Jazz Studies

NIU 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. Our graduate jazz studies program has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the ten best in the nation.

For undergraduate students, the jazz studies program is a Bachelor of Music degree in music performance with a jazz studies emphasis. Undergraduates also have the opportunity to double major in music performance – jazz studies and music education, with the ability to complete the dual program in four years. Graduate students may design an individualized Master of Music degree with a specialization in jazz studies.

Studios and Instruments

Our jazz studios include bass, guitar, percussion, piano, saxophone, trombone and trumpet. Throughout the School of Music and jazz studies program at NIU, collaboration is key. Collaboration among NIU studios allows our students to explore their musical horizons by learning new genres, instruments and history.

Our new collaboration with the steelpan studies program includes the addition of the steelpan as a student's primary jazz instrument. As with any other primary jazz instrument, undergraduate and graduate students whose primary instrument is the steelpan can declare the jazz concentration for their music performance degree (B.M. or M.M.). Students will take primary lessons with Professor Liam Teague, participate in the NIU Steelband and Steelpan Studio, as well as participating in jazz combos and other jazz ensembles.

Program Overview

As a jazz student, you will complete jazz theory and aural foundation courses for improvisation, study the language, syntax and nomenclature idiomatic to jazz performance and improvisation. You will develop a deep understanding of jazz canon repertoire, and transcription study and analysis of jazz masters.

In addition, our curriculum includes many other styles relevant to jazz and contemporary music: funk, fusion, ECM, Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Peruvian. Through personalized study and group collaboration initiatives, NIU jazz students develop critical thinking skills, well-rounded musicianship, and the technical and conceptual skills necessary to thrive in the ever-changing music industry.

You will have the opportunity to perform in one of the three big bands and also participate in one of the several combos organized each semester. Many students play professionally and become a part of the Chicago area music scene while attending NIU.

Lessons and Coursework

As a music major, in addition to the music core curriculum and jazz foundation, you’ll work with our world-renown jazz faculty in weekly primary lessons, specific studio classes, jazz area convocations, and when possible, masterclasses, lectures and performances with guest artists.

Weekly lessons and assignments engage jazz students in listening and analysis and performance aspects such as idiomatic vocabulary development, phrasing, rhythmic interpretation and execution, accompanying techniques for both small jazz groups and big bands, theory, harmony and improvisation. Additionally, sight reading skill development, implementation of recording and music technology, composition and some aspects of music business are areas of focus.

Huskie Spotlight

Khadija Nagi, '25
Jazz Performance

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