Earn your BM in Jazz Studies

The Jazz Studies program includes numerous large and small ensembles and a comprehensive slate of other courses that are open to all qualified students at the University of Iowa. Specific courses are designed, respectively, to meet requirements in general education, music education, music therapy, and all tracks of the BM degree. Currently, more than 300 students are enrolled in jazz coursework each year.

Guitar instruction is offered only at the lower level for undergraduates and is open by audition only. Students may not enroll in the Bachelor of Music program with guitar as their major instrument.

Already applied and admitted to the university? Prepare to audition with the School of Music.

Requirements and program planning

Download course checklist

Course Offerings

  • Musicianship and Theory I (MUS:1201)*, 4 semester hours
  • Musicianship and Theory II (MUS:1202), 4 semester hours
  • Group Instruction in Piano I (MUS:1211)**, 1 semester hour
  • Group Instruction in Piano II (MUS:1212)**, 1 semester hour
  • Recital Attendance (MUS:1210), 6 semester hours
  • Jazz Rhythm and Interpretation I (MUS:1711),  1 semester hour
  • Jazz Rhythm and Interpretation II (Mus:1712), 1 semester hour
  • Advanced Jazz History (MUS:4350), 3 semester hours
  • Jazz Matters (MUS:4360), 3 semester hours
  • Introduction to Jazz Improvisation (MUS:3001), 3 semester hours
  • Intermediate Jazz Improvisation (MUS:3710), 2 semester hours
  • Jazz Theory (MUS:4730), 3 semester hours
  • Jazz Band Techniques (MUS:3760), 1 semester hour

*Entering students who do not have Advanced Placement (AP) or transfer credit should enroll in MUS:1201:0002, and take Placement Exam A, administered online in the summer before the start of the fall semester, to determine readiness for the sequence. Learn more about this process.

**Students will take a piano placement exam and may place out of one or both group piano classes based on their proficiency.

Select one of the following:

  • World Music (MUS:1310), 3 semester hours
    • Also meets General Education Requirement: LVPA
  • Music of Latin America and Caribbean (MUS:2311), 3 semester hours
    • Also meets General Education Requirement: VSD and LVPA
  • History of Western Music I (MUS:2301), 3 semester hours
    • Also meets General Education Requirement: LVPA and HP
  • History of Western Music II (MUS:2302), 3 semester hours
    • Also meets General Education Requirement: LVPA and HP

  • Lower level lessons (MUS:20--), 8 semester hours*
  • Upper level jazz lessons (MUS:3038:---), 6 semester hours
  • Jazz Transcription (MUS:4750), 2 semester hours
  • Jazz Band (MUS:3730), 6 semester hours
  • Small Jazz Ensembles (MUS:3740), 6 semester hours
  • Senior Recital (MUS:4900), 1 semester hour

*A maximum of 6 semesters (12 semester hours) in lower-level applied instruction is allowed.

  • Jazz Composition and Arranging (MUS:4760), 2 semester hours
  • Audio Recording I (MUS:3780), 3 semester hours
  • Advanced Jazz Composition (MUS:4761), 2 semester hours
  • Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ENTR:2000), 3 semester hours
  • Intro to African American Culture (AFAM:1020), 3 semseter hours

Choose from any music (MUS) courses, except those closed to music majors.

Recommended for jazz majors:

  • Garage Band (MUS:1007), 2 semester hours
  • Audition Repertoire (MUS:3140), 1 to 6 semester hours, can repeat
  • IND Special Studies (MUS:3999), 1 to 3 semester hours, can repeat

Note: These are the current requirements for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Please consult your advisor for the requirements you will be held to based on your entry year.
  • Communication and literacy
    • Rhetoric, 4 semester hours
    • Interpretation of Literature, 3 semester hours
    • World Language, 0 to 16 semester hours
  • Natural, qualitative, and social sciences
    • Natural Sciences, 7 semester hours
      • Recommended: Physics of Sound (PHYS:1410)
    • Quantitative or Formal Reasoning, 3 semester hours
    • Social Sciences, 3 semester hours
      • Recommended: Introduction to African American Society (AFAM:1030)
  • Culture, society, and the arts*
    • Diversity and Inclusion, 3 semester hours
      • Recommended: Black Culture and Experience (AFAM:2500)
    • Historical Perspectives, 3 semester hours
      • Recommended: Media History and Culture (JMC:1200), Roots, Rock, and Rap: A History of Popular Music (MUS:1303), History of Western Music I (MUS:2301), History of Western Music II (MUS:2302)
    • International and Global Issues, 3 semester hours
    • Literary, Visual, and Performing Arts, 3 semester hours
      • Recommended: Music of Latin America and the Caribbean (MUS:2311), Jazz Cultures (MUS:1009), Creativity in Music (MUS:1012), Introduction to Film Music (MUS:1066), World of the Beatles (MUS:1800), Issues in Popular Music: Women Who Rock (MUS:2005)
    • Values and Culture, 3 semester hours
      • Recommended: Introduction to African American Culture (AFAM:1020), Jazz Cultures (MUS:1009), Sex and Popular Culture in the Postwar U.S. (AMST:1060), Race and Art in America (ARTH:1045), Big Ideas: Creativity for a Lifetime (ARTS:2000)

*Music majors may use up to three music courses (MUS) toward completing the General Education Requirements.

