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Youngstown State University's Dana School of Music features an extensive and challenging program of jazz studies. Classes in jazz fundamentals, beginning improvisation, advanced improvisation, jazz keyboard, jazz composition and arranging, jazz theory, and jazz history are offered, as well as outstanding jazz ensembles and jazz combos. Youngstown State University currently offers a B.M. in Performance (Jazz Emphasis) and an M.M. in Jazz Studies.
The Jazz Ensemble program at Youngstown State University began its tradition of excellence in 1969. Under the direction of Tony Leonardi, the first Coordinator of Jazz Studies, the YSU Jazz Ensemble gained national recognition. They earned numerous honors including "Most Outstanding Band" at the Wichita Jazz Festival in 1976 and at the Central Ohio Jazz Festival in 1980, 1982 and 1984. The YSU Jazz Ensemble was the first to win both the Big Band and Small Group competitions during the same year in the history of the Wichita Jazz Festival. They have also performed at such prestigious events as the International Association of Jazz Educators Convention, the Notre Dame Jazz Festival, the TRI-C Jazz Fest in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Central New York Jazz Festival in Syracuse, New York. In June of 2000, the YSU Jazz Ensemble won the "College Outstanding Performance" Award in the 23rd Annual Student Music Awards in Down Beat magazine for their recording “Biddle de Bop.”
The most revealing indicator of the effectiveness of the Jazz Studies Program is the number of successful graduates. Alumni have performed with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey conducted by Buddy Morrow, Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, Illinois Jacquet, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Glenn Miller, Buddy Rich, and Max Roach, as well as the U.S.A.F. Airmen of Note and the U.S. Navy Commodores. Alumni have also been successful in the fields of higher education and jazz education including appointments at such institutions as Eastman School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, Hofstra University, The New School University, Hartt School of Music, William Patterson College, SUNY Purchase, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, New York University, The Ohio State University, Kent State University-Stark, Pennsylvania State University, Moorhead State University, and Tarleton State University. Many graduates have also been successful in public school education, the recording industry, television, and as freelance musicians.
In addition to performing concerts on campus and at jazz festivals, the YSU Jazz Ensembles tour Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. Campus concerts regularly feature well-known jazz greats. Artists most recently performing with the YSU Jazz Ensembles include Michael Abene, Joanne Brackeen, Kenny Burrell, Eddie Daniels, Joey DeFrancesco, Jimmy Heath, Conrad Herwig, Dave Holland Quintet, Chuck Mangione, Eric Marienthal, Jim McNeely, Bob Mintzer, James Moody, Jimmy Owens, Bill Pierce, Maria Schneider, Bobby Shew, Marvin Stamm, Mark Vinci, Allen Vizzutti, Bill Watrous, and Phil Woods.
The success of the YSU Jazz Studies program and its students is well documented on eleven recordings, three LPS and eight CDS. Our latest student CD entitled “Lester Left Town” was released in 2006 and features Jazz Ensemble 1. An alumni CD entitled “Leonardi Legacy: The YSU All-Star Alumni Jazz Ensemble” was released in 2003 and features prestigious alumni from the thirty-five years of the YSU Jazz Studies Program.
Dana Jazz Program Recordings
YSU Jazz Alumni Links