Jazz Studies

“Wind Machine” by Sammy Nestico
The VCU Jazz Orchestra I performs Sammy Nestico’s “Wind Machine”.

Jumpin’ at the Westside by Antonio García
The VCU Jazz Orchestra I performs director Antonio García’s “Jumpin’ at the Westside” with guest saxophonist Michael Pendowski.
ASCAP/BMI/SESAC: Original Manuscript

The VCU Jazz Studies program offers a professional course of study that teaches the skills required to:

  • Excel in the creation and performance of written and unwritten music (pre-planned and improvised), especially that described by the term “jazz”
  • Consider one’s own educational experiences as a springboard for future teaching and audience development
  • Interact in the world of media, technology and business so as to bring one’s creative works effectively into the public’s awareness and thus sustain a successful career

The VCU Jazz Studies program provides students outstanding opportunities to pursue jazz performance and writing, as evidenced in part by such successful former students as Steve Wilson (sax, Chick Corea’s Origin); James Genus (bass, Saturday Night Live Band; recordings with Dave Douglas, Michael Brecker, Mike Stern and John Abercrombie); Victor Goines (sax/clarinet, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra; director, Northwestern University Jazz Studies); Alvester Garnett (drums, recordings with Abbey Lincoln, Cyrus Chestnut, James Carter); Mark Shim (sax, Blue Note recording artist, member of Terence Blanchard sextet); Al Waters (sax, featured with Ray Charles); Alvin Walker (trombone, Count Basie Orchestra); Daniel Clark (pianist, Mandy Moore, k.d. lang); Emre Kartari (drums; formerly Jazz Department, Yasar University, Izmir, Turkey)”; Gordy Haab (film, videogame, and television composer, “Star Wars: Battlefront”); and David G. Russell (film and television composer, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars: Rebels”). Our alumni have performed with Bon Iver and Foxygen; have appeared on Saturday Night Live, Conan O’Brien, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and David Letterman; have composed film, TV, and videogame scores; and are superb educators, composers, and performers throughout local, national, and international venues

“Show The Love” filmed by Nicholas Smith
VCU student, Nicholas Smith, Created this documentary following  VCU Jazz Orchestra I.
The film was an assignment for the class DOCUMENTARY II.

“Heat Wave” by Irving Berlin
The VCU Jazz Orchestra I performs Ray Santos’ arrangement of Irving Berlin’s “Heat Wave.” ASCAP/BMI/SESAC: ASCAP

The Jazz Studies curriculum annually affords some 60 students avenues for pursuing jazz and classical studies, including with more than a dozen jazz faculty covering all the traditional jazz instruments. A diverse community of students dedicated to playing and writing jazz music take advantage of VCU’s urban campus, which offers opportunities for students to play in area club settings. VCU’s student jazz orchestras have been recognized for winning top honors in four appearances at the Notre Dame Intercollegiate Jazz Festival, appearing at the Smithsonian Institution and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festivals and producing eight acclaimed recordings: “The Tattooed Bride,” “Things to Come,” “Mood Indigo,” “The World on a String,” “It Could Happen to You,” “A Joyful Noise,” “Front Burner,” and “Leap of Faith.”

VCU students have benefited from visits by numerous guest artists and clinicians. During the 2018-19 academic year we hosted the Justin Kauflin Trio (Kauflin, piano; alumni Matt Hall, bass and Billy Williams, drums); Skein (alumnus Victor Haskins, cornet and EWI; faculty Randall Pharr, bass and Tony Martucci, drums); saxophonist Michael Pendowski; drummer Matt Wilson; the U.S. Army Blues Jazz Ensemble; plus guest-performances by adjunct faculty. In the 2017-18 academic year we hosted the Yellowjackets (Bob Mintzer, saxophone; Russell Ferrante, keyboard; Dane Alderson, bass; and Will Kennedy, drums); residencies by trombonist Harry Watters, VCUarts artist Paul Rucker, and pianist Lee Musiker; soundcheck-chats with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and with saxophonist Kamasi Washington; plus guest-performances by adjunct faculty. In the 2016-17 academic year we hosted vocalist Rei Alvarez; saxophonists Jeff Antoniuk, Claire Daly, and Luis Hernandez; trumpeters Ingrid Jensen, Ron McCurdy, and Bria Skonberg; guitarists Freddie Bryant, Steve Herberman, and John Lee; pianists Kevin Harris and Yuma Sung; bassists Tom Baldwin, Noah Jackson, and Matthew Parrish; drummers Harry “Butch” Reed and Julius Rodriguez; and percussionist John Santos; plus newly commissioned works by alumni arrangers and guest-performances by adjunct faculty.

If you have questions about the VCU Jazz Studies program, contact Antonio García, director of Jazz Studies, at ajgarcia@vcu.edu or (804) 827-0699.

Interested in auditioning? Please view the jazz studies audition tips.


The faculty of VCU’s Jazz Studies program have been recognized by students, alumni and the jazz community for their accomplishments as musicians, instructors and much more. To learn more about their experience and achievements on the stage, in the classroom and in the community, select a faculty member from the list below.

Jazz Studies Faculty

Faculty Videos

“Moon Alley” by Tom Harrell
Profs. J.C. Kuhl (sax), Antonio García (trombone/vocals), Mike Ess (guitar), Victor Dvoskin (bass), and Tony Martucci (drums) perform Tom Harrell’s “Moon Alley.”

“Moontrane” by Woody Shaw
Profs. J.C. Kuhl (sax), Taylor Barnett (trumpet), Antonio García (trombone), Mike Ess (guitar), Victor Dvoskin (bass), and Tony Martucci (drums) perform Woody Shaw’s “Moontrane.”

Alumni Videos