Jazz at Morris

The University of Minnesota Morris is steeped in a tradition of high-quality jazz music.

Under the new direction of multi-instrumentalist and contemporary improvised music educator Steve Alford, students explore the traditional jazz paradigm coupled with modern, multi-genre improvisation and sound creation. Learn more about him at stevealfordmusic.com.

Course offerings include jazz and contemporary improvisation and theory, multi-lateral ear training and cross-instrumental instruction, jazz history and repertoire, and individual instruction in both advanced improvisation and modern music composition. Included each semester are two large jazz ensembles as well as traditional and contemporary jazz combos and small groups, all available for academic credit.

The ensembles consist of both music majors and non majors who are interested in furthering their knowledge of jazz and contemporary music while fine-tuning their musicianship and communication and leadership skills through practice, rehearsals, recordings, and performance opportunities.


Along with the curricular aspects of the ensembles, the Morris jazz program takes an active role in promoting jazz in the community as well as nationally and internationally. Over the past 20 years, the Morris jazz ensembles have performed for many music conventions including the MMEA convention in Minneapolis and the NCMENC in Chicago.

Most recently, the ensembles have traveled to:

  • Elmhurst Jazz Festival in Elmhurst, Illinois (2011, 2012)
  • State high school tours involving clinics and master classes

They have also performed internationally at:

  • Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland (1991, 1997, 2000, 2004, and 2008)
  • The North Sea Jazz Festival at The Hague, Netherlands (1994, 1997, and 2008)
  • Vienne Jazz Festival in Vienne, France (2004)
  • Carnegie Hall with The Count Basie Orchestra (1992)

The Jazz Ensembles schedule tours and have performed throughout the state of Minnesota.

The Jazz Festival, founded by Jim “Doc” Carlson, is in its 45th year. The educational, noncompetitive event attracts world-renowned jazz artists to Morris each spring. High school, community, and college jazz ensembles are invited to take part in three days of clinics and master classes by internationally recognized musicians. Each day concludes with a feature performance of the Morris jazz ensembles and the guest artists.

Photographs by Denise Vokoun and Morgan Dresch

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Visiting Jazz Artist Program

The Visiting Jazz Artist Program creates and opportunity for UMN Morris music students to collaborate with some of the most prestigious jazz musicians in the northern Midwest. A variety of regional and nationaly recognized jazz artists will be visiting the UMM campus multiple times each semester to perform and work with UMM music students.

Features of the Visiting Jazz Artist Program

  • Interactive performances between Visiting Jazz Artists and UMN Morris music students
  • Masterclasses and clinics
  • Individual and group lessons

Previous Visiting Jazz Artists include:

  • Chris Bates (Minneapolis, MN)
  • Bryan Nichols (Minneapolis, MN)
  • JT Bates (Minneapolis, MN)
  • Clay Jenkins (Rochester, NY)

Jazz Auditions

Auditions for ensembles and class permission take place at the beginning of the fall semester.

Date, time, and audition requirements are posted on the sign up sheet in the main bulletin board in the Music wing of the Humanities Fine Arts (HFA) building. Once you arrive to campus, visit the building to sign up for a time.