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Jazz Studies

The School of Music currently offers an undergraduate Minor in Jazz Studies, a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance, and a Master of Music in Jazz Studies with Majors in Performance or Music Production. All UCO students, both music majors and non-majors, are welcome to audition and participate in our eleven student jazz groups.

Jazz Ensembles and Jazz Combos

Since 1960, Central’s Jazz Program has developed a worldwide reputation for consistently producing outstanding collegiate jazz ensembles by performing at events throughout the nation and abroad.

In 2012, Downbeat Magazine named our “UCO Jazz Ensemble 1” the top collegiate jazz ensemble in the nation! In 2013, the same group was one of only two collegiate jazz ensembles nationwide selected to perform at the prestigious Midwest Clinic in Chicago, and they also have been selected as the closing act for the OkMEA Annual Honors Jazz Concert in Tulsa every year eligible since 2009. The Ensemble was one of only 6 bands nationwide invited to the 2018 Next Generation Jazz Festival. Their performance at the festival tied for first place and earned the group a performance spot at the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival.

The jazz program consistently attracts high-level students filling our five jazz ensembles and six specialized small group combos. All performance ensembles/combos and most related coursework are open to every UCO student regardless of major.

PLEASE NOTE: All UCO jazz ensemble/combo auditions take place during the first week of each semester at the Jazz Lab. Detailed information will always be posted online and discussed at the Jazz Program Meeting beginning at 3PM on the first day of school every semester.


Jazz Studies Events

All Music Events

UCO Jazz Lab

UCO Jazz Lab exteriorThe UCO Jazz Lab serves three primary functions: as an education facility for the jazz studies program, as a community focused live music venue, and as a place to learn, write and record music.

History of the Jazz Division

In 1960, Wayne Nichols, with support from Jack Sisson, notably formed the first extracurricular student jazz band at The University of Central Oklahoma. A decade later, Kent Kidwell formalized a student jazz ensemble as an accredited course and founded our modern jazz program. Shortly after, Kidwell’s jazz bands began receiving top honors at many nationally respected jazz festivals. With the notable addition of faculty member Lee Rucker in 1980, jazz at Central has now grown to include eleven student jazz groups with multiple jazz degree offerings. UCO big bands, combos and individual students have received numerous awards and honors for outstanding performances at events held around the world.

After current Director of Jazz Studies Brian Gorrell took over leadership of Jazz Ensemble I in 2009, the group was invited to perform at both the 50th anniversary of the Jazz a Juan Festival in France and the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy. These invitations culminated in a major European tour in 2010. Our Jazz Ensemble I then performed as a featured guest at the Jazz Education Network (JEN) Conference in Louisville in January 2012. In March 2012, the same group was named the outstanding large collegiate jazz ensemble nationwide by Downbeat Magazine. In January 2013, our Jazz Composers Combo was invited to perform as a closing group at the JEN Conference in Atlanta. In December 2013, Jazz Ensemble I was one of only two collegiate jazz ensembles nationwide selected to perform at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago. In January 2015, the same group was selected to perform the honors jazz concert.