Jazz Camp

July 7-12, 2024
Grades 8-12 (grade completion)


This camp will help you improve your performance and understanding of jazz. Designed for enthusiastic musicians of any skill level, the camp is full of performing, learning, and listening. You'll benefit from:

  • Classes on jazz improvisation and jazz theory.
  • Instrument master classes.
  • Jam sessions, private lessons, and group classes.
  • Discussions on jazz styles and the music business.

You'll stay in Gilbert Hall during camp. Your experience will end with a concert open to your friends and family.

Additional Information

Private Lessons

Campers may elect to take private music lessons during the week at an additional cost of $30 per half hour. You may sign up for the lessons at the check-in table on Sunday or in the External Programs office (Room 132 Music Building) beginning on Monday morning; you will be asked to pay either by check written to NIU (preferred) or cash when you sign up. More details will be available at check-in and the orientation meeting.

End-of-the-Week Concert

On the final day of camp parents and friends are invited to hear the camper combos and big bands perform in the Music Building. The groups begin performing at 3 p.m. and will continue until about 5 p.m. Campers will be assigned to a combo or big band after the Sunday auditions.

To learn which group your son or daughter has been assigned to, during camp week, call the office or contact your child. Parents - remember to pick up a camp schedule on Sunday, as this will have the performance schedule for the combos and bands. Those unable to attend the concert may meet their camper at Gilbert Hall at about 5:15 p.m. Campers' luggage will be secured in a room during the day at the residence hall for pick-up at the end of the concert.

What to Bring Checklist

  • Comfortable/sturdy walking shoes or sandals.
    • Note: Flip flops are not allowed in classes and should be worn only in the residence hall.
  • Umbrella or rain gear
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Sweatshirt
  • Alarm clock
  • Water bottle
  • Sheets and pillowcase (standard twin size)
  • Blanket, pillow, towels
  • Money for souvenirs, snacks, lessons
  • Dress during the week is casual
  • Concert clothes will be required for performances. Concert dress will be: nice top/button-down shirt with nice pants or skirt or a dress. (Ties/jackets are optional.)
  • Headphones, MP3 player for jazz music listening (recommended, not required)
  • $10 key deposit: an envelope with check/cash/money order with the camper's name on the outside.


All instrumentalists (except pianists and vibraphonists) are expected to bring their own instruments to camp. This includes drummers, guitarists and bassists. Call 815-753-1450 as soon as possible to let us know if you have concerns about this.


Bring no more than a five-piece drum set with three cymbals. Bring your throne and a rug or small piece of carpet.

Guitarists and Bassists

Bring your amp, patch cord(s) and an electrical extension cord as well as your instrument.

Those players who listed a second instrument on the registration form are asked to bring both instruments to camp. Included are doubles, mutes, etc. All woodwind players should bring your doubles and trumpet players should bring your flugels.


Early bird registration fee: $800 (received June 1 or earlier)

Registration fee: $850

Registration Deadline: June 14, 2024

Online Registration

Returning camper and family discount: $25 (for campers who have previously attended Jazz Camp, and the children and grandchildren of NIU students, staff, and faculty members)

Space is limited for certain instruments, so register early! You can register online. You'll pay a $100 deposit when you register. The remaining balance is due by June 14.

Need-based scholarship assistance is available. 

Replacement key cards and deposit: All campers must bring a deposit to the first day of camp to be given a key to their room. These funds will not be deposited but will be held by the Summer in the Arts office in the case of a lost key. The funds will be deposited only in the case that a key is lost. Key deposits are returned to campers when they return their room keys at camp check out.

  • The deposit can be check, money order, or cash.
  • Please put the deposit in an envelope with the camper’s name
  • Deposit Amount: $10


We encourage campers to print out the music and practice in advance for the sessions. Sign-up sheets will be available in the Recital Hall lobby. During the jam session, each soloist will perform a maximum of two solo choruses on the 32-bar form tunes and a maximum of four choruses on the blues and the other short form tunes.

