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Undergraduate | Auditions | Jazz Student Handbook | Music Industry



Exceptional faculty abound at the University, Department, and Program levels. I am extremely proud to be associated in particular with my jazz colleagues Skip Gailes (saxophone), J.C.Kuhl (saxophone), Rex Richardson (trumpet), Mike Ess (guitar), Bob Hallahan (piano), Victor Dvoskin (bass), Tony Martucci (drums), Brian Jones (drums), Doug Richards (arranging), Taylor Barnett (Jazz Orchestra II), and Bryan Hooten (Small Jazz Ensemble).


Come hear the sound of our ensembles—jazz and non-jazz. In particular, enjoy the maturity of our various jazz ensembles or visit the challenging jazz classes and rehearsals. VCU jazz students are serious about their jazz education, and so are their faculty. Hear the VCU Jazz Program's latest CD, "It Could Happen to You," featuring our Jazz Orchestra I, one of our Small Jazz Ensembles, and our Faculty Jazz Septet—plus two performances with guest New York trumpet soloist Brian Lynch (whose credits include the Horace Silver Quintet, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Eddie Palmieri, and Prince).

This CD has been highly rated by Down Bea t magazine and was named one of the "Top Ten Campus CDs of 2002" by the International Association for Jazz Education. It is available at, or call 1-800-BUY-MY-CD with any major credit or debit card. Locally, find the CD at the VCU Bookstore (804-828-1678) and at Plan 9 Music stores (804-353-9996).


VCU is an urban, state-aided, Carnegie Research I (Doctoral Extensive) Institution serving some 30,000 students (approximately 21,000 of them undergraduate) via some 1,800 faculty. Located in the heart of Richmond's historic Fan District, the Academic Campus provides a vibrant setting for the study of music; and there are extensive, nationally ranked health and science programs at the nearby Medical College of Virginia Campus. The most popular undergraduate majors are engineering, arts, business, humanities, and sciences.


Some 60 majors are enrolled in VCU's B.M. Jazz Studies—Performance degree at any one time, providing a community of students dedicated to playing and writing jazz music. VCU's student jazz orchestras have won top honors in four appearances at the Notre Dame Intercollegiate Jazz Festival, have appeared at the Smithsonian Institution and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and have produced five acclaimed recordings: "The Tattooed Bride," "Things to Come," "Mood Indigo," "The World on a String," and "It Could Happen To You." In Fall 2007 the VCU Jazz Orchestra I will perform at The Midwest Clinic, the largest international music conference in the world—the first Virginia university jazz ensemble to appear there in the conference’s 61-year history.

Our jazz community includes Greater Richmond and its Richmond Jazz Society, an organization with over 400 members. In fact, almost annually some of our VCU Jazz students win additional scholarships from the RJS. And it includes real estate investor and philanthropist W.E. Singleton, who has committed $3 million to Virginia Commonwealth University, specifically to support the VCU Jazz Program. His gift-pledge at the time was the largest ever made in the United States to support university-level jazz education. In recognition of this gift, VCU's Performing Arts Center is formally named the W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts; and the Music Center is named the James W. Black Music Center. This gift-pledge (arriving in installments) gives us a lot of flexibility to fund musical instrument repair and purchase, guest-artist visits, faculty and student ensemble recording, travel towards recruitment, and potential student scholarships.

Our community also includes numerous local venues at which students and faculty perform jazz. (See RICHMOND below.) The VCU Jazz E-Newsletter, which goes out to the local and national community, highlights not only the achievements of our current students, alumni, and faculty but also their recurring gigs so that the public will attend. VCU Jazz makes sure that the community knows where they can come out to support your music-making and your career!


