FALL 2023 AUDITIONS:
Check back during summer 2023 for information on jazz ensemble auditions for the fall 2023 semester.
WHO CAN AUDITION:
Auditions are open to music majors and non-majors on all instruments (jazz ensembles consist of roughly 50% music majors and 50% non-majors). Students must be enrolled in classes at UW–Madison and, upon a successful audition, be able to add a 1-credit section of MUS 262 or MUS 562 to their schedule.
Students wishing to audition on more than one instrument should sign up for multiple audition time slots (one per instrument). Saxophonists who would like to be considered for multiple saxophone chairs (alto, tenor, baritone) should audition only on their first-choice saxophone but indicate their available doubles on their audition form.
There is a wide range of skill and experience levels represented in the UW–Madison jazz ensembles. However, rhythm section players (piano, guitar, vibraphone, bass, drums) should have prior jazz ensemble experience. Improvisation experience is required for most instruments, but there are some ensemble opportunities for brass players who are novice improvisers.
ABOUT ENSEMBLE PLACEMENTS:
Students take a single audition, after which they are considered for placement in any of the Mead Witter School of Music’s six jazz ensembles. The jazz ensembles are not ranked by experience or skill level. Each ensemble has a different curricular and repertoire focus, for example, the Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble focuses exclusively on music of that diaspora. (Please visit this page for descriptions of each jazz ensemble). The jazz faculty attempts to rotate participating students through different ensemble experiences from each year to the next.
Upon a successful audition, students will be assigned an ensemble based on multiple considerations, which include the student’s schedule availability, instrument distribution, and available space within the ensembles, among other pedagogical decisions. Attempts are made to match similar skill and experience levels and factor in the student’s stated ensemble preference. Once students have been assigned to an ensemble, they will receive a registration code and must then register for the corresponding section of the 1-credit class, MUS 262 (for undergraduate credit) or MUS 562 (for graduate credit).
AT THE AUDITION:
Reading: Students will be asked to sight-read a jazz big band part together with piano accompaniment (provided). Focus is on jazz-appropriate phrasing, sight-reading accuracy, instrumental tone, and technical ability. Guitarists’ and pianists’ sight-reading piece will include comping over a given chord progression. Bassists’ sight-reading piece will include walking a bass line over a given chord progression. The level of difficulty of the sight-reading will be adjusted based on the auditioning student’s experience and reading ability. Students with limited reading skills who are otherwise experienced jazz players are still encouraged to audition, as sight-reading accuracy is only one of several consideration in ensemble placements.
Improvisation: Students will be asked to improvise on a standard chord progression. Novice improvisers who are not yet comfortable navigating chord changes can substitute improvising over a blues progression in the key of F (concert).
Drummers: Students auditioning on drum set will be asked to play a variety of jazz grooves at different tempos, including medium swing, ballad, two-feel, fast swing, bossa nova, samba, 3/4 jazz waltz, and others.
EQUIPMENT AND INSTRUMENTS:
A full drum set with cymbals, guitar amplifier, bass amplifier, and piano will be provided for the audition. Drummers may choose to bring their own cymbals and guitarists may choose to bring their own amplifiers. Upon successful audition and enrollment in a jazz ensemble course, instruments (woodwinds and brass instruments, basses) are available for rent from the Mead Witter School of Music. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide instruments in advance for students to prepare for their auditions.
Students concerned about the sight-reading aspect of the audition can prepare for the audition by reading through transcribed jazz solos (available online) or reviewing previously played ensemble parts, and/or by reading through melodies and improvising over the changes of a variety of lead sheets from the various volumes of The Real Book (Hal Leonard), Jamey Aebersold Play-A-Longs, or other fake books. Suggested melodies for sight-reading practice include both melodies that are usually performed as written (many jazz originals whose melodies are notated with very specific rhythms, especially bebop compositions such as pieces by Charlie Parker or Thelonious Monk) and melodies that require interpretive changes for an idiomatic jazz performance (most jazz standards, such as Broadway compositions by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, or Jerome Kern, which are usually notated in simplified forms in fake book lead sheets). Students wishing to brush up on their ensemble improvisation are encouraged to prepare by informally playing jazz standards together with friends, to seek out jam session opportunities such as the Madison Jazz Jam and to practice along with recordings, the Jamey Aebersold Play-A-Longs, or the iReal Pro app.
For further questions regarding auditions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.