All Blues: C Bb Eb Bass

Autumn Leaves: C Bb Eb Bass

Billie's Bounce: C Bb Eb Bass

Blue Bossa: C Bb Eb Bass

Blue Monk: C Bb Eb Bass

Bye Bye Blackbird: C Bb Eb Bass

Doxy: C Bb Eb Bass

Equinox: C Bb Eb Bass

Footprints: C Bb Eb Bass

How High the Moon: C Bb Eb Bass

Now's the Time: C Bb Eb Bass

Oleo: C Bb Eb Bass

Pent-Up House: C Bb Eb Bass

Satin Doll: C Bb Eb Bass

So What: C Bb Eb

Song for My Father: C Bb Eb Bass

Stella By Starlight: C Bb Eb Bass

Take the A Train: C Bb Eb Bass

Tenor Maddness: C Bb Eb Bass


You'll audition for an ensemble on the first day of camp. Your audition will include:

  • One piece that you have prepared.
  • Sight reading.
  • An improvised solo on blues or rhythm changes (optional).

You'll be assigned to one of these ensembles:

  • Jazz bands: Perform big band music, including the music of Basie, Ellington and Woody Herman.
  • Jazz combos: Explore improvisation approaches and arranging techniques by playing jazz standards.
  • Latin jazz combo: Perform jazz, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and fusion styles.


Auditions are scheduled to begin after orientation at 2:30 p.m. Campers are welcome to prepare a piece for auditions, but this is not necessary. Sight-reading is part of the audition. Audition and evaluation results will be used to assign campers to classes and ensembles.


Play swing, shuffle, funk, Latin, and ballad brush styles, and read an intermediate big band chart.


Sight-read an intermediate jazz arrangement, improvise on an F, B♭ blues, or B♭ rhythm changes, if comfortable, not required.


Sight-read written parts and chord symbols and play in swing, Latin, and ballad styles. Improvise F or B♭ blues and B♭ rhythm changes, if comfortable, not required.

After Auditions

When campers finish their auditions, they should go to the Recital Hall to participate in a jam session.


Our Jazz Camp staff is composed of talented NIU faculty and students, alumni, guest artists and area teachers. The ratio of campers to staff members is about 12:1. Staff members are assigned to each residence hall floor and accompany campers to all meals and activities. 

Geof Bradfield - saxophone and camp director

Pharez Whitted – trumpet

Bobby Broom – guitar

Marlene Rosenberg – bass

Kirby Fellis – trombone

Morgan Turner – bass

Gabriel Wade - trumpet

Paul Barrilles – drums/percussion

Marybeth Kurnat - saxophone and head counselor

Marybeth Kurnat holds a B.M. in Music Education from NIU, and has been teaching professionally since 2012. She currently teaches 6th grade band, jazz and general music at Huntley Middle School, and is an arranger and co-director for the DeKalb High School a cappella program. During her career as a public school educator, she has been nominated for a Golden Apple Award and Kane County Educator of the Year. She also maintains a private woodwind studio, and is frequently engaged as a festival clinician and adjudicator. Marybeth has a dynamic performance background in instrumental music, vocal music and theater. She is a member of the St. Charles Singers and the Chicago Choral Artists. She has been on the NIU Jazz Camp staff since 2011.

Lenard Simpson - saxophone

Lenard Simpson is a saxophonist, composer and educator from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He started playing clarinet in elementary school wind ensemble and later switched to the alto, which is his primary instrument currently. Lenard was mostly self-taught through high school, but his natural ability and musicianship earned him accolades such as membership in the esteemed Grammy Camp Jazz Session, and an outstanding soloist award at the Mingus Jazz Competition in New York City. After completing high school, Lenard went on to pursue a bachelor's in jazz performance at Northern Illinois University. Lenard soon became a core member of the legendary Jazz program's many award-winning ensembles, meanwhile diversifying his education, studying classical saxophone. While studying at NIU, Lenard was awarded first place in Chicago's esteemed Luminarts Jazz Competition. Upon graduation, Lenard moved to Chicago and soon became one of the city's top call young saxophonists and improvisers, playing sideman to legendary local drummers, George Fludas and Charles Heath. Meanwhile, Lenard's trio comprising of revered musicians such as Dana Hall and Clark Sommer has appeared at premier clubs and jazz festivals throughout the Chicago and Milwaukee area.