With our Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies for undergraduates, plus the Greater Richmond High School Jazz Band (for visiting high school students), students learn not only from their instructors but also from each other. In addition, guest artist/clinicians abound. The 2006-07 year, for example, included such alumni artists as Gordy Haab (film-scoring) and Steve Wilson (woodwinds); creativity clinician Stephen Nachmanovitch; historian Kurt Dietrich; vocalists Diane Richardson and Dawn Thompson; clarinetist/composer Bill Smith; saxophonists Tony Dagradi, Tim Berne, Glenn Wilson, and Tony Malaby; trumpeters John D’earth and Ron McCurdy; trombonist Ed Neumeister; tubaist Marcus Rojas; cellist Tomas Ulrich; guitarists Steve Masakowski and Ayman Fanous; pianist Eli Brueggemann; bassists James Singleton, Michael Formanek, and Edwin Livingston; drummers Johnny Vidacovich, Tom Rainey, Peter Buck, Billy Hart, and John Hollenbeck; plus The Lindsay Family Brass/Jazz Quintet of Tyler (age 11), Ryan (age 9), and Christina (age 7)!

VCU students have benefited from many guest artists over the years including violinist Joe Kennedy, Jr.; vocalist René Marie; saxophonists Frank Foster, Benny Carter, Branford Marsalis, George Coleman, Jimmy Heath, Seamus Blake, and alumni Victor Goines and Steve Wilson; trumpeters Clark Terry, Woody Shaw, Thad Jones, Wynton Marsalis, and Brian Lynch; trombonists Art Baron and Ray Anderson; guitarists Gene Bertoncini, Steve Herberman, and Jimmy Bruno; pianists Mulgrew Miller, Bill Mays, Jaki Byard, Barry Harris, and Billy Taylor; bassists Dave Holland, Martin Wind, Chris Lightcap, and alumnus James Genus; percussionist Mayra Casales; drummers Louie Bellson, Max Roach, Matt Wilson, and alumnus Alvester Garnett; composer Gunther Schuller; and the Woody Herman and Count Basie Orchestras.


Former VCU students include Steve Wilson (soprano and alto sax, member of Chick Corea's "Origin"); James Genus (electric bass, bassist for the Saturday Night Live Band, recordings with Dave Douglas, Michael Brecker, Mike Stern, and John Abercrombie); Victor Goines (clarinet, member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Director of the Juilliard Institute for Jazz Studies); Alvester Garnett (former third-place winner, Thelonious Monk Drum Competition; recordings with Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter, Cyrus Chestnut, Regina Carter, James Carter); Mark Shim (tenor sax, Blue Note recording artist, member of Terence Blanchard sextet); Al Waters (tenor sax, solo tenor with Ray Charles); and Alvin Walker (trombone, member of the Count Basie Orchestra).

The 53rd Annual Down Beat Critic's Poll recognized a number of VCU-related artists. Saxophone alumnus Steve Wilson merited #2 Rising Star/Soprano Sax and #8 Rising Star/Alto Sax and also placed in the category of Overall/Soprano Sax. Bass alumnus James Genus placed #2 in the category of Rising Star/Electric Bass. Alumnus Victor Goines placed in the Overall/Clarinet category. Grammy-winning composer/bandleader Maria Schneider (and VCU Music Industry guest lecturer) won in the categories of Jazz Album, Composer, and Arranger of the Year and also placed in the Jazz Artist and Big Band categories: her drummer is VCU alumnus Clarence Penn. Violinist Regina Carter, for whose combo our drum alumnus Alvester Garnett performs, placed first in the Jazz Violinist category. Former VCU student Nate Smith was saluted on drums via DB's recognition of The Dave Holland Quintet as Jazz Artist, Big Band, and Bassist of the Year. Also placing in the Artist of the Year category were Wynton Marsalis (allied with alumnus Victor Goines) and Dave Douglas (regularly collaborating with alumni James Genus on bass and Clarence Penn on drums). Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza, with whom Penn and Genus perform, again received the #1 slot in the Rising Star/Female Vocal category and placed in the Overall category.

This trend continues annually. Our faculty are committed to your best interests, and our alumni can provide you a network of contacts and advisors.


At many institutions, non-Jazz majors have a considerably reduced opportunity to take jazz classes and ensembles. At VCU, if your audition is strong enough, you can be in the top jazz ensembles; and if your academic prerequisites are sufficient, you can usually get into a given jazz class.