Jazz students are encouraged to investigate an off-campus urban semester or semester abroad to satisfy some electives and general education requirements.

All jazz students must pass a studio jury to qualify for upper-level lessons and a qualifying jury for jazz studies before the seventh semester.

Performing opportunities and how to audition

The jazz program at the University of Iowa is devoted to providing performance opportunities from the full spectrum of jazz styles and history. There are a minimum of seven ensembles offered each semester ranging in repertoire, style and skill/ability.

Placement into our groups is handled by audition, which takes place during the first full week of classes each semester.

Performing opportunities

Audition materials and time slot sign-up sheets can be found in the jazz studies area of the Voxman Building (4th floor, east hallway, in the very southeast corner of the building) the Monday (one week) before classes begin.

Audition material will consist of the following:

  • Prepared excerpt
    • This will be included in the audition packet you pick up when you choose a time slot, which will be available for students the Friday before classes begin.
  • Short sight reading excerpt
  • Improvisation demonstration
    • If you would like to be considered for placement in a jazz combo or a solo chair in one of our jazz ensembles, the improvisation component of the audition is mandatory.
    • Those wishing to be considered for non-improvising section chairs in a big band may forgo the improvisation portion of the audition. The list of eligible songs for each semester’s auditions will be included in your audition packet.

Please contact Dr. Damani Phillips at 319-384-2835, or e-mail damani-phillips@uiowa.edu for more information or to schedule an audition.

Johnson County Landmark (JCL) is a 16-piece jazz orchestra devoted to the performance of jazz ensemble repertoire, both traditional and contemporary. With the goal of acclimating its members to the gamut of stylistic demands placed on a modern-day jazz instrumentalist, JCL’s performance repertoire covers the breadth of expectations commonly required in large ensemble performance situations. Its programs have included the music of Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Tadd Dameron, Thad Jones, and Charles Mingus, as well as current stars Maria Schneider and John Hollenbeck.

Members of Johnson County Landmark are determined by auditions, which include a prepared piece, improvisation, and sight-reading. The material performed by JCL occasionally requires members to double on secondary instruments. Johnson County Landmark is the jazz program’s flagship large ensemble, and serves an ambassadorial role in outreach to schools, colleges, music venues, and festivals around the country.

Jazz Repertory Ensemble (JRE) is a big band with a primary focus of performing works that are considered foundational in big band repertoire. Focusing primarily on composers and compositions that are central to the big band tradition, JRE focuses on ensuring that our musicians have a solid foundation in the historical evolution of big band music. Pulling from the work of composers such as Count Basie, Mary Lou Williams, Neal Hefti, Quincy Jones and Buddy Rich, JRE functions as a feeder ensemble to our flagship jazz ensemble. Members of JRE are determined by audition in the fall of each academic year.

A partnership between the School of Music and the African American Studies department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Black Popular Music Ensemble (BPM) provides a means of detailed study and performance of popular music styles emanating from African American culture. With a focus on Black music from 1950 onwards, this ensemble will include styles commonly overlooked by the academy, including R&B, Gospel, Soul, Hip Hop, Neo Soul, and Funk. BPM participation is open to all UI student singers, emcees and instrumentalists, regardless of area of major study. Ensemble placement is determined by auditions, which will take place during the first week of each semester.

Small Jazz Ensembles are open to advanced students with the skills to improvise and produce original arrangements. Under the mentorship of our jazz faculty, these groups each perform two campus concerts every semester, as well as club dates and casuals. Enrollment is by audition.

Create your academic path

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Current course list

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Jazz studies faculty

Portrait of William Menefield

William Menefield

Jazz Studies, Piano
Assistant Professor
Portrait of Damani Phillips

Damani Phillips

Jazz Studies, Saxophone
Associate Professor
Jazz Studies Area Head
Portrait of Curtis Taylor

Curtis Taylor

Jazz Studies, Trumpet
Assistant Professor of Instruction

Practice and perform

Need to book a music room, request an accompanist, check out audition information, rent a locker, or use a recording studio? Visit the Music Callboard for all scheduling and policy information.