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The Valley Jazz Cooperative is an educational initiative of MSW Ministries. Led by Russell Schmidt, the VJC offers encouraging, respectful, values-based instruction to committed, passionate, creative young people. VJC instruction often focuses on developing two elements of longstanding importance to Music Serving the Word: educational outreach and improvised arts.

About the Valley Jazz Cooperative…The VJC has been active throughout metropolitan Phoenix since 2016, when the East Valley Jazz Cooperative began as a partnership with Mesa Community College. In 2017, the West Valley Jazz Cooperative launched, hosted by Glendale Community College​. Both programs have featured wonderfully talented high school and junior high school musicians, individuals committed to developing their technical skills while also exploring their innate creativity. Through ensemble rehearsals and VJC Hangs, program participants have also received valuable instruction on various, related topics, including theory, improvisation, and jazz history.


Both the EVJC and WVJC went on hiatus in March 2020, due to the global pandemic. For the next 20 months, the Valley Jazz Cooperative pivoted toward a robust line-up of VJC Online offerings for its students, including four virtual ensembles (Contrafaction, Indigo BBO, Sacred Jazz Cooperative, and The Senior Project), two classes (Jazz History and Improvisation), and Guest Artist clinics (featuring leading artist-teachers from all over the country joining VJC students through Zoom).


In late 2021, the VJC resumed in-person instruction, with the program's activities unified in one venue: Ravenscroft in Scottsdale, AZ. We are immensely grateful to GCC (Dave Schmidt) & MCC (Paul Brewer) for their partnerships during the first five years of the VJC's development. And while VJC @ Ravenscroft activities are now all together in one location, the overarching goal for our students remains the same as ever: We hope they will develop their artistic talents here in ways that are tangible and meaningful, then go back into their own communities (churches, schools, arts festivals, etc.) to share their creative gifts with others.


To help us achieve that goal, these are our current VJC programs:


• VJC @ Ravenscroft – As mentioned above, Ravenscroft is the new permanent home of the Valley Jazz Cooperative. VJC @ Ravenscroft activities are offered free of charge to area music students in grades 8-12 (following a successful placement audition). This program runs from early December through mid-may each school year, with auditions held in November (as marching band season is winding down for area music students). Audition dates/times are usually announced in mid-October. The VJC @ Ravenscroft program meets on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and usually includes a few different ensembles, ranging in size from combo to full big band. [Please note the online application form is at the bottom of the VJC @ Ravenscroft page.]

• Lessons & Workshops – Valley Jazz Cooperative faculty and clinicians can provide lessons to individuals, as well as group instruction to school band programs, church music groups, and other interested parties. After visiting the Lessons & Workshops page to learn more, please contact the Director of the Valley Jazz Cooperative, Russell Schmidt, to explore possible workshop and clinic opportunities.

• VJC Scholarship Program – The VJC Scholarship Program is awarded annually to a trio of outstanding high school seniors, in support of their post-secondary education. Scholarship recipients are talented young musicians, with emphasis given to individuals who have made meaningful contributions to their communities through service to others. The program is open only to VJC program alums.

• Service – The Valley Jazz Cooperative is always interested in exploring and developing collaborative projects with others as a means of enriching the lives of those in our own communities and elsewhere, whether it be through a benefit concert, educational event, coordinated school service project, or other venture.

• VJC Alumni Band – Launched in 2022, the VJC Alumni Band comes together annually in the early part of the summer, rehearsing in June and early July. (There will usually be only five or six weeks of rehearsals before a single performance.) The time frame has been chosen in the hopes that recent HS graduates who are going to college out of state can have an opportunity to be back with us then, should they be returning home to AZ for the summer. If you are interested in participating in the VJC Alumni Band, please contact VJC Director Russell Schmidt directly via email. Many thanks!

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