PART 5: Jazz & Contemporary/Popular Music Summer Programs
Here are some of the finest summer programs for jazz and contemporary music…
Stanford Jazz Festival (Stanford, CA)
Stanford’s Jazz Festival may just be the quintessential program for high school students seeking serious study of jazz performance at a collegiate level.
The faculty itself is a who’s who of accomplishment at both the college/conservatory level as well as the professional world. Some of these names include Ralph Alessi, longtime jazz trumpeter, collaborator of jazz legends like Don Byron and Fred Hersch, and faculty member at the New England Conservatory.
Another esteemed member of the faculty at Stanford Jazz is Ravi Coltrane, son of legendary saxophonist John Coltrane and pianist Alice Coltrane. To have exposure to these kinds of musicians while still a student in high school is a rare opportunity in a young musician’s life.
The program, incepted in 1972, is an ideal choice for a young student desiring pre-college experience at a festival hosted at a top university.
Grammy Camp (Los Angeles, CA)
Perhaps the most prestigious summer program for popular music performance and jazz, the Grammy camp is sponsored by none other than the organization hosting the most-followed music awards program, the Grammy awards.
The program is a 5-day residential music camp that takes place at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.
Grammy Camp is unique in that it is not only among the top for performance, it is also one of the few summer programs in which students can study music journalism as a concentration.
The organization itself recommends students send them submissions covering the genres of rock, pop, jazz, latin, r&b, blues.
Fair warning: The program is among the most selective I have ever seen. Students interested in the Grammy Camp should apply to multiple summer programs, as the enrollment is small and the competition is fierce.
That said, acceptance does look good on your resume’ if you ultimately apply for a popular-music oriented school.
Berklee College of Music Summer Programs (Boston, MA & Los Angeles, CA)
Berklee’s vast array of summer programs are perhaps the most well-marketed programs to high school musicians in the country. Approximately 25% of the students who attend this summer program end up applying to Berklee.
The most popular program is the 5-week program, and there is a lot to like about this one, particularly its emphasis on contemporary popular & jazz ensemble experience.
Berklee’s philosophy has always been that its collegiate curriculum should model itself after the state of the industry today.
It is no wonder, then, that the school’s summer programs place heavy emphasis on pre-professional experience for high school students.
One such program that is exceptionally popular during the summer is a weekend course in technology called the Music Production Workshop. This is one of the fewer high school summer programs geared towards students interested in audio recording, composing with MIDI, and sound design.
Other programs include specialty sessions in guitar, bass, musical theatre, songwriting, keyboard, composition, and even entrepreneurship.
Skidmore Jazz (Saratoga Springs, NY)
Skidmore Jazz ranks among the most desired programs for aspiring professional jazz performers in high school.
All classes take place at the impressive Arthur Zankel Music Center, the state-of-the-art music facility housed at Skidmore College outfitted with a concert hall, recital hall, recording studio, and electronic music laboratory.
One of the key metrics for determining the quality of a summer program in any genre is the faculty of the program. Skidmore Jazz’s program include Peter Bernstein, who is perhaps the most well-respected contemporary jazz guitarist along with John Scofield and Pat Metheny, Vic Juris, faculty at the New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music, and Jimmy Greene, Grammy-nominated saxophonist.
You can check out the immense talent of students of the program in this video here.
Jazz at Lincoln Center (New York, NY)
Perhaps the most prestigious jazz-only program for high school students, this tuition-free program is hosted at Bard College each summer for a two-week session with some of the most noted names in jazz history.
The principal faculty member of this program is none other than Wynton Marsalis, the 1st (and one of only 2, the other being Ornette Coleman) jazz musicians to ever win the Pulitzer Prize in music.
If you know jazz, you know Wynton’s long and esteemed career as a world-renowned purveyor of the big band/contemporary Dixieland style.
In this program, 42 high school students in grades 9-12 perform in two big bands as well as a number of combo groups, culminating in public performances in collaboration with other students of the program.
The competition for admission is exceptionally high, as the only payment expected from students and their families is room and board.
Other faculty members of the program include Ted Nash, saxophonist and former member of the Mel Lewis Orchestra, Vincent Gardner, lead trombonist of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and Rodney Whitaker, one of the top jazz double bassists today and professor at Michigan State University.
Here you have 25 of the most incredible summer programs in the country. Are there any others that you have experience with? Share your thought in the comments below.