Audition Information

Join the ISU Jazz Ensembles:: Fall 2024

Thanks for your interest in the ISU Jazz Ensembles.  We operate two big bands and two jazz combos, and each of those groups presents (a minimum of) two concerts per semester.  Membership in those groups is determined by an audition process to all ISU students, regardless of major.  The big bands usually seat 15 horns and 4 rhythm section players, playing large ensemble music with opportunities for solos.  The combos usually have 5-7 members, playing from lead sheets with an emphasis on improvisation and group interplay.  The ensembles are outfitted based upon instrumentation, ability, and availability.  You will be placed in a group that challenges your talents and works with your academic schedule.  Engagement and attendance at rehearsals are paramount, and appearance and performance at scheduled concerts is required.  All ensemble assignments are made at the discretion of the director.

  • Scholarship opportunities are available for rhythm section players who successfully audition into, register for, and participate in a big band AND a jazz combo

If you have not participated in an ISU Jazz Ensemble before and have interest in auditioning for consideration, follow the New Student process.  Returning members are expected to re-audition, and should follow the Returning Student process.  You will be contacted directly via email if you get placed into an ensemble, and will be instructed to register for that particular course. 

the NEW STUDENT process

Auditions will be in person on Saturday, August 24th between 11:30-3:30 in room 002 at Estes Hall.  (Enter through the loading dock doors, curl downstairs to the ground level, and room 002 is the first door on your left).  Prepare to play an etude/transcription, sight-read, and improvise over any of the three song forms (see below).  Perform with stylistic authenticity.  Improvise with sensibility.  We will provide a piano, a drumset, a bass amp, a guitar amp, and music stands.  Fill out the information card HERE before signing up for a time.  The official sign-up sheet will be posted to the ISU Bands bulletin board by Saturday, August 16th.


Your auditions will be virtual.  Video record yourself playing an etude/transcription and improvising over one of the three song forms (you are strongly encouraged to play something that you have been working on, NOT the etudes posted below on this webpage). Be sure that the backing track is audible.  Perform with stylistic authenticity.  Improvise with sensibility.  Fill out the information card HERE. Email your audition mp4 file (etude, improv) to by Sunday, August 25th. Please note that past participation does not guarantee placement in an ensemble.

the JAZZ AUDITION components

sight-reading:  You will be given a piece of music, likely extracted from a big band chart or etude book.  You will be allowed a few moments to look it over before playing it live.  This exercise reveals your ability to read music in a pressurized environment.  *new students only*

etude/transcription:  Prepare a jazz etude or jazz transcription that showcases your strengths, reflects your preparation for the audition, and indicates your current level of musicianship.  If you choose to play your own jazz etude or jazz transcription, be sure that it is at an equal level of difficulty to the examples provided HERE.   

improvisation:  An improvised solo is required for all auditions. Considerations include harmonic knowledge, form awareness, and stylistic authenticity.  Choose from one of the three standard tunes indicated.  A playalong track has been provided, and can be downloaded below.

All ensemble assignments will be posted by noon on Monday, August 26th in Estes Hall to the ISU Band bulletin board, the Jazz Ensembles bulletin board (second floor) and the Room #255 bulletin board.

Jazz 2.0 – 1st rehearsal is Monday August 26th @ 3:20 in room 102

weekly rehearsals M/W @ 3:20-4:30   MUS1130 section 2

jazzONE – 1st rehearsal is Tuesday August 27th @ 2:10 in room 102

weekly rehearsal Tu/Th @ 2:10-3:30     MUS1130 section 1

ISU Jazz Combos – 1st rehearsal during the first week of classes

two weekly rehearsals TBD   MUS3210J

You WEREN’T PLACED in an ensemble

Hang in there.  Because of scheduling conflicts every new semester, there is some occasional turnover in our ensembles.  Your audition information card (with your contact info and a synopsis of your audition) is kept and referred to if an opening occurs.  Please know that some of our finest jazz performers have auditioned multiple times before earning a spot in an ensemble and contributing significantly.  Keep practicing, keep listening, and check out our on-campus jazz events. 


please email Mike Giles, Director of Jazz Studies room #255 Music Hall