Jazz Auditions

2023-24 Instrumental Jazz Auditions

Click here for Vocal Jazz Audition Info

Auditions Overview

The KU Jazz Program has three Jazz Ensembles, 10-12 Jazz and Pop/ Commercial Music Combos, a Vocal Jazz Ensemble and Vocal Jazz Lab class. All KU Jazz Instrumental and Vocal Ensembles and Combos are open to ALL students, regardless of major

Auditions are held at the beginning of fall semester for placement in Jazz Ensembles and Jazz Combos. Students must audition to be placed in a Jazz Ensemble and/or Combo. Ensemble placements are for the entire academic year; if any ensemble members need to change to a different ensemble or drop out between semester, a separate ensemble audition procedure will be announced in November to fill these spots for spring semester.

Jazz Ensembles (big bands) meet as follows: 

  • Jazz Ensemble I (Dan Gailey, director)—T/Th, 11:00 AM-12:45 PM—Murphy 114
  • Jazz Ensemble II (Drew Williams, director)—M/W/F, 11:00-11:50 AM—Murphy 114
  • Jazz Ensemble III (David Dayoub, director)—M/W/F, 10:00-10:50 AM—Murphy 114

Jazz Combos meet at times determined by their directors based on participant’s schedules. Jazz Combo directors are Matt OttoBrandon Draper, Eddie Moore, Alex Frank, and Drew Williams.

Audition results/ensemble rosters will be sent via email and posted on the bulletin board outside of Murphy 122 no later than Wednesday, August 23at 7:00 PM CDT. Rehearsals begin on Thursday, August 24.

Everyone must enroll in the appropriate class for the ensemble they are placed in. You have the option of enrolling for 1 credit hour or 0 credit hour per ensemble: 

  • Jazz Ensembles—enroll in JAZZ 408 (undergrads) or JAZZ 708 (grad students)
  • Jazz Combos—enroll in JAZZ 409 (undergrads) or JAZZ 709 (grad students)

You may enroll before auditions, and after results are posted you may make a switch to the correct section during the online drop/add period. No permission codes are necessary for ensemble or combo enrollment.

Audition Procedure

  • Sign up for an audition time on the bulletin board outside of 122 Murphy Hall anytime starting Monday, August 7.  Please sign up using your KU ID NUMBER ONLY.

Audition Times

Monday, August 21
  • 2:00-4:30 PM—Saxophones
Tuesday, August 22
  • 10:00 AM-1:00 PM—Drums
  • 2:00-4:30 PM—Trumpets
Wednesday, August 23
  • 11:00 AM-1:00 PM—Trombones
  • 1:30-4:30 PM—Piano, Guitar and Bass

Before your audition

Please fill out the online KU Jazz Audition Form

  • Do not list your KU ID number anywhere on the Audition Form, as this will help preserve anonymity for auditions.

  • When it is time for your audition, please check in first with the Audition Proctor outside of Murphy 114—please try to be here at least 10 minutes before your scheduled audition time.

  • Auditions are done “blind”—the audition panel will be set up behind a screen in the audition room.  You will be escorted in and out of the audition room by the Audition Proctor.

  • Leave ALL instrument cases in the hallway—do not assemble/tear down instruments in the audition room.


Auditions will consist of the following:

  1. Play the prepared piece for your instrument (without backing track).

    • Piano and guitar — play the melody with repeat as written, then comp chord changes in time for one chorus.

    • Bass — play the melody with repeat as written, then play a walking bass line in time for one chorus.

    • Drums — play the provided prepared piece as if you were playing it with a big band.

    • All others — play the written melody only (with repeat as written).

  2. Sight-reading chosen by the audition panel

  3. Improvisation with a backing track—required for all combo personnel except drummers, and for all solo chairs in big bands; optional for all others in big bands.  “Cheryl” is the default piece for the improvisation part of the audition, and “Have You Met Miss Jones” is the advanced improvisation audition.  Those wishing to audition for a solo chair in Jazz Ensemble I or an upper level combo should prepare both “Cheryl” and “Have You Met Miss Jones”; all others may prepare “Cheryl” only.  In all cases, auditions will consist of 2-3 choruses of improvised solo with the appropriate backing track.

Drums will not do the improvisation portion of the audition, but will instead be asked to demonstrate the following styles/grooves:  Medium swing, fast swing (bebop), bossa nova, samba, jazz waltz, brushes (medium swing)


  • DRUMMERS — an audition set with cymbals will be provided.  You must bring your own sticks and brushes to your audition.

  • BASS and GUITAR — amps will be provided for your audition.  You must bring your own patch cord to your audition.