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WEST Valley Jazz Cooperative

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The West Valley Jazz Cooperative integrates an ensemble experience with valuable instruction on related topics including improvisation, theory, and jazz history. Led by Russell Schmidt, the educational experience available to students is truly outstanding. [Read testimonials from former students and colleagues regarding the Director’s teaching, here.]


What are the rehearsal commitments for this group?

The WVJC meets during the school year for a 80-minute rehearsal each Saturday morning (usually 9:40 to 11:00 a.m.). After rehearsal, there is a 50-minute educational session on various, rotating topics, informally called “the Hang” (attendance optional, usually 11:00 to 11:50 a.m.). Students attending only the ensemble rehearsal will have a weekly commitment of 1.3 hours, while those who remain for the additional group instruction session will have a weekly commitment of 2.2 hours.

Where does this group meet to rehearse?

The WVJC is proud to partner with Glendale Community College for this program. Most rehearsals will take place in the GCC Music Building.


How often does the group perform?

The WVJC schedule aligns with the academic calendar, concluding each year in May. During that time, the group performs in concert settings every 6 to 8 weeks, though this schedule is subject to change if special events are added (such as performances at regional festivals).


Do I have to maintain perfect attendance to play in the group?

No. While full attendance is expected for every rehearsal possible, it is understood that absences will occasionally result from high school groups heading to competitions and festivals. [See more on VJC support for school ensemble participation below.] However, by applying to and auditioning for the VJC, you have made a commitment to the other students in the program. As such, absences for conflicts not related to one’s school program are not allowed.


For most chairs in the big band edition of the VJC, a single absence can be worked around for a rehearsal, with the expectation that the absent student will practice their music and come back demonstrating greater proficiency at the following session. However for select, critical slots (such as lead horn chairs, bass, and drums), it is important that a sub be lined up for any rehearsal where an excused absence is necessary. When these crucial positions remain filled for every rehearsal, the entire ensemble can be fully productive in the absence of a member or two.


Due to the unique nature of jazz combos (smaller size, shorter rehearsal schedule, no standard instrumentation), the attendance policy is more stringent. Please contact the Director directly with any attendance questions regarding the combo program.

Are there auditions?

Yes, there are auditions for participation in the WVJC ensemble. Click here for more details about that process.  However, it is important to note that the Hang is open to any music student interested in jazz (grades 8-12, including home-schooled students). If you audition for the ensemble and do not get in, you are still encouraged to attend the group instruction sessions on Saturdays to learn more about jazz and improvisation. In this way, “the Hang” basically amounts to a free group lesson of which student should take full advantage.

What size ensemble is the WVJC?

The Valley Jazz Cooperative supports each student’s continued participation in their own school ensembles. And student schedules can grow quite dense, particularly in the fall when marching band season requires a substantial time commitment from so many music students. 


As a result, the goal is different each term. In the fall (through around Thanksgiving), the WVJC operates as a combo. From December through May, the WVJC expands to become a full jazz ensemble (saxes, trumpets, trombones, rhythm section).


Regardless of ensemble size, arrangements will often be tailored to each term’s particular line-up of students. As a result, the musical and educational experience for WVJC members will be excellent. And there can be programming advantages to fielding ensembles of varying size from term to term. [See next question.]


What repertoire is programmed?

Typically, the WVJC combo plays a mix of original jazz classics (John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk) and American Songbook standards (George Gershwin, Cole Porter). The WVJC big band performs both historically significant repertoire (Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus) and works by more modern writers (and even some brand new music on occasion). Selections chosen will sometimes be challenging, but always fun to play.


What fees are required to participate?

The WVJC program is free of charge to students. Donations (for example, toward hall rentals for concert performances) will gladly be accepted, but are not required. Also, please note that some concert events require an admission charge for friends and family members of the student performers, although this varies from venue to venue.


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WVJC Combo:

September through November

WVJC Big Band:

December through May


Saturdays, 9:40-11:00 a.m.

The Hang:

(opt.) Saturdays, 11:00-11:50 a.m. Primary location: Glendale Community College (location subject to change due to availability)




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