Jazz Camp

2021 Summer in the Arts Camps Update

We are thrilled to announce that we will be holding Summer in the Arts Camps in 2021. Due to the quickly changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot state at this time whether these camps will be in-person or online. We will post an update on the camps and open registration for them in early 2021!

Get the latest campus updates related to COVID-19.

July 11-16, 2021 Grades 8-12 (grade completion)


This camp will help you improve your performance and understanding of jazz. Designed for enthusiastic musicians of any skill level, the camp is full of performing, learning and listening. You'll benefit from:

  • Classes on jazz improvisation and jazz theory.
  • Instrument master classes.
  • Jam sessions, private lessons and group classes.
  • Discussions on jazz styles and the music business.

You'll stay in Gilbert Hall during camp. Your experience will end with a concert open to your friends and family.

Additional Information

For more information check out these resources:

Private Lessons

Campers may elect to take private music lessons during the week at an additional cost of $30 per half hour. You may sign up for the lessons at the check-in table on Sunday or in the External Programs office (Room 132 Music Building) beginning on Monday morning; you will be asked to pay either by check written to NIU (preferred) or cash when you sign up. More details will be available at check-in and the orientation meeting.

End-of-the-Week Concert

On the final day of camp parents and friends are invited to hear the camper combos and big bands perform in the Music Building. The groups begin performing at 3 p.m. and will continue until about 5 p.m. Campers will be assigned to a combo or big band after the Sunday auditions.

To learn which group your son or daughter has been assigned to, during camp week, call the office or contact your child. Parents - remember to pick up a camp schedule on Sunday, as this will have the performance schedule for the combos and bands. If you are unable to attend the concert may meet their child at Gilbert Hall at about 5:15 p.m. Campers' luggage will be secured in a room during the day at the residence hall for pick-up at the end of the concert.

What to Bring Checklist

  • Comfortable/sturdy walking shoes or sandals.
    • Note: Flip flops are not allowed in classes and should be worn only in the residence hall.
  • Umbrella or rain gear
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Sweatshirt
  • Alarm clock
  • Water bottle
  • Sheets and pillowcase (standard twin size)
  • Blanket, pillow, towels
  • Money for souvenirs, snacks, lessons
  • Dress during the week is casual yet appropriate; please, no short shorts!
  • Standard concert clothes for Friday's performances
    • Button shirt, nice slacks, jacket and tie optional
    • Skirt or nice pants no shorts, no sneakers, no jeans
  • Headphones, MP3 player for jazz music listening (recommended, not required)


All instrumentalists (except pianists and vibraphonists) are expected to bring their own instruments to camp. This includes drummers, guitarists and bassists. Call 815-753-1450 as soon as possible to let us know if you have concerns about this.


Bring no more than a 5-piece drum set with three cymbals. Bring your throne and a rug or small piece of carpet.

Guitarists and Bassists

Bring your amp, patch cord(s) and an electrical extension cord as well as your instrument.

Those players who listed a second instrument on the registration form are asked to bring both instruments to camp. Included are doubles, mutes, etc. All woodwind players should bring your doubles and trumpet players should bring your flugels.


Early bird registration fee: $600 (postmarked June 1 or earlier)
Registration fee: $650

Returning camper and family discount: $25 (for campers who have previously attended Jazz Camp, and the children and grandchildren of NIU students, staff and faculty members)

Space is limited for certain instruments, so register early! You can register online or by mail. You'll pay a $100 deposit when you register (unless applying for a summer camp scholarship). The remaining balance is due on June 15.


We encourage campers to print out the music and practice in advance for the sessions. Sign-up sheets will be available in the Recital Hall lobby. During the jam session, each soloist will perform a maximum of two solo choruses on the 32-bar form tunes and a maximum of four choruses on the blues and the other short form tunes.

All Blues: C Bb Eb Bass

Autumn Leaves: C Bb Eb Bass

Billie's Bounce: C Bb Eb Bass

Blue Bossa: C Bb Eb Bass

Blue Monk: C Bb Eb Bass

Bye Bye Blackbird: C Bb Eb Bass

Doxy: C Bb Eb Bass

Equinox: C Bb Eb Bass

Footprints: C Bb Eb Bass

How High the Moon: C Bb Eb Bass

Now's the Time: C Bb Eb Bass

Oleo: C Bb Eb Bass

Pent-Up House: C Bb Eb Bass

Satin Doll: C Bb Eb Bass

So What: C Bb Eb

Song for My Father: C Bb Eb Bass

Stella By Starlight: C Bb Eb Bass

Take the A Train: C Bb Eb Bass

Tenor Maddness: C Bb Eb Bass


You'll audition for an ensemble on the first day of camp. Your audition will include:

  • One piece that you have prepared.
  • Sight reading.
  • An improvised solo on blues or rhythm changes (optional).

