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Jazz Ensembles

The VCU Jazz community fosters the spirit of creative exploration. Our faculty and students have numerous opportunities for creative expression in the department’s jazz orchestras and small jazz ensembles. Jazz Studies ensembles and orchestras have received recognition and top honors for their performances and recordings. Ranging from small jazz combos to big band, the jazz ensembles incorporate a variety of styles and works.

Fall 2020 Audition Dates

M 8/10 until your audition

Visit this registration page (optimized for Firefox) as soon as Monday, August 10 until just prior to your audition to enter your contact information and schedule conflicts regarding ensembles. Complete it prior to your audition! You may only do so once. Information entered prior to that date may be erased.

Visit this SignUp Genius page to reserve a time for your in-person audition (unless you play saxophone; see below).

M 8/17—VCU classes begin.

1-5pm, MC 1003—VCU Jazz Brass auditions for large and small jazz ensembles.

(No JO I rehearsal today.)

T 8/18

9:30-11:30am, MC 1003—Jazz Brass auditions.

12:30-2pm, MC 1003—Jazz Brass/Piano auditions.

2pm—Deadline for receipt to ajgarcia@vcu.edu and jwkuhl@vcu.edu of all sax audition videolinks.

2:10-5pm, MC 1003—Jazz Guitar/Piano auditions.

(No JO II rehearsal today.)

W 8/19

9:30-10:30am, MC 1003—Jazz Piano/Bass/Drum auditions.

1-4pm, MC 1003—Jazz Piano/Bass/Drum auditions.

4-5pm, MC 1003—Deliberations

(No JO I rehearsal today.)

TH 8/20—No JO II rehearsal today.

SUN 8/23 or sooner—E-mailing of ensemble rosters to all auditionees. (A copy will likely be posted by that time on the Jazz Board outside MC 2014.) All ensemble members must then register for the correct ensemble, and auditionees not placed in an ensemble they may have registered for must then drop the course so as to avoid receiving a failing grade at the end of the semester.

MON 8/24, 3:40-5:30pm, locale TBA–First rehearsal of Jazz Orchestra I.

M 8/24–F 8/28—First rehearsals of SJEs (as individually scheduled).

T 8/25, 4:40-6:20pm, locale TBA—First rehearsal of Jazz Orchestra II.

Audition Information and Requirements

All interested students are required to read the applicable portions of the VCU Jazz Studies Handbook regarding audition scheduling and policies.

The jazz ensembles audition requires that you:

  • Through an online system, you provide your interest in various ensembles, your schedule of conflicts regarding ensembles, and your related contact information. Complete it prior to your audition! Visit this registration page (optimized for Firefox) as soon Monday, August 10 until just prior to your audition to enter your information. You may only do so once. Information entered prior to that date may be erased. For instructions, see the Student Schedule Instructions.
  • Excepting saxes, sign up for an appropriate audition slot using SignUpGenius.
  • Observe the following health protocols:
    • Wear your mask to your audition.
    • If you are a brass-player and have already received your approved bell-covering from your instructor, bring it. If you have not yet received one, you may be given it at this audition. No brass player will be auditioned without an approved bell-cover. At this writing some brass faculty are using 210 denier drawstring bags, one of which may be provided to you. If you wish to make your own, view this Instrumental Bell Cover Instruction Video (YouTube) regarding how to construct multiple 160 denier brass covers out of two pairs of 80 deinier nylon pantyhose.
    • Brass players will bring their own towel or equivalent to collect deposits from their water key.
    • All students entering the audition room will first self-sanitize their audition area (which should also have been self-sanitized by the preceding student), again sanitizing it before leaving the room.
    • Note that the room will be aired out approximately 10 out of every 50 minutes (an appropriate length for approximately 25 minutes of individual playing in the room per hour, and not always by wind instruments).
  • All saxes will audition remotely and asynchronously rather than in person. After uploading your interest in various ensembles, your schedule of conflicts regarding ensembles, and your related contact information through the online system noted above, e-mail a link for your video in the cloud to both Profs. Antonio Garcia (ajgarcia@vcu.edu) and J.C. Kuhl (jwkuhl@vcu.edu) by Tuesday, August 18 at 2 p.m. Please do not e-mail the video itself, only the link. Your audition will not include sightreading at this time. Note that we are pursuing solutions for woodwinds, as solely covering the bell is insufficient. This is an international challenge.

 

Below describes typical audition expectations.

  • Horns: Unaccompanied performance of a melody and, if possible, improvised solo over a tune of your choice, especially swing, bossa, Afro-Cuban and samba. You may be asked to perform an accompanied improvised solo over a tune of your or the jurors’ choice, as well as basic scales to assess range, tone and/or technique.
  • Piano: Performance of a melody and accompaniment and, if possible, improvised solo over a tune of your choice, especially swing, bossa, Afro-Cuban and samba. You may be asked to perform basic scales to assess range, tone and/or technique, as well as comping of a variety of styles on request, especially swing, bossa and samba.
  • Guitar and bass: Performance of a melody and, if possible, improvised solo over a tune of your choice, especially swing, bossa, Afro-Cuban and samba. You may be asked to perform an accompanied improvised solo over a tune of your or the jurors’ choice, as well as basic scales to assess range, tone and/or technique, and comping of a variety of styles on request, especially swing, bossa and samba.
  • Drums: Unaccompanied performance of a variety of styles on request, including swing, ballad, waltz, bossa, samba and Afro-Cuban, plus possibly trading fours. Drummers are required to bring their own cymbals, hi-hat clutch, sticks and brushes.
    • Percussion: Unaccompanied performance of styles including bossa, samba and Afro-Cuban. Congas, bongos and some hand percussion are available at the audition.
    • All: Sight-reading as provided by the jurors.’
  • Sample tunes might include:

* Swing: “Autumn Leaves,” “Satin Doll,” “Now’s the Time,” “Take the ‘A’ Train” and “Stella by Starlight”
* Bossa: “Blue Bossa,” “Recorda-Me,” “Meditation,” Wave” and “Black Orpheus”
* Samba: Samba versions of the bossas above are acceptable.
* Afro-Cuban: “Mambo Inn” (2-3 clave), “Afro-Blue” (12/8), “Frenesí” (cha-cha), “Como Fue” (cha-cha) and “A Night in Tunisia” (possible in a variety of settings)
* Ballad: “In a Sentimental Mood,” “Body and Soul,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” and “Misty”
* Waltz: “Up Jumped Spring,” “Someday My Prince Will Come,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “All Blues” and “Bluesette”

You are not limited to the above choices; these are merely examples. Please note that improvisation is not a requirement to join this ensemble; however, we are delighted to hear all levels of improv within your audition.

Required Rhythmic Reading

All students auditioning for jazz ensembles must download the following jazz rhythm documents: Audition Rhythms sheet and practice with swing and even eighths to prepare for your audition. Bring this sheet with you to your audition as you may be asked to start and stop at any measure.

You are also expected to review the examples below.
Since swing phrasing typically presents a greater challenge than even-eighths, this page is marked to reveal how and why medium-swing phrases are articulated. Practice reading either of these two sheets while listening to the sound-file to check your playing for errors.
jazz-rhythem1
An additional example (below) also allows you to view and listen to the audition rhythms being played with unacceptable style, followed by proper phrasing.
jazz-rhythem2