazz Festival, Fullerton Jazz Festival, Reno Jazz Festival, and many others. Jazz One has released several recordings; Year of the Cow (1993), Herding Cats (1994), Vintage Year (1996), and Sphinx (2000). These recordings received critical acclaim and were awarded four and five star ratings from Downbeat magazine.
Each semester multiple guest artists are brought in as clinicians and guest performers. These artists offer masterclasses ranging from instrument-specific clinics to improvisation, rhythm section playing, and various other topics. Guest artists are regularly featured with faculty ensembles and student groups.
The NAU Jazz Festival has been a long-standing tradition since 1963. Every February NAU Jazz Studies hosts a multitude of jr. high, high school, and college bands from throughout the Southwest who participate in a three day event including performances for guest judges, clinics, masterclasses, and a featured Guest Artist Concert with NAU Jazz Ensembles. Previous guest artists have included John Abercrombie, Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman, Maria Schneider, and Brice Winston. This is a monumental event in the Northern Arizona community and has made an impact on many rising talents from throughout the region.
Our students include music performance majors, music education majors, music minors, and non-majors from various disciplines across campus. Many are active professionally as well and can be seen performing around Flagstaff and throughout the state.