Northern Illinois University has become nationally known for its outstanding jazz studies program. Graduates from NIU are among the top musicians not only in the Chicago-area music scene but also all over the country.
For undergraduate students, the Jazz Studies program is a B.M. degree in Music Performance with a Jazz Studies Emphasis, and graduate students may design an individualized MM degree with a specialization in Jazz Studies. The curriculum includes courses in Jazz History, Jazz Theory, Introduction to Jazz Studies, Aural Foundations of Improvisation (I & II), Jazz Arranging (I & II), Jazz Pedagogy, Jazz Improvisation (I & II), Electronic and Computer Music, Recording Techniques, Survey of the Music Industry, World Music, and many large and small ensemble opportunities. Students have the opportunity to perform in one of the three big bands and also participate in one of the seven combos organized each semester. Many students play professionally and become a part of the Chicago area music scene while attending NIU.
The faculty includes some of the greatest performers and jazz educators in the country. Professor Reggie Thomas coordinates the area and directs the internationally-known NIU Jazz Ensemble. Willie Pickens, pianist with Elvin Jones for over 12 years, teaches advanced Jazz Piano. Professor Fareed Haque, an internationally-recognized artist with Blue Note Records, teaches advanced improvisation and guitar. Percussionist/composer/arranger Rodrigo Villanueva has played with classical, jazz, and popular artists in Mexico, South America, the U.S., and Japan, and teaches jazz arranging and drumset. Saxophonist and composer Geof Bradfield teaches saxophone, jazz history, among other courses, and coaches combos. Tom Garling, who has composed and arranged for, and recorded with such artists as Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson, Tito Puente, Dianne Schuur, and Frank Mantooth, teaches jazz trombone. Bassist Marlene Rosenberg coordinates the jazz combo program. Art Davis, one of the top jazz artists in Chicago, teaches jazz trumpet and jazz courses. Kelly Sill, who teaches jazz bass, has been active on the Chicago jazz scene for over 30 years. Professor Robert Chappell, renowned percussionist, composer and arranger, teaches jazz piano.