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Jazz and Improvised Music

  • Bryan Van Pelt Quote
  • Jazz Studies major Carmen Rothwell, bass, in performance at the 2013 Improvised Music Project Festival (Photo: Steve Korn).
    Jazz Studies major Carmen Rothwell, bass, in performance at the 2013 Improvised Music Project Festival (Photo: Steve Korn).
  • Cuong Vu
    Cuong Vu, Jazz Studies chair (Photo: Steve Korn)
  • Bill Frisell and Ted Poor
    Guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Ted Poor are new additions to the Jazz Studies faculty at UW (Steve Korn photo).
  • Ted Poor
    Drummer Ted Poor has joined the UW Jazz Studies faculty (Steve Korn photo).
  • Bill Frisell and Ted Poor with jazz band
    Students, faculty, and guest artists perform at the Chapel Performance Space in Wallingford for the 2013 Improvised Music Project festival (Steve Korn photo).
  • Jazz drummer
    One way to look at it.
  • Playing at HuskyFest
    Jazz Studies students perform at a UW Huskyfest event.

At the heart of the thriving new music scene in Seattle, the Jazz Studies and Improvised Music program at the University of Washington is well-established as a birthing ground for innovation, collaboration, and disciplined concentration on technical mastery and excellence in performance and creation.

Long a catalyst for innovative directions in new music and for preparing students to perform at the highest levels of musicianship in the professional realm, the program provides a foundation in the significant historical figures, works, styles, and movements of jazz, coupled with an encouragement toward pushing boundaries and extending the art form. Among the most vibrant and energetic musical communities at UW, the program benefits tremendously from its proximity to the excellent jazz programs of Seattle’s middle and high schools and the atmosphere of experimentation in the clubs and coffeehouses of the Seattle’s music scene.

Renowned Faculty

Faculty in the program—all seasoned professionals with serious touring and recording credits—guide students in mastering their chosen instruments and in applying musical concepts and training to performance in small and large ensemble settings. Our faculty represent a range of strengths and areas of interest from traditional jazz to the avant- garde.

Performance Opportunities

On-campus performance opportunities run the gamut from traditional big band settings to small ensembles creating original works and new arrangements of the great works from the jazz repertoire. Students interested in exploring musical opportunities beyond campus will find abundant avenues for expression in both casual and more formal settings.

Esteemed Guest Artists

The program regularly hosts workshops, clinics, and performances by visiting musicians, many of them giants of jazz and improvised music.  Some of our recent guests have included: Pat Metheny, Lee Konitz, Bill Frisell, John McLaughlin, Jack DeJohnette, Alex Acuña, Ralph Alessi, Tim Berne, Brian Blade, Don Byron, Matthew Garrison, The Bad Plus, Regina Carter, Ron Carter, Larry Coryell, Dave Douglas, George Garzone, Marcus Miller, John Patitucci, Eric Revis, Antonio Sanchez, Mike Stern, Craig Taborn, Ernie Watts, and Matt Wilson, among others.

Non-Major Instrumental Lessons

Students who are not majoring in music but who are interested in taking private instrumental lessons with faculty are welcome to audition! Non-major lessons auditions occur in September, January, and February each year for admission into a faculty studio beginning Fall term. More audition information can be found on the Audition Dates page. Lessons are offered on a space-available basis in faculty studios and occur weekly over the course of the academic year. If admitted to private lessons, students will be given a faculty code to register for the appropriate MUSICP course number. In addition to tuition, non-major lessons require a $500 course lesson fee. 

Student Support

In addition to student support distributed by the University of Washington’s financial aid office, the School of Music distributes more than a half million dollars annually in merit- and need-based student support. Graduate teaching assistantships are highly competitive and are granted in all areas of study.  


For more information, contact

Faculty in this Area

  • Chair and Professor, Jazz Studies; Floyd and Delores Jones Endowed Chair in the Arts
  • Marc Seales
    Professor, Jazz Piano
  • Associate Director; Associate Professor, Drums; Donald E. Petersen Fellowship for Excellence, Jazz Studies
  • Steve Rodby
    Artist in Residence, Bass
  • Faculty Composer Huck Hodge
    Chair, Composition; Donald E. Petersen Endowed Professor
  • Faculty composer Richard Karpen. Photo: Steve Korn
    Adjunct Professor, Composition