Kent State University's Jazz Studies Program has quickly garnered wide-spread attention for its unique curriculum, world-class faculty and incredible performance opportunities.

The Kent State University Jazz Studies Program fosters a “Real World” atmosphere, promoting the development of fundamental skills in jazz. Through our jazz curriculum and ensemble performance, students are provided the opportunity to improve individual musicianship, create a personal voice, learn from and be inspired by the rich history, and understand the evolutionary process and modern trends of jazz. They become musical leaders and positive contributors to the Kent State University experience.

Students can pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Jazz Studies or add a Jazz Studies minor to the undergraduate degree program. 


As active performers and educators, each faculty member in the Jazz Studies Program offers a unique perspective into what it takes to be a 21st-century jazz musician.

Theron Brown is a professor of jazz piano at Kent State University and Youngstown State University where he is immensely involved in promoting jazz and classical music. He is the co-founder and director of the Rubber City Jazz & Blues Festival and performs at many jazz clubs and theaters in northeast Ohio.  

Christopher Coles is a saxophonist/composer from Cleveland, Ohio. Coles currently teaches at Kent State University and in The Tri-C Jazz Preparatory program. Coles' quartet, Gleam, is currently in the process of releasing their first album “Smoke and Mirrors.”

Maria Jacobs-Schaber is the adjunct professor of applied vocal jazz at both the Kent and Stark campuses. In addition, she directs The New Group vocal jazz ensemble and co-directs The Nova Jazz Singers with Dr. Chris Venesile. She is also a national recording artist, author, licensed music educator, principal conductor and curriculum advisor for The Open Tone Music Academy. Maria performs around the country and her music has charted on the Groove Jazz Charts. 

Dustin May earned his Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies from Youngstown State University in 2012 and is currently an adjunct faculty member at Kent State University’s Hugh A. Glauser School of Music. He maintains a studio of private percussion students in Youngstown, Ohio and is a freelance musician in Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.

Aidan Plank is an active freelance bassist living in the Cleveland/Akron area. He serves as bassist for the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra and can regularly be seen in collaboration with guitarist Daniel Lippel.

Bobby Selvaggio, a leading alto saxophone voice on the jazz scene today, is the Director of Jazz Studies at Kent State University. He has been praised by legendary saxophonist Joe Lovano as “One of the few saxophonists on the scene today that captures you with his strong presence, focus, and sound.” Bobby performs and records nationally, having just released his ninth CD “Quantum Man” on Dot Time Records.

Christopher Venesile has spent 30 years as a vocal jazz educator and clinician, having founded the vocal jazz program at Kent State University (Nova Jazz Singers) and Tri-C Metro Jazz Studies. From the late 1980's he developed a world-class high school program that won prestigious DOWNBEAT magazine awards and performed at state and international conferences. He and his students have worked with virtually all of the leading artists and vocal jazz educators in the field. He serves the profession as current Chair of Vocal Jazz Affairs for the Ohio Choral Directors Association.

Dan Wilson has been touring nationally and internationally with three-time Grammy-nominated jazz organ legend, Joey DeFrancesco. Dan's composition, "Who Shot John" was featured on Joey's 2015 release, "Trip Mode." Dan received a Grammy nomination for work on "Project Freedom," by Joey Defrancesco & The People, released in 2017. Dan can also be heard on Van Morrison's "You're Driving Me Crazy," and "The Prophet Speaks."

An Active Performance Life

The Kent State University Jazz Studies Program offers numerous performance opportunities to students including the Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Workshop Ensemble, combos, and two full vocal jazz ensembles. Performances are held in various venues on campus, with several opportunities to play at venues throughout Northeast Ohio. Off-campus performances regularly take place at Nighttown and Blu Jazz, high school jazz festivals, The Tri-C and Lakeland Jazz Festivals, and Elmhurst College Jazz Festival. In February 2018 the Jazz Orchestra and Nova Jazz Singers will travel to New York City to perform at Shapeshifter Lab, among other venues. The Jazz Studies Program also regularly collaborates with the Kent Stark Campus to produce recordings.

Study with the Masters

The Kent State University Jazz Studies Program offers also offers insight into the professional musician’s life through regular masterclasses with jazz giants currently on the scene today.

Past guest artists include:

  • Kenny Werner, pianist and composer
  • Carl Allen, drummer and educator
  • Aaron Goldberg, pianist
  • Donny McCaslin, saxophonist
  • The Dave Liebman Quintet
  • The Hal Galper Quartet featuring saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi
  • Nir Felder, guitarist
  • Glenn Zaleski, composer and keyboardist
  • Paul Tynan, trumpeter and composer
In addition to opportunities to learn from these renowned guest artists in masterclasses, students often have the opportunity to perform with them in intimate settings.

Unique Opportunities to Teach and Learn

The Kent State University Jazz Studies Program organizes and participates in major School of Music events including Saxophone Day, the High School Jazz Invitational and tours with the Kent State Wind Ensemble.

Now well-established, the popular Kent Sate Saxophone Day hosts 80+ saxophonists annually with participants coming from Ohio and Pennsylvania. Including both jazz and classical areas, participants experience masterclasses with Kent State faculty and guest artists, rehearsals and performances throughout the day-long event.

Featuring two high school jazz ensembles, the Kent State High School Jazz Invitational is an annual all-day event that includes interactive rehearsals, masterclasses and an evening performance open to the public. High school students and Kent State Jazz Studies students also have opportunities to interact and collaborate throughout the day.  

A Conservatory-style Education

Offering a unique to the region conservatory-style curriculum, the Kent State University Jazz Studies Program offers the opportunity to study with a world-class faculty. Classes include Jazz Improvisation 1 and 2, Jazz Composition and Arranging, Jazz History, Jazz Styles and Analysis, Fundamentals of Jazz Piano, Applied Jazz, and multiple ensembles. With a hands-on faculty, this curriculum focuses on the fundamentals of jazz while working towards creating a personal voice for each student.


Bobby Selvaggio 
Director of Jazz Studies | 330-672-2965