You'll be assigned to one of these ensembles:

  • Jazz bands: Perform big band music, including the music of Basie, Ellington and Woody Herman.
  • Jazz combos: Explore improvisation approaches and arranging techniques by playing jazz standards.
  • Latin jazz combo: Perform jazz, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and fusion styles.


Auditions are scheduled to begin after orientation at 2:30 p.m. Campers are welcome to prepare a piece for auditions, but this is not necessary. Sight-reading is part of the audition. Audition and evaluation results will be used to assign campers to classes and ensembles.


Play swing, shuffle, funk, Latin, and ballad brush styles, and read an intermediate big band chart.


Sight-read an intermediate jazz arrangement, improvise on an F, B♭ blues, or B♭ rhythm changes, if comfortable, not required.


Sight-read written parts and chord symbols and play in swing, Latin, and ballad styles. Improvise F or B♭ blues and B♭ rhythm changes, if comfortable, not required.

After Auditions

When campers finish their auditions, they should go to the Recital Hall to participate in a jam session.


Our Jazz Camp staff is composed of talented NIU faculty and students, alumni, guest artists and area teachers. The ratio of campers to staff members is about 12:1. Staff members are assigned to each residence hall floor and accompany campers to all meals and activities.


Geof Bradfield (director)

Geof Bradfield is an NIU faculty member. Learn more about Geof on his faculty webpage.

Mark Dahl

Mark Dahl holds a bachelor's degree in Saxophone Performance and a master's degree in Music Education from Northern Illinois University. He has studied conducting with Steven Squires and Dr. Ronnie Wooten and jazz pedagogy with Ron Carter.

Mark is currently Band Director and Assistant Division Chair for Fine Arts at Lyons Township High School in LaGrange, Illinois. Groups under his direction have been selected to perform at the Illinois Music Education State Conference, as finalists for the Illinois Superstate Band Festival and the Essentially Ellington Jazz Competition hosted by Jazz at Lincoln Center. In addition to his school responsibilities, Mark maintains a busy schedule as a performer and clinician throughout the Chicago area and was a contributing author to Teaching Music Through Performance in Jazz, Volume 2. He has guest conducted several ILMEA all district jazz groups and was the guest director of the All-State Jazz Band in Rhode Island. He has been on the staff of the Birch Creek Summer Jazz Camp (2001-2009) and the Northern Illinois University Jazz Camp (2010-present). Mark has performed with Johnny Frigo, Jim Galaredo, Mark Colby, Vince Maggio, John McLean, Bob Havens, Bobby Wilson and Neal Alger.

Mark lives in Brookfield, Illinois with his wife, Laura and 2 daughters.

Marybeth Kurnat (co-head counselor)

Marybeth Kurnat holds a B.M. in Music Education from NIU, and has been teaching professionally since 2012. She currently teaches 6th grade band, jazz and general music at Huntley Middle School, and is an arranger and co-director for the DeKalb High School a cappella program. ​During her career as a public school educator, she has been nominated for a Golden Apple Award and Kane County Educator of the Year. She also maintains a private woodwind studio, and is frequently engaged as a festival clinician and adjudicator. Marybeth has a dynamic performance background in instrumental music, vocal music and theater. She is a member of the St. Charles Singers and the Chicago Choral Artists. ​She has been on the NIU Jazz Camp ​staff since 2011​.

Lexi Nomikos

Lexi Nomikos is a saxophonist, composer, and educator from Milwaukee currently residing in Denver, Colorado. Lexi earned her bachelor's degree in Jazz Studies at Northern Illinois University, where she studied with Jazz saxophonist Geof Bradfield and Classical/Contemporary music saxophonists Jessica Maxfield and Ryan Muncy. While earning her bachelor's, she played around the Chicago area and taught privately.

In the spring of 2019, she earned her Master's in Jazz Performance and Pedagogy at the University of Colorado Boulder where she was the saxophone teaching assistant for the duration of her time there. While at CU Boulder, Lexi had the opportunity to play Maria Schneider's music under her direction, teach combos, big bands, and assist with classes such as CU's BLork (Boulder Laptop Orchestra) and Jazz History. The Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts, a Jazz program for teens, has asked her to be a Mentor at the annual “She-bop” workshop for the past two years. In Colorado, Lexi plays with renowned musicians such as Annie Booth and with the Boy/Girl Band lead by Art Lande. Currently, she teaches privately and with the Colorado School of Music in Golden. Lexi has taught at the NIU Jazz Camp since the summer of 2016.

