Jazz Program

Unmatched in the Chicago area, Midwest Young Artists’ C. Louis Meyer Family Foundation Jazz Program provides students with the most comprehensive instruction citywide. The MYA Jazz Program is for students who love jazz and the precision of nailing big band charts. Students will master jazz styles while improving sight-reading, counting, phrasing, and intonation. Consisting of four big bands, six combos, and classes in jazz theory and history, MYA jazz students have the opportunity to perform with internationally acclaimed guest artists in premier jazz and concert venues throughout Chicago and beyond. The MYA Jazz Program has been featured on Harry Porterfield’s Someone You Should Know series and on CBS 2. Recent performances have included IMEA Festival, Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, and Jazz Showcase.

CLICK HERE to listen to an interview with MYA Jazz director Chris Madsen as he discusses his time as an MYA student, and how the program benefits promising young jazz musicians more than ever before. (skip to 18 mins. in)

MYA Big Band, Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Workshop, and Jazz Orchestra placement is based on musical and technical ability. An audition is required for entry.

A free jazz improv class is available for all Jazz Ensemble, Orchestra, and Big Band members.


Jazz Ensemble

Conducted by Chris Madsen, the Jazz Ensemble is for the younger jazz musician who is eager to learn jazz phrasing, articulation and ensemble skills.

Audition Requirements for Jazz Ensemble

Sign Up For an Audition for Jazz Ensemble

Jazz Ensemble Rehearsals: Sunday, 12:30pm - 2:30pm in the South Rehearsal Hall


Jazz Orchestra

Our newest Jazz faculty memberJoe Policastro conducts the Jazz Orchestra for developing jazz musicians who are mostly in high school and ready for a more challenging ensemble experience.

Audition Requirements for Jazz Orchestra

Sign Up For an Audition for Jazz Orchestra

Jazz Orchestra Rehearsals: Sunday, 12:30 - 2:30pm in the North Rehearsal Hall


Jazz Workshop

Our latest addition to the Jazz program! Chris Madsen conducts the Jazz Workshop for developing jazz musicians who are mostly in high school and ready for a more challenging ensemble experience.

Audition Requirements for Jazz Workshop

Sign Up For an Audition for Jazz Workshop

Jazz Orchestra Rehearsals: Sunday, 3:00 - 5:00pm


Big Band

The MYA Big Band, conducted by Chris Madsen, is geared toward those developing jazz musicians who are primarily in grades 11 and 12 and are ready to sink their teeth into the most demanding repertoire.

Audition Requirements for Big Band

Sign Up For an Audition for Big Band

Big Band Rehearsals: Sunday, 6:00 - 8:00pm


Jazz Combos

Our combos are under the direction of Chris Madsen and Dan Pierson. They take jazz up a step! Jazz Combos are for students who want to learn the art of improvisation and build skills to take them to the highest levels of solo expression in a more intimate setting. Combo students are encouraged to participate in one of MYA’s Big Bands.

Audition Requirements for Jazz Combos

Sign Up For an Audition for Jazz Combos

Jazz Combo Rehearsals: All combos meet on Sunday.


Merit Combo

MYA's Merit Jazz Combo is selected based on ability and dedication. Entry is limited to current MYA students in Big Band. Directed by Chris Madsen, this group has regular coachings with some of the best jazz musicians in Chicago. Guest coaches in the 2012-2013 season included Marques Carroll, Joel Spencer, Rajiv Halim, Marlene Rosenberg, Justin Thomas and Lage Lund.

Selection is dependent on ability and dedication.
Exact dates of rehearsal schedule will be announced to those who are selected.


Jazz Improv Class

Free to MYA Jazz Students, participation in these classes is required for all members of large ensembles not participating in a jazz combo. This course aims to develop jazz theory and improvisational skills through aural assimilation. Areas covered include scale/chord relationship, patterns for improvisation and harmonic substitutions. Songs learned by ear are in various jazz styles such as swing, bebop, modal and contemporary. Both group playing and individual soloing are encouraged.

Jazz Ensemble Improv Class: Sunday, 2:30pm, South Rehearsal Hall

Jazz Orchestra & Jazz Workshop Improv Class: Sunday, 2:30pm

Big Band Improv Class: Sunday, 5:30pm

Music and MovementOrchestrasChamber MusicChoralMusic Theory