Growing Your Jazz Program

You say you want to teach the world to swing? Or at least the small part of it that finds itself in your classroom several times a week looking expectantly to you for guidance along the road to musical maturity in the jazz idiom? You’ve come to the right place.

“Many music educators in the real world are extremely gifted musicians who have earned their   teaching degrees without much experience in jazz,” says Greg Bunge, former Jazz Education  Chair for the Wisconsin MEA. “So, the question arises, how do I become successful at teaching  students to swing, improvise or perform a Latin groove?”

“Working with an accomplished artist and jazz educator is perhaps one of the most powerful   tools jazz educators can incorporate into their curriculum,” continues Bunge, “and here are  some fun ideas to bring talent and even a few fundraising opportunities to your school.”
A Night of Jazz

Host a “Night of Jazz” and invite a guest artist to play with your band or in conjunction with a
local band.

  • Offer local businesses the opportunity to run advertisements in the program.
  • Ask a local printer to donate their services in producing the program.
  • Enlist parents’ help in soliciting the ads.

Artist in Residence

  • Call on talented musicians from local universities who might be available to work with students
    for a minimal cost…perhaps gas money, lunch and a soda.
  • Ask a local musician to spend the day with the students.

Summer Camps, Workshops, Jazz Festivals and Clinics

  • Encourage students to attend jazz summer camps.
  • Ask local businesses to adopt a student and pay for their camp tuition.
  • Participate in jazz festivals or clinics. In almost every case there are guest artists and clinicians
    who will give tips to students and music educators alike.

Free Resources

  • Local music retailers offer in-house clinics. Watch for their posters and opportunities.
  • Attend concerts at local universities and high schools.
  • Visit websites with jazz-oriented content like and

Playing at a Local Restaurant

Meet with a local restaurant owner and offer to entertain the establishment’s patrons for an evening. In exchange, suggest that a portion of the proceeds to be donated to your program. Students get a chance to play in a nightclub setting and parents, family and friends can enjoy a meal, visit and hear great live jazz.

Excerpted from “Tap Into Opportunities to Support Your Program!” by Greg Bunge, originally published in the January 2006 Wisconsin School Musician

Gregory D. Bunge is director of bands at Badger High School in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where he teaches three concert bands, jazz ensemble, jazz lab, combos and general music

—Nick Webb, November 19, 2008, © National Association for Music Education