Lenard Simpson

Lenard Simpson is a saxophonist, composer and educator from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He started playing clarinet in elementary school wind ensemble and later switched to the alto, which is his primary instrument currently. Lenard was mostly self-taught through high school, but his natural ability and musicianship earned him accolades such as membership in the esteemed Grammy Camp Jazz Session, and an outstanding soloist award at the Mingus Jazz Competition in New York City. After completing high school, Lenard went on to pursue a bachelor's in jazz performance at Northern Illinois University. Lenard soon became a core member of the legendary Jazz program's many award-winning ensembles, meanwhile diversifying his education, studying classical saxophone. While studying at NIU, Lenard was awarded first place in Chicago's esteemed Luminarts Jazz Competition. Upon graduation, Lenard moved to Chicago and soon became one of the city's top call young saxophonists and improvisers, playing sideman to legendary local drummers, George Fludas and Charles Heath. Meanwhile, Lenard's trio comprising of revered musicians such as Dana Hall and Clark Sommer has appeared at premier clubs and jazz festivals throughout the Chicago and Milwaukee area.

In addition to maintaining an active performing schedule as a leader and a sideman, Simpson is also an educator and has taught at several high-profile jazz camps including the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Northern Illinois University, and Birch Creek. In 2018, Lenard was selected by a panel of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, James Newton and Ambrose Akinmusire to be a member of the Thelonious Monk Institute Fellowship, which has since been renamed to the Herbie Hancock Institute. Following his acceptance, Lenard moved to Los Angeles, where he currently resides. While pursuing his master's degree at UCLA through the fellowship, Lenard remains active as a performer and educator in LA's growing jazz community regularly appearing at LA's premier jazz venues such as the Blue Whale and Sam First.


Kimberly Branch

Kimberly Branch has earned a bachelor's in jazz studies as well as a bachelor's degree in Music Education from Northern Illinois University. She currently serves as Director of Bands at Edison Middle School in Champaign, IL. She directs 3 jazz ensembles, 2 combos, 3 concert Bands, and 5th grade beginning band. The top jazz ensemble has received numerous accolades and awards including 1st place at the 2016 and 2017 Purdue Jazz festival and 1st place at the Eastern Illinois Jazz Festival. The Edison Middle School Jazz Ensemble was recently invited to perform at the 70th Annual Midwest Clinic at McCormick Place in Chicago as well as the 2017 Illinois Music Education Conference in Peoria. Kimberly has served at many camps including the Dillard Center for the Arts Jazz camp and the NIU summer jazz camp from 2012-2016 as a vocal instructor and trumpet clinician. Kimberly has toured with the NIU Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Prof. Ron Carter and Prof. Reggie Thomas for several years.


Kyle McComb

Kyle McComb is a member the NIU jazz studies program (receiving his Bachelor of Music Performance degree in May 2018) and plays regularly in the Chicago area. While at NIU, Kyle has performed with the NIU Jazz Ensemble, Latin Jazz Ensemble, and various jazz combos and classical ensembles. He has studied percussion, pedagogy, improvisation, and composition with Rodrigo Villanueva, Juan Pastor, Quin Kirchner, Greg Beyer, Mike Mixtacki, Ben Wahlund, Robert Chappell, Reggie Thomas, Geof Bradfield, Fareed Haque, Art Davis, and David Maki. His playing and composition reflect his interest in jazz music as a music of interaction, spontaneity, and innovation. An affinity for many styles of music and a willingness to experiment musically has made Kyle an in-demand sideman in the Chicago scene. Kyle has instructed young musicians in situations varying from private lessons to jazz combos to big bands to percussion ensembles; his teaching emphasizes developing an individual approach to music that is based on a firm understanding of musical traditions and technique.

Everette Benton Jr.

Everette Benton Jr., 24, is a drummer based in DeKalb, Illinois. Originally from East St. Louis, he began playing drums at age 13, performing in his middle school and high school jazz groups and marching and concert bands. He performed in the IMEA (Illinois Music Education Association) Honors Big Band (2011) and Honors Combo (2012). He also performed with the East St. Louis Sr. High School Jazz Band as they made it to the Essentially Ellington Competition in New York. He is currently pursuing his bachelor's degree in Music Performance (Jazz Studies) at Northern Illinois University, studying under Rodrigo Villanueva. He has performed with Reggie Thomas, Fareed Haque, Geof Bradfield, Marquis Hill, Adam Larson, the NIU Jazz Orchestra, Tim Warfield, among others.


