Jazz Program

The study of jazz has become an exciting and integral component to the music program at NKU. The mission of this program is to provide a quality education for jazz performance and pedagogy enabling graduates to make a living as well-rounded teachers or performers in today's music industry. Graduates are a “triple threat” and are expected to “play anything, write anything, and teach anything.” In fact, most of our students are currently working professionally in the greater Cincinnati area as musicians, educators, and writers/arrangers.

A student studying Jazz at NKU benefit from:

  • A faculty that makes their living primarily as professional musicians, performing over 1500 times per year locally, regionally, and internationally.
  • 75% of the students in the Jazz Area perform at least once per week in professional engagements in the greater Cincinnati Area.
  • The Latin Jazz Ensemble and the R&B Combo expose students to musical styles necessary to make a living in today's performing market.
  • Annual Festivals include the Veteran's Tribute, the NKU Winter Blues Festival, and the Northern Kentucky Jazz Festival. Each performance gives students a unique chance to work with professional musicians in jazz, blues, and other commercial music forms.
  • Capstone courses prepare students for scholarly research in the field of jazz performance, pedagogy, and methodology.

B.M. in Jazz Studies

The jazz studies degree emphasis at Northern Kentucky University offers the aspiring musician up close and personal instruction on jazz and commercial music form professional musicians maintain active careers in the field. Throughout the course of study, students receive a foundation and the tools necessary to perform, and arrange music professionally in a variety of genres associated with jazz commercial music forms.

Vocal Jazz Ensemble

The Vocal Jazz Ensemble is a small, auditioned ensemble that specializes in the performance of standard and contemporary vocal jazz and solo jazz literature. The ensemble recently won a Silver Medal in the 2012 World Choir Games, distinguishing the group as one of the best in the world. Under the direction of Dr. Randy Pennington, the ensemble performs frequently in the Cincinnati region and also regularly performs with outstanding jazz performers.

Jazz Ensemble

The NKU Jazz Ensemble includes some of the finest and most active student musicians at the University. The ensemble performs a wide variety of literature and presents concerts both on and off campus. The NKU Jazz Ensemble has performed at the Kentucky Music Educator’s Conference, the Winter Blues Festival with Carl Weathersby, and the Gordon Brisker Memorial Concert. Many concerts feature local, national, and internationally recognized guest artists. Past guests on campus have included such internationally recognized names as Jeff Coffin, Brad Goode, Jamey Aebersold, Fred Wesley, John Fedchock, Carl Weathersby, Mike Vax, John VonOhlen, Kristin Marion, Philippe Martel and members of the New York Voices.

Jazz, Latin Jazz and R&B Combos

The NKU Jazz and R&B Combos contribute a great deal to the overall musical experience at NKU. The combo program enables students to work in small "chamber" settings where faculty provides coaching in the literature and performance practice. Students of the NKU jazz and R&B combos perform regularly at concerts and in various events around the community. There are currently nine jazz combos including R&B combos, Latin Jazz/Salsa combos and a “Supersax” Ensemble featuring some of the most talented musicians at NKU.

NKU Jazz Camp

The NKU Jazz Camp brings students of all ages and abilities to campus for a week of intensive study in the practice and performance of jazz music. The camp has exposed and educated approximately 500 students to jazz methodology.

***New in 2014, Jazz Studies students will have the opportunity to study for 2 weeks in Paris and Grenoble/Gieres France!

NKU Jazz Faculty

The NKU Jazz Faculty boasts an impressive resume of local, regional, national, and international performances and clinics. The combined professional and academic engagements top 2000 in any given year from across the United States, the United Kingdom, Morocco North Africa, France, Spain, China, and South Africa.


NKU Jazz takes Ground-breaking Trip to France!

KMC Jazz Camp in France                                

Click HERE for more information!


William B. Hogg

Jazz Faculty

William Hogg- Saxophone, Director of Jazz Studies, Jazz Styles and Analysis, Improvisation, Jazz Pedagogy, Jazz Appreciation

John Zappa- Trumpet, Lecturer-Jazz Studies Area, Jazz Arranging, Jazz History, Jazz Theory, Jazz Appreciation, Jazz Combos

Dr. Randy Pennington-NKU Vocal Jazz Ensemble

Phillip Burkhead- Piano, Jazz Harmony, Jazz Combos, Jazz Appreciation

Ted Karas- Guitar, NKU R&B Combo

William Jackson- Bass, Jazz Combos

Pablo Benavides- Jazz Appreciation, NKU Latin Jazz/Salsa Ensemble, World Music

Max Gise- History of Rock and Roll

Mike Meloy - Jazz Drum Set

"Your program has a wonderful diverse set of individuals who are not only great musicians all around, but also are amazing teachers..."

–Jonathan Kohne - Graduate Assistant UC-Boulder and NKU Jazz Studies graduate

 Contact Us: 859.572.6399 • 859.572.6076 (fax) • musicoffice@nku.edu