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Stanford Jazz Combos

2017 spring jazz combo concert

2017 Spring Combo Concert

All musicians with an interest in jazz are invited to audition for the jazz combo program. Participants receive some coaching from professional jazz players and have access to Department of Music rehearsal space, equipment (drums, amps, etc.) and music (SJW sheet music and fakebooks). Combos perform at the end of each quarter. Some groups play gigs in the community (optional).

Interested in playing in a jazz combo?

There are three paths into the program:

a.    Auditions – for new people and returning players looking for a group
b.    Pre-formed group – for self-organizing returning players
c.    Jazz Skills Combo – an entry level group offered only in Autumn Quarter

How to join the jazz combo program

Each of the three paths are explained in greater detail below.

Playing in a jazz combo is a wonderful thing to do, though there are a few responsibilities and requirements to consider.

Before applying, read the Basic Information for Jazz Combos and Expectations for Combo Participation (below) to make sure the program works for you.


UPDATE: For current Sqring Quarter 2021 Jazz Combo info please go to:

The information below will be revised when we are able to again reasonably plan ahead. Meanwhile, the info at the above link will be undated as necessary.

Auditions are necessary for people new to the program, and for returning players looking for a spot in a group. Depending on your schedule and level of jazz experience, you may fit into one of the beginning, intermediate or advanced groups being formed this fall.

Placement in a group depends primarily on the demands of instrumental balance, and the availability of other players at your comparable experience level who can rehearse at a time both when you are available and when coaching is also possible. Most rehearsals are on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

Preference will be given to music majors and minors, those participating in other jazz courses, and students who are concurrently taking jazz private lessons. If you cannot immediately be placed in a group, a spot may open up or a new group may form in a subsequent quarter. In autumn quarter only, you may choose to participate in the Jazz Skills Combo (see below).

A. Auditions for Regular Combos

If you are new to the program or returning and looking for a spot in a group, you must apply via the Regular Jazz Combos Audition Form online form and then audition that same evening (see below). Latecomers will be accommodated if possible.

a. Fill out the Regular Jazz Combos Audition Form. (Note: You can update the form later as long as you also email so that the organizers will know that there has been a change).
b. Come to the jazz combo auditions:

  • DATE:
  • TIMES: 6:00pm: Rhythm section players only (bassists, drummers, pianists, and guitarists) 7:30pm: All other instrumentalists
  • ADDITIONAL DETAILS: bring your instrument, but we'll provide amps as needed, piano, and drums (drummers should bring own sticks).

B. Pre-Formed Groups

Pre-forming a group can be an option for some returning players who want to play together regularly in a jazz group they have formed. If you are a member of a pre-formed ensemble and you have participated in jazz combos at Stanford in the past, your group Admin may request permission for your group to register this year without an audition.

Because of limited resources, not all groups can be accepted. You may be asked to modify your group, or include an additional player.

Jazz combos typically include three to eight players.

To apply as a pre-formed group without audition:

  1. All group members should read the Basic Information for Jazz Combos and Expectations for Combo Participation (below) to make sure the program works for you.
  2. Pre-formed groups should designate one member of the group as the Administrative Leader and this person should apply for the group via the online Pre-Formed Combo Request Form or let Jim Nadel know your intention to do so by 6pm Tuesday, September 24. The sooner your fill out the form, the better the chances of getting your group’s preferred rehearsal day/time. (Note: You can update the form later as long as you also email so that the organizers will know that there has been a change).

C. Jazz Skills Combo

Note: Section number of MUSIC 171: Jazz Skills Combo is Sec 32.

During autumn quarter only there will be an entry-level jazz skills combo. No prior jazz experience is necessary, though students must know all 12 major scales and have a basic knowledge of a musical instrument (which normally requires at least 18 months of study). Preference will be given to students who have taken or are enrolled in Music 20A.

The jazz skills combo will meet on Tuesdays from noon to 1:00pm in Room 111, Braun Music Center.

