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Jazz Auditions

All new and returning students interested in jazz ensembles must audition. Spring auditions are used to fill open positions. If you audition for Jazz Ensembles and Combos, you will be considered for open positions in Jazz Ensemble I, Jazz Ensemble II, Jazz Combo I, Jazz Combo II, and/or Jazz Combo III. 

Auditions are 10 minutes in length. Improvisation is required for jazz combo only. Please read our frequently asked questions prior to your audition, especially the section on what to bring to your audition.

Big Band Jazz & Jazz Combo Audition Schedule 2016:

Instrument Date Time Location
Saxophone Tuesday
September 6
2:00–4:00 p.m.
5:00–7:00 p.m.
3 Ferguson Hall
Brass Wednesday
September 7
2:00–4:00 p.m.
5:00–7:00 p.m.
3 Ferguson Hall
Rhythm Thursday
September 8
2:00–4:00 p.m.
5:00–7:00 p.m.
3 Ferguson Hall

Audition Expectations

Brass and Woodwind

This section includes trumpets, trombones, bass trombones, and all saxes. It also includes instruments not traditionally part of the jazz ensemble, such as clarinet or strings.

  • Major scales in the concert keys of Bb, Eb, and F and a chromatic scale across the range of the instrument
    This is to assess basic tone quality and instrumental proficiency.
  • A short prepared piece
    This piece is your responsibility to provide. It should be no more than 50 bars in length and should ideally be something in a jazz style. Some examples of this would include a solo transcription, an excerpt of a big band chart, a jazz etude, or the melody to a jazz standard. Choose something that you are comfortable playing and that you believe shows off your playing to the best of your ability.
  • A short sight-reading example
    This sample will be provided at the audition. Special sight reading may be asked for players with an interest and/or ability to play lead trumpet, lead trombone, or bass trombone.
  • A short improvised solo
    Improvisation is required for jazz combo participation. It is optional for big band participation. You will be asked to improvise to a blues song in the key of concert F or Bb. A recorded accompaniment will be provided at the audition. You may also bring in your own accompaniment CD if you choose.
Guitar
  • Guitarists in Jazz Ensembles and Jazz Combos should be able to interpret and realize chord symbols and chord changes.
  • Bring in a piece that believe showcases your abilities. Ideally this will include some melodic playing as well as some chordal playing. You may bring two pieces in contrasting styles. Sheet music for either of these selections is not necessary.
  • Sight Reading
    You will be asked to sight-read a short excerpt, consisting primarily of chord symbols. Be prepared to comp in a swing style while sight reading the chord symbols.
  • Improvisation
    Improvise at least two choruses of blues in the key of F or Bb. Blues accompaniment will be provided at the audition. If you wish to provide your own accompaniment (via a recording or app) you will be able to plug in your device to an amplifier.
Piano
  • Pianists in jazz ensembles and jazz combos should be able to interpret and realize chord symbols and chord changes.
  • Bring in a piece that believe showcases your abilities. Ideally this will include some melodic playing as well as some chordal playing. You may bring two pieces in contrasting styles. Sheet music for either of these selections is not necessary.
  • Sight Reading
    You will be asked to sight-read a short excerpt, consisting primarily of chord symbols. Be prepared to comp in a swing style while sight reading the chord symbols.
  • Improvisation
    Improvise at least two choruses of blues in the key of F or Bb. Blues accompaniment will be provided at the audition. If you wish to provide your own accompaniment (via a recording or app) you will be able to plug in your device to an amplifier.
Bass
  • Bassists in Jazz Ensembles and Jazz Combos should be able to interpret and realize chord symbols and chord changes.
  • Bring in a piece that believe showcases your abilities. Ideally this will include some melodic playing as well as some chordal playing. You may bring two pieces in contrasting styles. Sheet music for either of these selections is not necessary.
  • Sight Reading
    You will be asked to sight-read two short excerpts. One will consist of chord changes and the other will be a written bass line. Be prepared to walk a bass line while sight reading the chord symbols. The style of the written bass line will be even eights (samba or rock).
  • Improvisation
    Improvise at least two choruses of blues in the key of F or Bb. Blues accompaniment will be provided at the audition. If you wish to provide your own accompaniment (via a recording or app) you will be able to plug in your device to an amplifier.
Drumset
  • Drummers in Jazz Ensembles and Jazz Combos should be able to demonstrate the following beats or grooves:
    Medium swing (with sticks and brushes)
    Fast swing
    Samba
    Rock
    Funk
    Jazz waltz
  • Sight reading
    You will be asked to sight-read a short excerpts that will include interpretation of band figures. The style of the sight reading example will be determined at the audition.
  • Improvisation
    You will be asked a play four bars of a given groove, then play a four bar solo or fill, and then return to playing the given groove.
  • For example, play 4 bars of a swing groove–then solo for 4 bars–then return to the swing groove for 4 bars. You may be asked to do this at different tempos or in different styles.
Vibes
  • A short prepared piece
    This piece is your responsibility to provide. It should demonstrate your skills as a melodic player. If you are able to play chords, please demonstrate that as well.
  • A short sight reading example
    The sample will be single line reading (no chords).
  • A short improvised solo
    Improvisation is required for jazz combo participation. It is optional for big band participation. You will be asked to improvise to a blues song in the key of concert F or Bb. A recorded accompaniment will be provided at the audition. You may also bring in your own accompaniment CD if you choose.

Audition Appointments

Audition appointments may be made only by emailing ensemble@umn.edu with the subject line "Audition Appointment" and the following information:

Name
Instrument type
Preferred date/time
Student ID number
Undergraduate or graduate
Cell phone number

Frequently Asked Questions

What will be provided for me at the audition?
  • Drum set including cymbals
  • Bass amp (cord not included—please bring your own)
  • Guitar amp (cord not included—please bring your own)
  • Piano
  • Music stand
  • Stereo for CD based accompaniment
What do I need to bring to the audition?
  • Your class schedule. This is very important. It is fine if your schedule isn't finalized, but please bring a schedule that is as complete as possible.
  • Bass and guitar players must bring their own cords
  • Your student ID number
  • Your email address and telephone number
What if I don't play trumpet, trombone, saxophone, or a rhythm section instrument?

We work very hard to find playing opportunities for all players that are interested. Instruments that are not a part of the traditional big band instrumentation (saxes, trombones, trumpets, and rhythm section) are severely limited in their big band performance opportunities, except in cases where special instrumentation is called for. In these cases, players will often be asked to “sit in” with the band on a given performance rather then become a regular member of the ensemble.

The combos are one area where the instrumentation is not as structured (except in the rhythm section). Non-traditional jazz instruments have played in the combos before, but be aware that combo performance requires the ability to improvise and to read and interpret lead sheets. Front line combo players generally have more experience playing jazz.

What if I am a vocalist?

Singers are sometimes included as regular members of the jazz ensembles, provided they have commensurate experience to allow them to be regular contributing members of the ensemble. If you are a singer interested in auditioning, please contact Dean Sorenson at to discuss this possibility.