Jazz and Improvisational Music

Sax Player

Study Jazz at the University of Nevada, Reno

At the University of Nevada, Reno program in Jazz & Improvisational Music, our ultimate goal is to provide undergraduate and graduate students with comprehensive knowledge of the multifaceted range of sounds, practices, and meanings known as jazz.

The program addresses the divergent historical and emerging trends within jazz and beyond. Balancing the old with the new, standard repertoire is emphasized, but so too are less conventional forms of playing, original composition, and creativity in general. And we ask much of our students: graduates of the program in Jazz & Improvisational Music possess highly developed performance skills, as well as a thorough knowledge of the music's rich history and the scholarship that surrounds it.

What can I expect as a student in the Jazz and Improvisational Music program?

  • Excellent one-on-one instruction with our creative and committed private teachers.
  • Classroom instruction geared towards creating solid fundamental skills in harmony, rhythm, and ear training.
  • The opportunity to participate in a variety of performing situations: 6-8 small ensembles; 2 big bands; yearly student CD recording project.
  • Exploration of the music's current trends and possible future manifestations.
  • Interaction with renowned visiting artists. Recent guests include: Don Byron, Ralph Alessi, Scott Colley, Kneebody, Jim Hall, John Hollenbeck, Ravi Coltrane, Drew Gress, Randy Weston, Robin Eubanks, Nancy King, Fred Hersch, and many others.
  • Participation at the annual Reno International Jazz Festival. Recent headliners include John Scofield, Maria Schneider, Dave Holland, Kenny Garrett, and Joshua Redman.

Members of the jazz faculty, all outstanding performing artists, include Peter Epstein - saxophone and Director of Jazz & Improvisational Music, Ed Corey - guitar, Larry Engstrom - trumpet, Hans Halt - bass, Andrew Heglund - drums, and James Winn - piano/contemporary improvisation.

Backelor of Music and Master of Music Degrees in Jazz and Improvisational Music

The program in Jazz and Improvisational Music now offers both a Bachelors and Masters in jazz performance. We've recently added two new courses, Jazz Composition, and Jazz Cultures, for both undergraduate and graduate study. Other core classes include jazz arranging, courses in jazz improvisation, jazz keyboard, midi and recording techniques, jazz history, and performance opportunities including two big bands and six combos, and a weekly workshop for less experienced players. Students of the program also study privately with the outstanding jazz faculty.

Jazz Students

Students involved in the University of Nevada, Reno's Jazz Studies Program often experience artistic growth that goes beyond the inherent benefits of developing strong student/mentor relationships with our excellent private instructors, participating in an expanding curriculum that emphasizes both creativity and practicality, and interacting with renowned artists during our annual world-class jazz festival. Many students compose original music, form their own groups, and book gigs around the Reno/Tahoe area and beyond. Find out more about the Student Studio Recording Project

Jazz Ensembles

All Jazz and Improvisational Music majors must audition to enroll in either small or Jazz Lab Big Band ensembles.

Small Jazz Ensembles

The Jazz Studies Program offers a diverse and creative small-group performance experience. At present, the program features six small ensembles, each coached by one of our experienced jazz faculty members. The bands cover a range of styles including bebop, Latin-jazz, free jazz, funk, hip-hop, and many others. Students are strongly encouraged to compose and arrange for their own groups. Under the direction of Peter Epstein, a weekly forum provides opportunity for each ensemble to perform and to receive valuable feedback from peers and faculty, and all groups participate in a final concert at the end of each semester. Members of Small Ensembles are selected by audition only.

Large Jazz Ensembles - Jazz LabI

Jazz Lab I, under the direction of Peter Epstein, is UNR's premiere large jazz ensemble. Jazz Lab I is composed of the more advanced students of the Jazz studies program. Members of Jazz Lab I are selected by audition only.

UNR Jazz on Facebook

Facebook LogoCurrent students, alumni, faculty and anyone who loves the world of jazz music are invited to join the Facebook discussion. Find information about recent and upcoming UNR jazz student recordings, local concerts, recitals, and other campus events. Join in on current discussions about the Jazz and Improvisational Music program at UNR, speak your mind about the philosophy of jazz, and keep up on the jazz scene in downtown Reno.

Jazz Faculty

The University of Nevada, Reno boasts an impressive jazz faculty of seasoned, professional musicians who are actively involved in performing, composing, and recording. The Collective, comprised of the department's faculty members, perform regularly and also have produced four outstanding CDs that feature many original compositions.

The UNR jazz faculty is actively involved in classroom instruction and is available for private instruction in both jazz and classical genres. All of our committed and creative teachers share a dedication to excellence in performing, teaching, and scholarship.

Faculty: Jazz & Improvisational Music