Small Jazz Ensembles

01. A young jazz composer/pianist hears his music come to life.
02. Nick Grondin joins in on guitar as his Prep ensemble rehearses.

The NEC Prep Small Jazz Ensemble program is one of the largest programs of its kind in the United States for every age older than eight and level of experience. We have up to 30 ensembles running on Saturdays on campus, where students are also often participating in Jazz classroom courses and private lessons. On campus small jazz ensembles meet for sixty minutes on the hour between 8AM-5PM on Saturdays for a total of 28 meetings, including two recitals. SoundJack (see a prep group jamming with it) allows for remote Weekday Small Jazz Ensembles online that play live in real time in high fidelity from student homes. NEC’s use of this tech was featured in DownBeat magazine. This requires specific equipment and setup time.

Email with any questions. 

NEC Prep Small Jazz ensembles consist of a coach and 3-5 students (in rare instances two students). The coach functions as a band member, bandleader, and arranger, so students are playing with a professional musician for each rehearsal and performance. Each ensemble has a drummer, a bassist, a chordal instrument (piano and/or guitar) and various melodic instruments (winds, brass, voice, strings, pitched percussion). These ensembles are meant to expose students to performing a wide variety of pieces in Jazz and related styles of music. The students are also encouraged to suggest pieces, compose and arrange for these ensembles if they are interested.

Jazz students often play multiple instruments and sing and are encouraged to play in multiple ensembles if they want to on secondary instruments/voice. Some students even play on the same instrument in multiple ensembles. For example, a student might be an advanced trumpet player, and play in an ensemble on that instrument and take hour lessons in trumpet, but also may be a beginner bassist, and decide to add bass lessons for 45 minutes and an ensemble where they play bass. Some students even play multiple instruments and sing on their Prep Jazz certificate recitals.

Students are required to have a Jazz private lesson teacher at NEC or elsewhere in order to help them work on their ensemble pieces, as they will not only be playing composed melodies, but also be featured as improvising soloists and accompanists. Students are encouraged to bring recordings of rehearsal to their private teachers, so they can study that material during lessons and practice the pieces during the course of the week. Due to the range of the material played each semester, private teachers will likely be showing students how to perform in several styles that are new to the student on a regular basis.

Ensembles are formed by the Jazz Department Chair and Assistant Chair on the basis of instrumentation, level of experience, age and schedule availability. Returning students do not need to audition for placement in the ensemble program unless they are starting a new ensemble instrument or voice. We prioritize ensembles during the jazz scheduling process, so that students are in the right band(s). We then make sure to schedule lessons and classroom courses around the ensemble experience, because this small group setting is where jazz students get to apply everything they are learning in classroom courses and private lessons. For students applying to Jazz and contemporary music college programs, most initial auditions are in the small ensemble format. Our coaches are sympathetic to having ensembles be a place where students can play their audition repertoire.

Ensemble coaches and private lesson instructors often collaborate with each other in order to help their student’s master the ensemble repertoire. Classroom courses and private lessons are designed to support the ensemble experience. Jazz Theory, Jazz Ear training, Jazz History and Jazz Styles are designed to give students a deeper understanding of jazz improvisation and exposure to the multitude of styles and performers who have mastered this art form and ensembles are often the place where students bring all of their learning together. 

**(To be eligible for discounted tuition on year-long activities (classes, chamber music, jazz ensembles, and large ensembles), students are required to register for 30 or 36 Preparatory School private lessons for the year. Any approved cancellation or reduction of lessons below 30 will result in a reversal of these discounts). 


Click the button below to register for Prep Small Jazz Ensembles, which are listed as Jazz Ensemble on Active Net:

Register for a Small Jazz Ensemble


All students who are involved in Jazz Ensemble, regardless of group placement, should register for this course. If you are in 2 groups you should also register for [Jazz Ensemble (additional group)]; students in 3 groups should also register for [Jazz Ensemble (second additional group)].



Jazz Placement Information
2023-2024 Jazz Placement Form
Jazz Classroom Course Information
Jazz Private Lesson Information
Jazz Certificate Program
Jazz Faculty