In addition to maintaining an active performing schedule as a leader and a sideman, Simpson is also an educator and has taught at several high-profile jazz camps including the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Northern Illinois University, and Birch Creek. In 2018, Lenard was selected by a panel of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, James Newton and Ambrose Akinmusire to be a member of the Thelonious Monk Institute Fellowship, which has since been renamed to the Herbie Hancock Institute. Following his acceptance, Lenard moved to Los Angeles, where he currently resides. While pursuing his master's degree at UCLA through the fellowship, Lenard remains active as a performer and educator in LA's growing jazz community regularly appearing at LA's premier jazz venues such as the Blue Whale and Sam First.

Austyn Vaughn Menk - piano

Austyn Vaughn Menk is a pianist, organist, composer, arranger, and educator currently based in the Sycamore, IL area. After completing his B.A. in Music at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN, Austyn began studying jazz piano under the tutelage of Reginald Thomas at Northern Illinois University. He is pursuing a degree in Jazz Studies at NIU, where he also teaches lessons through NIU’s Community School of the Arts and works as an assistant in the Large Ensemble Office. Beginning in fall semester 2022, Austyn will serve as a graduate assistant at NIU, teaching an introductory group piano course and directing the University Jazz Ensemble.

Austyn has had the great pleasure of playing with groups such as Dave Stamps’ MODx big band, active in the Twin Cities area; the Blueshift Big Band led by Joel Baer and Chris Parsons; and is an active member of the Morgan Turner Quartet. He hopes to expand his career as a sideman and educator. In his teaching, Austyn emphasizes playing healthily and mindfully as well as practicing technique creatively and intentionally to inform the mind and music, a combination of approaches inspired by his former instructors Paul Baumgartner and Masayoshi Ishikawa.


A general overview of the camp schedule is below.

Date and Time Activity Location
Sunday, Noon-2 p.m. Check-in

First, take your luggage to Gilbert Hall. Next, go to the nearby Music Building to pick up camp materials. Free parking is available in front of Gilbert Hall and in the lot south of the Music Building.

When you check in, you'll have the opportunity to sign up for optional private music lessons for an extra charge.

Sunday, 2:15 p.m. Orientation

Boutell Memorial Concert Hall (Music Building)

Parents are welcome at this orientation session with the camp director and staff.

Sunday to Friday Camp activities Music Building
Friday, 3 p.m. Final concert

Music Building

After the concert, pick up your luggage from Gilbert Hall.

Jam Sessions

We will have signup sheets in the Recital Hall lobby for the jam sessions scheduled for 3:15 – 4:45 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Campers are encouraged to prepare in advance for these sessions by downloading the jam session music in PDF format from this site. You are also encouraged to find and listen to recordings of the tunes.

During the jam session, each soloist will perform a maximum of two solo choruses on the 32-bar form tunes and a maximum of four choruses on the blues and the other short form tunes.

Free Time Options

Other daily options during the 3:15 – 4:45 p.m. period include board games and sports, in addition to private music lessons.

Talent Show

Campers are invited to participate in the jazz camp talent show on Thursday night. Bring your skits, imitations, tap shoes, and yes, your musical instruments. The time limit per performance is three minutes.

Contact Us

College of Visual and Performing Arts
Office of External Programs

Music Building 132

Kristin Sherman

Online Office Hours

Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
(lunch from noon – 1 p.m.)

Join Our Camps Mailing List

Connect with us on