Joining the Jazz Skills Combo: There is no need to fill out any online form. Simply send an email to  Bob Murphy: and come to the first meeting to join in! Bring your instrument, though we'll provide piano, and amps and drums as needed (drummers should bring own sticks).

Basic Information for Jazz Combos (MUSIC 181)


Basic knowledge of an instrument (including all 12 major scales) and some improvisation experience.

Requirements and Grading

Jazz Combos rehearse weekly at a scheduled time. Each quarter, each combo member is expected to:

  1. register for one or zero units,
  2. attend weekly rehearsals,
  3. attend end of quarter combo performances and review at least one group,
  4. attend one of the combo masterclasses, and one or more CoHo open jam sessions,
  5. sign up for and complete a jazz community task
  6. submit a very brief report by email at the end of quarter.

More details on these requirements below.

1. Students must register for 1 unit or use Zero Unit Enrollment

All Stanford students playing in Department of Music ensembles are required to register in Axess. If you are unable to enroll for units in a combo due to the unit limits of your major or advanced degree program, you should enroll in the zero-unit version. When combo personnel are finalized, a permission number will then be emailed to you for enrollment. More information about  Zero Unit Enrollment here:

2. Attendance counts

Weekly participation is important; we can’t cancel rehearsal every time someone in the group has a midterm or paper due, so if you cannot commit to attending every week, please do not get involved.

The grade you receive at the end of the quarter will mostly be based on your attendance, commitment and teamwork. Students who fully participate can expect to receive an A, Credit or Satisfactory.

All combo participants are required to read and acknowledge the Expectations for Combo Participation which further explains these policies.

3. Required attendance on performance dates

Combos perform at the end of each quarter and everyone is required to attend whether to perform with your group and/or provide peer to peer written feedback for at least one other group. (Talk with Jim Nadel in advance if there is a scheduling issue.)

2019-2020 performance dates are:

AUTUMN: Mondays, November 18 and December 2, 2019 (CoHo)

WINTER: Mondays, March 2 and 9, 2020 (CoHo)

SPRING:  Friday, May 29, 2020 (Campbell Recital Hall, Braun Music Center) and Monday, June 1, 2020 (CoHo)

4. Combo Masterclasses and CoHo jam sessions

Each combo member is expected to participate in at least one Combo Masterclass (dates TBA). Each combo member must also attend one Monday night CoHo open jam session during the quarter to sit-in and/or listen. If you cannot do this, contact Jim Nadel for an alternative activity.

5. Final wrap up report

At the end of each quarter, in order to receive a grade you will need to send an email to Jim Nadel ( briefly summarizing what you accomplished in combo during the quarter. (Two or three sentences is fine).

6. Security and care for equipment

Students must respect Department of Music facilities and equipment and agree to follow the appropriate procedures to ensure that equipment remains safe, in good working order, and is available for all those sharing it. See Expectations for Combo Participation.

7. Equipment access

It is advisable for the drummer and another member of your group to have access to the ground floor equipment lockers and/or Practice Module 13 in room 206. This equipment and rehearsal space is available for jazz use only. To obtain access, contact Jim Nadel, who will connect you with the Dept. of Music office, which oversees and controls access.

8. Additional important information

Read Expectations for Combo Participation if you have not yet done so.


Combo Formation

A Note to Instrumentalists:

Our goal is to get as many people playing as possible, and, as you might imagine, this requires a complex scheduling effort to put together compatible combinations and set up rehearsal times when coaching is available. The system favors people who know their schedule and who play an “in-demand” instrument (typically bass or drums) or who play a single line instrument (woodwind, brass, strings). While there can often be multiple single line instruments in a group, having multiple chordal instruments in a group can be problematic.

A Note to Vocalists:

Vocalists who are able to improvise through chord changes and can function like another instrumentalist in the group are welcome to participate. This usually requires an excellent ear and knowledge of basic jazz harmony.

Questions and Contacts:

Combo questions? Contact Jim Nadel:

Other Jazz Ensembles contacts: