Skip to content Skip to navigation

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

You must apply via the online form by 6pm Tuesday, September 25 and then audition that same evening (see below). Late comers will be accommodated if possible.

How to join the jazz combo program

Each of the three paths are explained in greater detail below. Before applying, also read “Basic Jazz Combo Information” in the next section.

A. Auditions

Auditions are necessary for people new to the program, and 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 are available to rehearse at a time both when you are available and when coaching is also possible.

Preference will be given to music majors, those participating in other jazz courses, and students who are concurrently taking 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. You may choose to participate in the Autumn Quarter Jazz Skills Combo (see below).

To audition:

  1. Read the Basic Information for Jazz Combos (below) to make sure the program works for you. Playing in a jazz combo is a wonderful thing to do, though there are a few responsibilities and requirements to consider.
  2. If you are new to the program or returning and looking for a spot in a group, you must do the following things by Tuesday, September 25:

a. Fill out the “Jazz Combos Audition form Autumn 2018” form at by 6pm on Tuesday September 25, 2018. (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: Tuesday, September 25, 2018
  • LOCATION: Braun Music Center room 105
  • 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).
  • Make sure you’ve filled out the form in advance!

B. Pre-formed group

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. (New players who want to pre-form a group must get advance permission from Jim Nadel). Pre-formed groups should designate one member of the group as the Administrative Leader.  If your pre-formed group is made up of returning jazz combo program players, you can skip auditions, however, to get one of your preferred rehearsal times/days, you need to:

  1. Communicate your schedule to your group Administrative Leader asap.
  2. Fill out the “Pre-formed Jazz Combo Scheduling Form” at by 6pm on Tuesday September 25, 2018.
  3. If you’ve talked about scheduling with your group, then have your Administrative Leader fill out the Scheduling Matrix section of the form on your group’s behalf, or if your group wants us to figure a time that works, everyone can fill out the Scheduling Matrix section.  The sooner this part is done, the better the chances of getting your group’s preferred rehearsal day/time.
  4. Review the Basic Information for Jazz Combos (below).

The Administrative Leader must also email Nadel to establish direct contact.

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

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. First meeting will be on Tuesday, October 2, 2018. Contact Bob Murphy: and come to the first meeting to join in! There is no need to use the online form.

Questions? See the Informational section below or contact Jim Nadel directly at

Basic Information for Jazz Combos (MUSIC 171, section 34)


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

Requirements and Grading

Jazz Combos rehearse at a scheduled time at least once a week. Each combo member is expected to register for one or zero units, attend weekly rehearsals, combo performances at the end of the quarter, as well as two combo masterclasses, two or more CoHo jam sessions, and also to submit a very brief report by email at the end of quarter. See below for details on these requirements and expectations.

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

All participating students are now required to enroll for Music 171 sec 34 (or sec 32 for jazz skills). If you are unable to add units to your study plan, please specify this on your “Jazz Combo Audition form.” A permission number will then be emailed to you for enrollment. For more information about Zero Unit Enrollment, see

2. Attendance Counts

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

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.

3. Required attendance on performance dates

Combos perform at the end of each quarter and everyone is required to attend to perform with your group and/or provide peer to peer feedback. (Talk with Jim Nadel in advance if there is an issue.)

2018-19 performance dates are:

AUTUMN: Mondays, November 26 and December 3, 2018 (CoHo)

WINTER: Mondays, March 4 and 11, 2019 (CoHo)

SPRING:  Friday, May 31, 2019 (Campbell Recital Hall, Braun Music Center) and Monday, June 3, 2018 (CoHo)

4. Combo Masterclasses and CoHo jam sessions

Each combo is expected to participate in two evening Combo Masterclasses (TBA) if possible. Each combo member must attend two Monday night CoHo jam sessions during the quarter to sit-in and/or listen. If you cannot do this, contact Jim Nadel ( and you can instead attend two high quality live jazz performances and write a brief report.

5. Final 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 in good working order and is available for all those sharing it.

  • Be careful that you or your group always receives advance permission if you want to borrow equipment outside of regularly scheduled rehearsals.
  • Never share your access privileges.
  • Never leave equipment unattended. Unfortunately there have been occasional thefts in the past of instruments left briefly unattended behind an unlocked door.
  • Make sure the door is locked when you leave the room.
  • The last group to rehearse must make sure that all jazz equipment in the room is returned to its secure storage area and that the classroom is restored to its normal set up. (See instructions posted inside of the classroom door.)

7. Equipment Access

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


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 rehearse 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 sometimes be multiple single line instruments in a group, having multiple chordal instruments in a group can be problematic.


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:

Last modified on: 
Monday, August 27, 2018