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Jazz Program

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OU Jazz Program


The origin of the OU Jazz Program, in its current form, can be traced back to the late 1980’s when the bass professor, John Williams, agreed to direct the jazz band. Williams built the library, prepared the band for concerts, and almost immediately, began taking the group to regional jazz festivals.. Soon a second band was needed. Before long, both bands were traveling and the top band became one of the most appreciated ensembles at the Wichita Jazz Festival, always receiving standing ovations following performances. On the wave of his success, Williams created a jazz improvisation class, a jazz history class, a jazz arranging class and a chamber jazz class.

In 1998 John Williams retired and was succeeded by Mr. Jay Wilkinson, a graduate of the university. Wilkinson quickly brought to the program his love for progressive jazz redefining the two bands as a literature band and an experimental band. He also established a vocal jazz component, strengthened the chamber jazz area, initiated the university’s first jazz recitals, and broadened the scope of the program by integrating the independent study course more fully for students with unique interests. The following features are a result of Jay's steadfast commitment and the support of the OU School of Music: Students can receive large ensemble credit for participation in jazz band. The OU Jazz Program received the Joni Rice Memorial Jazz Education Fund which is the primary financial backing for guest artists, travel, and program expenses. The OU School of Music now offers two Bachelor's Degrees with an emphasis in jazz studies, as well as an Instrumental Jazz Minor.