Jazz Ensembles

UConn Jazz Ensemble

In keeping with the selective nature of the UConn jazz studies program and the music department as a whole, the UConn Jazz Ensemble, unlike the typical 17-piece big band seen at most academic institutions, ranges from nine to 12 instrumentalists. The comparatively small size of the ensemble makes off-campus performances practical and facilitates instruction in improvisation and musical interaction within rehearsals. Each semester the Jazz Ensemble focuses on the music of a specific composer / arranger (or professional band). Past composers include Michael Abene, Phil Allen, Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Rob McConnell, Jim McNeely and Gerry Mulligan. The Jazz Ensemble is directed by Earl MacDonald, former musical director for Maynard Ferguson’s “Big Bop Nouveau” band. Professor MacDonald frequently composes and arranges new material specifically for the Jazz Ensemble. He also emphasizes the performance of student arrangements. The Jazz Ensemble’s debut recording, UConn Jazz, received favorable reviews.

The UConn Jazz Ensemble is open to students from all concentrations within the university who demonstrate exceptional instrumental skill in their audition.

2018-2019 Performances

Jazz Showcase

Sunday, February 17, 2019, at 3:00pm

von der Mehden Recital Hall


High School Jazz Festival

Friday, March 15, 2019


Jazz Ensemble: Art Inspired Jazz

Thursday, April 11, 2019, at 8:00pm

von der Mehden Recital Hall


UConn Jazz: Art Inspired Jazz

Sunday, April 14, 2019, at 2:00pm

Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT


UConn Jazz Combos: Celebrating Art Blakey

Tuesday, April 16, 2019, at 8:00pm

von der Mehden Recital Hall



Jazz Combos

Under the guidance and direction of faculty members, students work together within assigned combos to develop proficiency in the art and craft of jazz improvisation and small-group jazz ensemble playing. Groups are often organized according to themes, where the repertoire of a specific jazz composer or genre is addressed. To prepare students for professional performance situations, the memorization of standard jazz repertoire is expected. Combos perform frequently on and off campus. Concerts and clinics are given at high schools throughout Connecticut.

The UConn Jazz Sextet, under the direction of Earl MacDonald, received an “outstanding” rating at the 2002 Elmhurst Jazz Festival and was selected to perform as the opening act for the Phil Woods Quintet in the festival’s final concert. The band was praised for its captivating arrangements and tight ensemble sound. Adjudicator Frank Mantooth referred to Ray Kingston’s drumming as “the best brushes I have heard in three days of adjudicating.” Saxophonist Mark Obolewicz was complimented for his “robust tenor sound and excellent technique.” Every member of the sextet received “outstanding performer” recognition.

In 2001 the sextet won the Villanova University Jazz Festival competition in Pennsylvania and performed on “the mainstage” at the Hartford International Jazz Festival.

Jazz Combos are open to students from other concentrations within the university who demonstrate exceptional instrumental skills in their audition.

Earl MacDonald, MM

Earl MacDonald

Director of Jazz Studies
Director, Jazz Combos

(860) 486-0670

John Mastroianni

John Mastroianni

Director, Jazz Ensemble
(860) 486-4796

Gregg August, MA

Gregg August

Director, Jazz Combos

Doug Maher, MM

Doug Maher

Director, Jazz Lab Band
Director, Jazz Combos