VCU believes in the importance of a diverse student body. The student population at this writing is 38% Male, 61% Female (and 1% undocumented); 60% White, 18% African-American, 22% Other. This environment not only provides for the understanding and acceptance of other cultural backgrounds but is also a great atmosphere for learning jazz, which itself stems from diverse cultural and musical influences and continues to be influenced by the world's music


Undergraduate tuition and required fees for Virginia residents majoring in the Arts (Fall 2007) is $6,196/year (including required fees); non-resident undergraduate $18,740 (including fees), with room and board approximately $7,500/year. Over 70% of VCU students receive financial aid, with an average value of $9,000.

If you're an undergraduate from out-of-state and establish Virginia residency during your first year (challenging but possible), thus lowering your tuition to in-state levels for your remaining years, a four-year undergraduate Jazz Studies tuition might average just about $9300/year (including fees)—less any scholarships, grants, loans, or work-study opportunities.

At many colleges, once you receive your scholarship as an entering freshman, that's pretty much the end of the funding you'll receive from your university. Contrast that with VCU: last November was the third year in a row that VCU Jazz awarded supplemental scholarships from the concert stage, totalling some $24,000. Not a single student had to apply for it, and it was funded entirely by the VCU Jazz Students Fund (donations from the community).

2005 saw the establishment of the VCU Jazz Student Grant Program (<>.), to which students can apply for financial support towards research and creative projects. How many other jazz programs offer independent grants to its undergraduate students? In addition to formal scholarships and grants, VCU Jazz Studies frequently refers paid gigs to its best students.

If you are serious about jazz study, apply to VCU—and apply for every pertinent financial aid. You are likely to be pleasantly surprised by the results!


I am fond of saying that Richmond has "more art per square inch than any town its size." It really is impressive. Take a look at the local music listings in our local daily or weekly papers: they're extensive (and not even comprehensive)! You'll find jazz, pop, rock, blues, metal, bluegrass, grunge, experimental, classical, country and more right here in Richmond—much of it close to VCU. Beyond that, there are museums, art galleries, theatres, ballet, historic districts, and more.

I also proudly state that while Richmond is not necessarily an ideal locale in which to make a lifelong career as a jazz musician, it is an ideal locale in which to be a jazz student. There are so many places that a young musician can take his or her creative music and find a venue in which to try it out on the public. The pay may not be great for a 50 year-old raising a family; but it can be great for a college student (and probably beats delivering more pizzas).

Richmond includes a redeveloped riverfront and the largest convention center in the state. The city has been a center for Fortune 500 companies, high-tech manufacturing, biosciences, and pharmaceuticals; and its business advantages and quality of life have been recognized by such publications as Money, Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Fortune, CNN Money, and Inc. magazines.

Kiplinger's announced its 2006 listing of Richmond as the "26th smartest place to live" in the United States (criteria including education, transportation, cultural offerings, health care, economic diversity, crime rate, weather, cost of living). Inc. in 2006 named Richmond as "One of the top 15 places to do business in America." Forbes magazine's 2004 listing noted Richmond as "One of the Top 10 Business Cities." The 2004 National Policy Research Council's Gold Guide of America's Best Cities and States ranked Richmond as tenth in "Business Climate." CNN Money set Greater Richmond as one of 2006's "seven best summertime trips." Employment Review magazinerecently selected Richmond as "One of the Top 20 Best Places to Live and Work" by Employment Review magazine. And when the Southeastern Institute of Research released its 2004 study of the reactions of 25- to 34-year-olds, it ranked Richmond as the third "coolest city" in America (after Washington, D.C. and New York and ahead of San Francisco).

Richmond has been called America's most historic city, its history largely defined by its location at the falls of the James River. It lies approximately two hours' drive east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, west of the Atlantic Ocean, and south of Washington D.C. It became a town in 1742 and the capital of the Commonwealth in 1780. Richmond's population is 191,300 (with a greater metropolitan population of some 935,000); and the city covers 63.5 square miles; its population is 56% African-American. Notably, the cost of living in Richmond is 40% below that of my former home in the Chicago area.

Virginia also fares well in the rankings: the 2004 National Policy Research Council's Gold Guide of America's Best Cities and States listed Virginia as fourth overall (behind only Massachusetts, Colorado, and Minnesota). That included fourth in business climate; sixth in technology, quality of life, and entrepreneurship and small business; and ninth in economic dynamism.

So come join VCU Jazz in Richmond, Virginia: experience all that we have to offer!




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