Sam Dando

Sam Dando was born and raised in the small town of Villa Park, IL and started his bass career at the age of 13 studying both classical and jazz on the upright and electric bass. He went on to be a part of the NIU Jazz Studies program, studying with Kelly Sill, Marlene Rosenberg, Fareed Haque, Reggie Thomas and many more. After receiving his bachelor's degree, Sam continued his studies at NIU to acquire his master's degree and began focusing more on his development in world music styles and genres such as Flamenco, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Brazilian music. Playing and educating all throughout the Midwest at various schools and venues, he is well versed and experienced to handle many different musical situations. Known for his aggressive and highly energetic playing style, you can see Sam playing in groups ranging from straight ahead swing to electronic and metal. He has worked with various artists such as Keith “Legendmane” Winford, The Dillon Mansour Trio, The Perrilles Project, Larry Brown Jr., Ingenuity, Rodrigo Villanueva and more.


Scott Mertens (Big Band director)

Scott Mertens is a pianist, educator, and composer/arranger in northern Illinois. His master's degree in music is from NIU, and he has a bachelor's degree in music education from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He has written jazz charts for Jim Martin's jazz music site, and he was a contributing author for Volume 1 and 2 of Teaching Music Through Performance in Jazz.

Scott currently performs in the Chicago area and is a member of the Event Horizon Jazz Quartet, and he was a member of the Doug Stone/Doug Bratt Big Band. He was the director of the NIU Community School of the Arts Jazz Band and has been a clinician at jazz festivals across the Midwest. He has worked extensively with middle and high school jazz bands and is the director of the Sycamore High School Jazz Ensemble. Scott has been with the NIU Jazz Camp for many years.


Tetsuya Nishiyama

Tetsuya is a guitarist based in Chicago. Born in Japan, he has played professionally for over 10 years. He moved to Chicago, IL in 2012 to attend Northern Illinois University where he studied with world class guitarist Fareed Haque. Since coming to Chicago, Tetsuya has been fortunate to work at some of the area's finest musicians as a leader or sideman.


Nick Roach (co-head counselor)

Originally from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, Nick Roach has established himself in Chicagoland as an in-demand composer, arranger, educator and performer. Having performed in several states and on cruise ships on five continents, Nick is an adept and versatile musician on multiple instruments as well as being an accomplished bass-baritone singer. As a composer/arranger, he has written for groups of various sizes and genres, including writing for his own ensembles as well as receiving commissions to write for big bands and combos in Illinois and Texas.

As a trombonist and singer, Nick has had the privilege of performing with many respected musicians of different genres, such as Arthur Barrow (Frank Zappa), The Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Harry James Orchestra, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Corey Wilkes, Robert Irving III, Ari Brown, Ray Olan y su Nuevo Sason, Al Smith, Dee Alexander, Sal Lozano, Nicholas White, Russ Phillips, Victor Garcia and Eric Schneider, as well as the Chicago Philharmonic, Chicago Bach Chamber Choir, Chicago Jazz Orchestra and the Chicago Composers' Big Band. Nick holds a Master of Music in Jazz Studies from Northern Illinois University and a bachelor of Music in Jazz Trombone Performance from the University of North Texas. He has taught at the NIU Jazz Camp since 2016."


A general overview of the camp schedule is below or view the full 2019 camp schedule (PDF). You'll receive a schedule when you check in.

Date and Time Activity Location
Sunday, July 12Noon-2 p.m. Check-in

First, take your luggage to Gilbert Hall. Next, go to the nearby Music Building to pick up camp materials. Free parking is available in front of Gilbert Hall and in the lot south of the Music Building.

When you check in, you'll have the opportunity to sign up for optional private music lessons for an extra charge.

Sunday, July 122:15 p.m.


Boutell Memorial Concert Hall (Music Building)

Parents are welcome at this orientation session with the camp director and staff.

Sunday, July 12, to Friday, July 12

Camp activities

Music Building

Friday, July 173 p.m.

Final concert

Music Building

After the concert, pick up your luggage from Gilbert Hall.

Jam Sessions

We will have signup sheets in the Recital Hall lobby for the jam sessions scheduled for 3:15 – 4:45 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Campers are encouraged to prepare in advance for these sessions by downloading the jam session music in PDF format from this site. You are also encouraged to find and listen to recordings of the tunes.

During the jam session, each soloist will perform a maximum of two solo choruses on the 32 bar form tunes and a maximum of four choruses on the blues and the other short form tunes.

Free Time Options

Other daily options during the 3:15 – 4:45 p.m. period include board games and sports, in addition to private music lessons.

Talent Show

Campers are invited to participate in the jazz camp talent show on Thursday night. Bring your skits, imitations, tap shoes, and yes, your musical instruments. The time limit per performance is three minutes.

Contact Us

College of Visual and Performing Arts
Office of External Programs

Music Building 132

Kristin Sherman

Online Office Hours

Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
(lunch from noon – 1 p.m.)

To protect the safety of our staff, students and families, we will operate remotely for the fall semester. Our staff will be available at their remote offices during normal NIU business hours and can be contacted via phone or email.

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