About Jazz at UVA

The University of Virginia Jazz Program, directed by jazz trumpeter and composer John D’earth, includes six ensembles: The Jazz Ensemble, four Jazz Chamber Groups, and the UVa Jazz Singers; an affiliated, student-led jazz choir. Until the spring of 2020 the jazz program presented multiple live concerts in Old Cabell hall and around Charlottesville and UVa. We hope to resume our regular schedule in the fall of 2021.

In response to the covid-19 pandemic we have launched this website with seven newly produced albums. Go to the Infernal Resilience page of this website to find all the music created by these six ensembles plus two Distinguished Major recordings by vocalist Tina Hashemi and pianist Thomas Kehoe.

Many students in the ensembles take advantage of performance instruction. In addition to private lessons on all wind and rhythm instruments we offer a Jazz Improvisation class with John D’earth, and a Learn to Groove hand-drumming class with Robert Jospe. Our acclaimed jazz faculty includes Jeff Decker, saxophone; John D’earth, trumpet and composition, Mike Rosensky, guitar, Robert Jospe, drums/percussion, Peter Spaar, acoustic and electric bass, and Stephanie Nakasian, voice .  Bob Hallahan, Wells Hanley, and Butch Taylor have all taught jazz piano at UVa.

Our program shares space with faculty who have changed music scholarship in ways that deeply impact our understanding of jazz music.  Jazz History Professor, Scott Deveaux, changed the face of jazz scholarship decades ago with his award winning book, The Birth of Bebop.  Students can take courses that reflect current research on Black History, the African Diaspora, and colonialism. These topics explain jazz as an original American art form and as a worldwide phenomenon specifically demonstrating that the blues and jazz music are a gift from African Americans to the rest of the world. We now have practicing jazz masters across the globe. Something new was given, through recordings, and the world embraced this new way of hearing and playing music. As Dizzy Gillespie famously put it, “You can’t steal a gift!”

We could add that it doesn’t hurt to know whom and where it came from!

The Jazz Program, as a whole, expounds the jazz ideal: master your instrument, master the traditions and the musical language, be yourself; make the music about self-expression and confronting the status quo. Everything in jazz music hinges on the dialectic between individual and collective expression. “Confronting the status quo,” means doing so personally by working on one’s own limitations, musical and otherwise, and as a member of a group or society at large.

The Jazz Program extends the traditional big band and small group formats with instrumentalists from other genres, performing jazz classics, standards, and original music by the students and the director. We follow the Duke Ellington model: create music that is a vehicle for each individual voice. 

Go to the Infernal Resilience page of this site to find a plethora of music and musicians.  A live presentation of the hydra-headed Infernal Resilience Project is being planned as a celebration for next fall when the world hopes to return to the glories of live performance.

The UVA Jazz Program is always recruiting and on the lookout for promising musicians. If you feel that you need to be involved with jazz at UVa please contact John D’earth at jed6p@virginia.edu.

More information about UVA Jazz and other related projects can be found below.