Senior Jazz

July 16 – July 22, 2023

Designed for senior high instrumentalists, this program focuses on developing individual performance skills in a combo-based setting. All students will be placed in combos. Classes include combo rehearsals, masterclasses, improvisation, jazz listening, harmony, and history seminars. Students who have written original compositions are encouraged to bring them to this program. The final concert will feature all combos.


  • All instruments and voices are welcome.
  • Prior experience performing in a jazz ensemble is not required.
  • For students completing grades 9-12.

Typical Daily Schedule

8:15 – 9:15 am: Combo Rehearsals/Jazz History and Listening
9:30 – 10:30 am: Combo Rehearsals/ Jazz History and Listening
10:45 – 11:45 am: Improvisation Class
12:00 – 1:00 pm: Lunch
1:15 – 2:15 pm: Master Class/ Jazz Harmony
2:30 – 3:30 pm: Combo Rehearsals
3:45 – 4:45 pm: Jazz Forum
5:15 pm: Dinner and Evening Activities
10:30 pm: Lights out

Application Process

  • (Applications open December 1st 2022)


  • Resident – $800 (tuition, room and board)
  • Commuter – $550 (tuition and lunch only)

Program Faculty

Chip McNeill, University of Illinois

In addition to his position with the University of Illinois School of Music, Professor McNeill is Musical Director and Jazz Tenor Saxophonist for Grammy award-winning recording artist, Arturo Sandoval. He has toured with and recorded the compact discs (CDs) Americana and Hot House with Arturo Sandoval. In 1998, Hot House won a Grammy for Best Latin Jazz recording. To his credit, Professor McNeill won a Grammy for his performance on Hot House, and two of his charts were nominated for Grammys from the recording. Professor McNeill also has performed and toured with the legendary jazz trumpeter, Maynard Ferguson, with whom he has produced, written, and performed on several CDs, including Live in London, These Cats Can Swing, and Maynard Ferguson’s final CD, The One and Only. He has recorded performances with Nat Adderley, David Liebman, Duffy Jackson, Ira Sullivan, the Woody Herman Orchestra, Ted Shumate, and Larry Willis. Professor McNeill’s most recent CD is “The Whirl” on Armored Records.

Read more about Professor McNeill here.

Ron Bridgewater, University of Illinois

Ron Bridgewater began his professional career in 1972 with a State Department tour of Japan, Europe, the Soviet Union, and the United States in the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. After three years with the band and several recordings, he appeared as a regular member of ensembles led by such jazz greats as Max Roach, McCoy Tyner and Horace Silver. Along with his brother, trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater, Ron led a group known as the Bridgewater Brothers which recorded two albums and toured the United States and Japan. He also toured with jazz great Cab Calloway.

Read more about Professor Bridgewater here.

Larry Gray, University of Illinois

Double bassist Larry Gray demonstrates an impressive versatility and an uncommon musical curiosity. Gray’s career has spanned more than four decades, during which he has and continues to perform in a wide range of styles, including, but not limited to, jazz and classical music. This diverse skill set and experience allows him to work with a broad array of students, including those preparing to perform in both orchestras and jazz combos.

Read more about Professor Gray here.

Joan Hickey, University of Illinois

Joan Hickey teaches and performs as a freelance artist in the Chicago area. Howard Reich, of the Chicago Tribune, wrote of her playing, “Hickey remains one of the most appealing and distinctive pianists in the city … (she) produces gorgeously singing lines and unexpected harmonies. The gentility of her touch is matched by the intellectual accomplishment of her improvisation.” Professor Hickey has been recording and leading her own groups (trio, quartet. sextet) since 1980, as well as accompanying vocalists. She has performed in such venues as The Jazz Showcase, The Green Mill, Pete Miller’s and the Chicago Jazz Festival. Cab Calloway, Joe Williams, Milt Hinton, Nat Adderly, Von Freeman and Buster Williams are among the artists Professor Hickey has worked with.

Read more about Professor Hickey here.

Jim Pugh, University of Illinois

Jim Pugh joined the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign faculty in 2005. Jim is a distinguished trombonist, composer, and educator. The inspiring virtuosity and incredible versatility he has demonstrated during the course of his career has caused Jim to be often honored as the “musician’s musician”. Whether he is performing as a concerto soloist in a symphonic setting, recording and touring with legendary artists in the fields of classical, jazz, and rock, or bringing forth his own exciting new compositions that expand the role of brass in contemporary music, his creativity knows no boundaries.

Read more about Professor Pugh here.

Joel Spencer, University of Illinois

As a testament to Professor Spencer’s performance skills, a great number of musical relationships developed into offers to tour the U.S. and Europe performing with major artists such as pianists Earl “Fatha” Hines, Hank Jones, and Cedar Walton; guitarists Barney Kessel, Kenny Burrell, and Herb Ellis; bassists Eddie Gomez and Buster Williams; vocalists Cissy Houston, Billy Eckstine, and Mark Murphy; trumpeters Red Rodney, Clark Terry, Chet Baker, and Freddie Hubbard; saxophonists Sonny Stitt, Benny Golson, Joe Henderson, Eddie Harris, Wayne Shorter, and David Liebman.

Read more about Professor Spencer here.

John “Chip” Stephens, University of Illinois

In the aggregate, jazz pianist Chip Stephens’ collaborative, recording and world-wide touring with some of the legendary figures in the history of jazz, would compile a dissertation.  Having performed on Grammy and Emmy Award winning recordings, he is sought after for his hard-swinging, powerful and lyrical pianism.  Since 2005, Stephens has been consistently ranked in the top 10% of University of Illinois Professors.  He was recognized by the Provost, Vice Chancellor and the Committee on Tenure and Promotion as being “Extraordinary for the level of his Teaching and Collaborative Artistry.”  His experience and diversity have proven beneficial to his students and many, have received national and international recognition for their work.

Read more about Professor Stephens here.