Frequently Asked Questions
Are formal auditions held for entrance into Columbia University?
Since Columbia University does not offer a performance major, there are no formalized entrance auditions. However, we do encourage applicants for undergraduate admission who are interested in participating in jazz ensembles or taking jazz lessons (including transfer students) to include a recording with their application as supplementary material.
What should be included on that recording?
The tape or CD should include a minimum of three diverse selections that best represent your musical abilities. We suggest a ballad, a medium-tempo, and an up-tempo selection, possibly with different rhythmic feels. One or two could be jazz standards, and original compositions are most welcome. Please be sure to label the cassette tape or CD clearly, including your name, your instrument, the names of the other performers, and the context of the recording. In other words, if it’s a school concert, a studio recording, or a home recording, please specify.
How much weight does this recording carry in gaining admittance to Columbia University?
Recordings are carefully considered, particularly in the later rounds of application screening, and can significantly impact admissions decisions.
Do I have to be a music major in order to play in ensembles or take lessons?
No. Ensembles and lessons are open to any Columbia or Barnard undergraduate or graduate student. Entrance to both ensembles and lessons are by audition. For more information, please see the Louis Armstrong Performance Program.
What determines placement into jazz ensembles and lessons? What level of playing ability must I demonstrate in order to participate in ensembles and lessons?
All ensembles require some past jazz experience.
Placement is determined by audition in the first week of the fall
semester, and ensembles are organized according to performance
ability. The level of playing in the ensembles ranges from
intermediate to professional; we cannot accommodate novice jazz
Is there any charge for lessons at Columbia?No. The cost of lessons is covered by tuition.
Is practice space available for student ensembles outside of class time?
Yes. In addition to music practice rooms located
throughout the campus, there is a rehearsal space available for
students participating in jazz ensembles.
Is there a practice room and drum kit available for drummers?
Yes, but only drummers participating in the Jazz Performance Program are allowed access.
Other than jazz performance opportunities, what jazz-focused classes does Columbia offer?
Columbia regularly offers academic
courses in jazz studies at both undergraduate and graduate
levels. Graduate students in any Columbia department may pursue
jazz-oriented research leading to the Ph.D in that department's
Undergraduate students may enroll in the Special
in Jazz Studies, an interdisciplinary liberal arts course open
to music majors as well as those majoring in other fields. This
concentration guides students in developing a firm grounding in the
traditions and aesthetic motives of jazz music, viewed through
multiple perspectives, including historical musicology,
ethnomusicology, literary theory, cultural studies, and the social
sciences. This concentration includes jazz-oriented courses in
history, composition and arranging, transcription and analysis,
improvisation, and historiography. Any student in any major or
concentration may take any of these courses.
Can I major in jazz at Columbia?
At present Columbia does not offer a jazz major. A Special Concentration in Jazz at Columbia (see below) is an interdisciplinary course of study that is the rough equivalent of a minor.
Will a special concentration in jazz at Columbia be sufficient preparation for a conservatory graduate program in jazz performance?
A special concentration alone may not be enough to prepare you for a Conservatory Masters program. A Special Concentration in Jazz at Columbia is an interdisciplinary course of study that is the rough equivalent of a minor. Students complete a Special Concentration in jazz along with any other major or concentration, such as music, political science, economics, history, etc., but cannot graduate having completed only a Special Concentration.
However, taking Columbia’s undergraduate music theory and ear-training classes, along with the required jazz classes, would provide you with the foundation needed for graduate work, provided that your playing level is on par with other applicants to graduate school.