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Through its various performing ensembles, supported by guest artist clinics, online instruction, and additional educational opportunities, the Valley Jazz Cooperative offers music students a uniquely valuable experience. While the ensemble programs are a focal point for VJC instruction, the principle goal is to help each individual explore and develop their awesome potential as creative beings through the medium of jazz and the art of improvisation.


Since its founding in 2016, the VJC has diversified into other areas that are adjacent to its principal focus: the continued development of creativity and expression within young musicians through improvisation and ensemble participation. Among the ways in which the Valley Jazz Cooperative banner has grown:


• VJC Publications provides jazz educators and performers with access to exceptional educational- and professional-market music, including remarkable big band charts that effectively and convincingly feature flexible instrumentation. "Flex." charts are an absolute necessity in music educators' libraries now more than ever. 


• The VJC's YouTube channel features past ensemble performances (both live and virtual), educational tutorials, and recordings of big band releases from VJC Publications.


• We offer supplemental resources to students and educators through our free educational downloads,

• The VJC Facebook page provides updates on all Valley Jazz Cooperative activities and has archived extensive photo galleries of student performances.


• Launched in 2022, the VJC Alumni Band has quickly become an anchor in our annual calendar, and has proven a tremendously successful endeavor, both musically and socially.


• Through its college scholarship program, the VJC supports outstanding program alums in their post-secondary education.


• The VJC Q&T podcast offers valuable insights from leading artist-teachers, as well as other creatives.

VJC programs are offered free of charge to eligible, committed, passionate music students (grades 8-12, from the Phoenix area), following a successful placement audition. In-person instruction for VJC programs takes place in Ravenscroft, a premier music performance venue in Scottsdale, as well as on the campus of Mesa Community CollegeTo learn more about our VJC programs (and how to apply/audition), please click below.

Explore your gifts. Find your passion.
Program Status

The Valley Jazz Cooperative provides in-person instruction on Tuesday & Thursday evenings in Ravenscroft, a performing arts facility in Scottsdale, and on Saturday mornings at Mesa Community College. VJC programs run from December to mid-May each school year. The VJC is offered free of charge to area music students in grades 8 thru 12 (following a successful placement audition). Learn more about VJC ensembles by CLICKING HERE.

Additionally, the VJC Alumni Band meets from mid-May to late June each summer, when alums who might go to college out-of-state could be back in AZ. CLICK HERE to learn more about the Alumni group.

Audition Information

VJC @ Ravenscroft programs meet on Tuesday and Thursday nights from December to mid-May each school year. The VJC @ MCC meets on Saturday mornings, also from December to mid-May. Auditions will resume in November for the 2024-25 season. Click HERE to learn more about VJC Ensembles and to apply online. (Applicants will receive more details about scheduling an audition time in the late fall.)

The application process for the VJC Alumni Band is less formalized. Learn more about that group by clicking HERE. And contact Russell Schmidt if you would like more info about this group (which meets annually in May & June).

VJC on Facebook
VJC Q&T Podcast

A Statement from Russell Schmidt, Director and Founder of the VJC

As one who truly loves teaching, I feel privileged to serve young people, offering them guidance and instruction as they develop their limitless potential as artistic, creative souls in the Valley Jazz Cooperative. When we first launched the VJC, I noted the word “cooperative” was chosen with great intent, after much deliberation. One of our foundational goals is to serve young people in ways that support the outstanding instruction already being offered in so many different corners of Phoenix. We are grateful for the collaborative support of band directors, private music instructors, and (of course) parents, for helping us build a musical and educational community in the VJC that will provide a positive impact in the lives of these students for years to come.


The VJC resumed in-person instruction in December 2021 after about 20 months spent engaged in other, meaningful endeavors, such as the highly successful VJC Instrument Rental Assistance program and VJC Online instruction (including virtual ensemble activities). Throughout the challenges these recent times have presented to students and educators alike, my Music Serving the Word family has provided me much to be grateful for (given their collective faith in the VJC). This wonderfully vibrant educational initiative would not exist without MSW support.


Similarly, I remain thankful to Paul Brewer (MCC faculty) and Dave Schmidt (GCC emeritus faculty) for their initial partnerships in hosting the fledgling VJC. Their support allowed this program to grow exponentially in a very short period of time. And I am excited to announce that in December 2023, after a few years away, the VJC is returning to Mesa Community College for wonderful instruction and musical fellowship under Paul's expert direction. In addition to sustaining our programs at Ravenscroft in Scottsdale, we are absolutely thrilled to reconnect with MCC friends on Saturday mornings moving forward.

Finally, to prospective students, I want you to know the VJC is an exceptional place to explore your gifts and find your passion. We sincerely hope you will join our program and grow your creativity with us!

Russell Schmidt — ​Director and Founder, Valley Jazz Cooperative

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