University of Central Oklahoma Jazz Ensemble I

Winner of the 2018 Next Generation Jazz Festival College Big Band Division (Tie)

In 1960, Wayne Nichols and Jack Sisson notably formed the first extracurricular student jazz band at the University of Central Oklahoma. A decade later, Kent Kidwell formalized a student jazz ensemble as an accredited course and founded our modern jazz program. Shortly after, Kidwell’s jazz groups began receiving top honors at many nationally respected jazz festivals. With the notable addition of faculty member Lee Rucker in 1980, jazz at Central has now grown to include 11 student jazz groups with multiple undergraduate and graduate jazz degree offerings. UCO big bands, combos and individual students have received numerous awards and honors for outstanding performances at events held around the world.

After current Director of Jazz Studies Brian Gorrell took over leadership of our flagship “UCO Jazz Ensemble I” in 2009, the group was invited to perform at both the 50th anniversary of the Jazz à Juan Festival in France and the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy. These invitations culminated in a major European tour in 2010. Our Jazz Ensemble I then performed as a featured guest at the Jazz Education Network (JEN) Conference in Louisville in January 2012. In March 2012, the same group was named a winner for Large Jazz Ensemble in DownBeat Magazine’s 35th Annual Student Music Awards. In December 2013, our Jazz Ensemble I was one of only two collegiate jazz ensembles nationwide selected to perform at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago. In January 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017, the same group was selected to perform the honors jazz concert closing set at the Oklahoma Music Educators Annual Conference in Tulsa. “UCO Jazz Ensemble I” was again recognized by DownBeat Magazine’s 39th Annual Student Music Awards in 2016 for outstanding performance in the Large Jazz Ensemble – Graduate College category. And most recently we are very exited to have tied first place in the collegiate jazz ensembles category at Monterey’s Next Generation Jazz Festival in March 2018 and are thrilled about our performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival in September 2018.

In addition to offering a Minor in Jazz Studies and Oklahoma’s only Master of Music in Jazz Studies with majors in both Performance and Music Production, we offer Oklahoma’s only Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance degree as well. The UCO Jazz Program is housed at a one-of-a-kind facility called the UCO Jazz Lab.