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Jazz Program


The jazz studies program at the University of Missouri – St. Louis has experienced tremendous growth during the past ten years under the leadership of Jim Widner, Director of Jazz Studies and leader of the University Jazz Ensemble. The Jazz Combo/Improvisation program is under the direction of jazz pianist Ken Kehner and trumpeter Allen Beeson.

As part of a student’s comprehensive jazz education, in addition to the above-mentioned ensembles, students can participate in an improvisation lab or study privately with St. Louis’ finest jazz performers and teachers, who are adjunct faculty members of the music department. The UMSL Jazz Ensemble was featured at the Jazz Education Network’s inaugural conference in 2010, the Notre Dame Jazz Festival in 2011 and was selected to perform at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago in December 2012.

The Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival has been host to internationally known music personalities including: Bassist Ron Carter, Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Clark Terry, Buddy DeFranco, Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band,  Mulgrew Miller,  Peter Erskine, John Pizzarelli, Jon Faddis, Lou Marini, Wayne Bergeron and Shelly Berg. Also appearing at past festivals:  Marilyn Maye, Conrad Herwig, Clay Jenkins, Chris Vadala, Byron Stripling, Mike Metheny, Jamey Aebersold and  many others. 

The 2012 Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival in conjunction with Jazz St. Louis, was proud to present the Grammy Award-winning Christian McBride Big Band and Pancho Sanchez And His Latin Jazz Band featuring Terrance Blanchard as well as Stefon Harris, Sean Jones and Lauren Sevian. The four-day Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival combines jazzcombos at Jazz At The Bistro followed by two days for big bands at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center on the campus of the University of Missouri–St. Louis. The goal of the four-day festival is to encourage the musical education and growth of the participating students by interaction with these internationally acclaimed artists. 

Guest artists for the 2013 festival include Doc Severinsen and His Big Band; the Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour, featuring Christian McBride, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Chris Potter, Benny Green, Lewis Nash and Ambose Akinmusire; and Anat Cohen and Matt Wilson.

In May of 2010, UMSL hosted the first annual Jazz Education Network (JEN) International Conference featuring high school, middle school and collegiate jazz groups from all across the United States and boasting such headliners as the Clayton Brothers, Stefon Harris, Bobby Shew, Rufus Reid and many others.

For additional information regarding auditions, schedule, concerts, activities, and performance availability contact:

Jim Widner, Director of Jazz Studies
Office: 314-516-4235