Jazz Studies

lewis jazz band

About the program

The Jazz Program at San José State University's School of Music and Dance offers a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies. For students interested in pursuing a career in jazz performance or composition, this degree provides opportunities to learn from some of the most outstanding jazz educators and performers in California.

A low teacher-to-student ratio means students receive a large amount of personal time to interact with faculty. The numerous ensembles offered by the School of Music and Dance provide students with ample opportunity to grow as improvising musicians.

Because of its centralized location in downtown San José – the nation’s tenth largest city – jazz studies students have almost limitless opportunities to secure performances outside of the School in any of the Bay Area’s numerous night spots. San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Cruz are easily accessible via public transportation and are less than one hour away.

Degrees Offered

  • Bachelor of Music in Performance
  • Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies
  • Bachelor of Music in Music Education
  • Bachelor of Arts in Music
  • Masters of Arts in Music
  • Minor in Music


  • Dr. Aaron Lington, coordinator (Jazz Orchestra/saxophone)
  • Jason Lewis (Jazz Ensemble/drum set)
  • Jeff Lewis (trumpet)
  • John Shifflett (Combos/bass)
  • Frank Sumares (Combos/piano)
  • Rick Vandivier (guitar)
  • Wayne Wallace (trombone, Latin jazz)

Audition Information

Visit our Audition page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I get private lessons from a jazz specialist?

Yes. Every jazz major takes a private lesson from a jazz specialist every week of the semester.

Can I play in a small jazz combo?

Yes. Auditions for all ensembles in the School of Music are held every semester, giving every student equal opportunity to place into the ensemble of his/her choice.

Do the ensembles at SJSU ever travel or have guest artists?

Yes. All ensembles at the SJSU School of Music travel or have guest artists as often as time and budget allows. Recent guest artists in the Jazz Studies Area include: Michael Spiro, John Worley, Wayne Bergeron, Tom Luer, Jamie Davis, Bobby Shew, Andy Martin, Steffen Kuehn, John Stowell, Stockton Helbing, Corey Christiansen, Christian Tamburr, Paul Tynan, Wayne Bergeron, and Peter Yellin.

Will I receive special instruction in improvisation?

Yes. In addition to private instruction given to all Jazz Studies majors at SJSU, several courses in the Jazz Studies Department are specifically designed to improve one’s skill at improvising.

What should I prepare for an audition?

Prepare selections that will best display what you are capable of as an improvising musician. For specific selections and details on the audition process, please consult the SJSU School of Music Undergraduate Handbook.

What theory should I know?

While having a strong background in classical and jazz theory would certainly be helpful, it is not essential for acceptance as a music major. The School of Music offers a number of courses that address both classical and jazz theory.