Jazz Studies

Jazz Studies Program

The Marin School of the Arts Jazz program includes classes in both big band and combo arrangements under the direction of Dr. Greg Johnson. Bands include saxophones, trumpets, trombones, drums, bass, guitar and piano. Students are exposed to a wide variety of jazz covering swing, bebop, Latin, blues, ballad, fusion, as well as popular music.

Students will progress in the program based on skill level and will play music that is appropriate for an advanced high school or intermediate college band. Those in the Jazz Combo program are encouraged to compose original music; faculty direction and feedback is a major part of the writing process for students working on original composition. Instruction comes from seasoned teachers, top professionals in the music field, and peer mentoring.

Jazz Studies Director Dr. Greg Johnson works with band members.
Teaching artist Bill Theurer works with Jazz musicians weekly.

Areas of Study

Students will work on a variety of skills including intonation, accuracy of rhythm, articulations, phrasing and style characteristics. The Marin School of the Arts Jazz Band performs extensively in the community and at music festivals. Students are expected to make time available for performances and festivals. Students are required to practice outside of class. MSA Jazz Studies fosters atmosphere of excellence, where each student is important to the whole. 

MSA Jazz Studies fosters a culture of jazz performance and students dedicated to not only performing but perpetuating the art form of jazz. students work on skills listed above, as well as transcribing, theory, group dynamics and the fundamentals of music.

Students who graduate from MSA Jazz Studies matriculate to many excellent music schools including, the Berklee College of Music, USC Thornton School of Music, The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, leading Cal State music programs like those at Cal State Longbeach, and UCLA music programs, to name a few.

Renowned Guest Teaching Artists

Jazz Bands regularly perform in both music festivals and with top music professionals who come to MSA as guest teaching artists. The opportunity to work closely with such experienced musicians is rare among high school music programs. The fact that the students also have the opportunity to perform with seasoned professionals like Bob Mitzner, Jacob Mann, Aaron Serfaty, Jon Hatamiya is even more remarkable.

Trombonist Jon Hatamiya performs with MSA Jazz Band 1.

Course Offerings:

  • Jazz Band 1 – Advanced Band 1
  • Jazz Band 2 – Advanced Band 2
  • Jazz Band 3 – Intermediate Band 1
  • Jazz Combo – Includes  multiple small group combos with five to nine members each exploring a repertoire in the rich tradition of small group jazz. The intensive class include weekly study in theory, improvisation, technique, ear training and performance technique. Jazz Combo students will perform in the community as well as at jazz festivals. Each combo band will also participate in recording music.

MSA Jazz Awards

Folsom Jazz Festival 2018

  • Jazz Combo 1 — 1st place among all Jazz Combos
  • Jazz Band 1 — Command performance
  • Jazz Combo 2 — 3rd place in division
  • Jazz Band 3 — 3rd place in division

Santa Cruz Jazz Festival 2018

  • Jazz Band 3 — Command performance performing all original music
  • Jazz Combo 1 — Top scores among all participating jazz combos