Jazz Studies Testimonials

Liz Carney School of Music Alumna and Colleague

"When I chose to attend Kent State University as a graduate clarinet performance student, I never thought I would have much interaction with the Jazz Studies program. That all changed when Professor Bobby Selvaggio asked me to play in one of his ensembles my second year. Taking private saxophone lessons with Bobby and performing in the Jazz Orchestra were highlights of my time at Kent State, and I can tell you without a doubt those experiences made me a better classical musician. Bobby’s approach to music is refreshing and honest. It’s about learning your instrument so you can play effortlessly, not just learning notes on a page. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn about and play jazz music, and left school with a greater appreciation for the genre. The Jazz Studies program is not just for students who want to become jazz musicians – it’s for students who want to become better musicians." 

Rob Iriarte – Hudson High School Band Director

“The Kent State University jazz program is a gem of the Kent community and is recognized nationally for its excellent faculty and ensembles.  It is one of the main reasons I went to Kent State and continues to support Kent State as a music educator. I have known Bobby Selvaggio for over 30 years.  I know his passion for jazz and sharing it with young people for them to be successful people and musicians for life.  The program allows for personal expression and growth as an artist whether it be performing, composing, or arranging.  He proudly carries on the tradition of excellence in jazz at Kent State while advancing the program creating new traditions for the program and Kent community.” 

Stephen Kuhn – School of Music Alumnus

“When I enrolled in the Jazz Studies program at Kent State University in 2017, I had no musical connections to a scene and zero sense of what opportunities a career in music could entail. Fast forward four years. I have had the privilege to study and work with many of my heroes in the Northeast Ohio music scene and have formed connections with many peers in jazz whose friendships will undoubtedly be lifelong. Additional highlights of the past four years include masterclasses led by world-renowned recording artists, paid society gigs, and national traveling opportunities with the Kent State Jazz Orchestra.  As I gear up for my first semester as a graduate student (MM Jazz Studies, Depaul University), I recognize that none of the opportunities, including continued education, would have been made available to me had I not lived under the tutelage of the Kent State Jazz Studies program.  The team led by Professor Selvaggio includes a roster of the most in-demand session players and jazz educators found anywhere. In addition to maintaining teaching studios, the jazz faculty without exception have all pushed their limits to create deeply personal, genre-defying projects of value that reach out and speak to the shared humanity among potential listeners. This type of daily exposure to not just one, but several true artists has formed the cornerstone of my inspiration and continues to push me to strive and create beyond the classroom. As I begin to traverse life as a musician, I struggle to think of a single decision that was more beneficial than enrolling in Jazz Studies at Kent State University. For anyone searching for a path leading to their highest potential as a musician, search no further.”

Mary Kate McNally – School of Music Alumna and College Educator

“All too often, finding a great music program can feel like a zero-sum game: regarded performers can be absent educators, and dedicated academics can be disconnected from changing realities in the field. The jazz faculty at Kent State University shatter that paradigm as a collective of passionate and effective educators whose performance resumes, each more impressive than the last, actively inform and enhance their pedagogy. Students in the jazz studies program are actively immersed in the hidden gem of Northeast Ohio jazz scene by way of regular opportunities to hear their professors perform live and professionally recorded. Getting a jazz education at KSU goes far deeper than just developing technical proficiency; Bobby and his incredible team place a high priority on contextualizing technical skills within the history of jazz as both a music and a movement. Composers are never just names on a page, and every chart you study in a performing ensemble is treated as a holistic opportunity to teach about the person, their life, and the events that influenced their work.”

Greg Newman – Stow Munroe Falls High School Band Director

"I cannot begin to express the gratitude I have for KSU Jazz Program, faculty retired and current. As a student, I received outstanding training and real-life experiences that prepared me to teach and share jazz with my students. As an educator, I am very grateful and selfishly lucky to have KSU faculty available in my backyard. They are masters of their craft, personable, available, and eager to share with the students of Stow-Munroe Falls Band program. Thank you!”

Eric Vasquez – School of Music Alumnus

“Kent State University's Jazz Studies Program has given me the opportunity to perform with multiple jazz ensembles, travel to big cities like New York and Chicago, have masterclasses with some of the most prominent jazz musicians in the country, and work with active professional jazz musicians in the Northeast Ohio music scene. This program allowed me to experience the life of a true jazz musician and everything that comes with it. As a Music Education major and Jazz Studies minor at Kent, my involvement in this program has made me a better overall musician, a more well-rounded music educator, and has led me to multiple performance opportunities after graduation.”