Session I- What to expect

After four years, there have been trends that have been established in the Workshop, which we can confidently say that will continue into our 5th year and beyond.


Obviously, everyone has different motivations for attending a workshop like this. With an expert faculty, great facilities, and a wide amount of classes and combos for beginners to advanced students, we can accommodate a large variety of instrumentalists and vocalists and provide something for everyone to take away and continue their jazz education.



Beginning High School Students

Beginning student, Shannon
Beginning student, Shannon

Beginning jazz students in high school can expect a fun introduction into Jazz. With starter theory and composition classes, students get their feet wet without being overwhelmed. In master-classes, many of the subjects are geared towards you, and you can have fun playing your instrument and move at a slower pace than the more advanced master-classes. The guest artists are a wild card in what they have to offer, but there is usually something for everyone to take away. Combo rehearsals are with like-experienced younger musicians who are also getting used to improvisation and other jazz concepts. As a high schooler, you meet other students from other schools in the same boat.


Many new friends have been made going through the combo rehearsals. The concert at the end of the week shows off all that you have learned. For a beginner, not having played jazz, it is an incredible experience and to take in all the surroundings is a special experience. After a fun but intensive week, most students end up with a greater appreciation for jazz, and some even pursue jazz more seriously. We've had more than one beginning student return for multiple years, improving each summer. Some have become leaders in their school's jazz bands. Even if you don't play a traditional jazz instrument, you are welcomed to dive into jazz.

Intermediate and Advanced High School Students

Advanced High Schooler, Max
Advanced High Schooler, Max

Teenage students who are already very motivated in jazz, ones who might have private teachers, are leaders in their jazz bands, and are perhaps even thinking about majoring in music in college have a lot to learn from the workshop.


Intermediate students will be able to expand on their theory knowledge and will be able to dabble in composition and learn how to write their own music. They'll have choices in master-classes on whether or not to attend easier ones or opt for advanced ones according to their strengths and weaknesses. CoTmbo rehearsals will challenge musicians who excel in their high school groups demanding a little more improvisation and exposing them to jazz composers that they might not see otherwise. This experience takes a lot of intermediate players and carries them to advanced levels.


Advanced high school students, ones who might have a desire to attend a university, majoring in music, jazz studies, or perhaps just continuing their involvement in jazz have a lot to gain from attending. With a faculty comprised of university professors, much advice can be offered in college preparation and networking with other musicians who might want to form groups after the workshop.


There are advanced classes reserved for you in theory and composition, and the top combo groups are sure to present a challenge to everyone. Combos featuring great composers like Herbie Hancock and Thelonious Monk give students new perspectives in which to refine their improvisation abilities. Advanced high school students often mix with college students helping them improve while learning what university experiences might be like. Master-clinicians really have a lot to offer advanced students, often entertaining private conversations after clinics to attend to student concerns. For that matter, the faculty, with a 5:1 student/faculty ratio gives students a chance to pull one of us aside for a question, tip, or even a private lesson!

College Jazz and Non-Jazz Majors

College student, Mike
College student, Mike

College students often find themselves in the advanced classes and top combos where they belong. They receive special attention and duties as they are encouraged to accompany master-clinicians and even take part in the education process. There is plenty for you to learn as a college student, receiving what would be equivalent of a mid-level jazz studies theory and composition class.


The greatest perk for college students is the networking and genesis of groups created out relationships built at the Metro-Detroit Jazz Workshop. Again, college students can pull aside faculty or guest clinicians for advice, help, or even possibly private lessons. This is a great finishing school for college students to become leaders, on the bandstand or in their college bands.


For college students who are into jazz but are afraid to solo in their college jazz bands, this is a great way to get tutelage and improve their soloing skills for the next semester. This is one of the few workshops in the Metro-Detroit area that cater to University students as well as high school students, which is more the norm.

Amateur Adult and Semi-Pro Musicians

Adult students rehearsing in the "Mingus Combo"
Adult students rehearsing in the "Mingus Combo"

If you are an adult musician, you are welcomed to the MDJW, no matter what experience level you are at or what instrument you play. 1/3 of our workshop consists of adults who are extremely interested in to being simply curious about jazz, and are looking for enhanced instruction with the option of being able to play in a group.


Amateur adult students can expect a similar education to the college and high school ones, in that every level of student will receive the appropriate tutelage in classes and ensembles to fit their individual level. We are thrilled that in many instances, musical relationships created through networking at the MDJW have continued beyond the workshop and blosommed into groups that rehearse and/or play gigs. Networking is a great advantage for an adult student looking for like-minded people to play with.


Adult jazz students, for the most part, do not have the schedule or time available to work on jazz studies like college or high school students. Between work and family, practice times must be strategic as well as making sure to receive the right information to get the best results out of the limited practice time. The faculty of the MDJW has a lot of experience teaching adult students in private lessons, classroom, and ensembles. They will help design an individual strategy for practicing, and help center you to get to what you want out of jazz, dealing with potential anxiety and patience problems. The faculty is open to consults during the workshop week, and even after. Many students have kept professional friendships with faculty members and have studied with some as private teachers. It doesn't hurt that the faculty to student ratio is 5:1.


If you are a professional musician, the workshop gives you much time to address personal concerns and work with faculty members to improve. Having new viewpoints presented can help many professional musicians who feel that they might be in a rut or need inspiration to stir their musical creativity. There is also a great potential for networking amongst professionals.


In the beginning of the week, adults talk to adults, college students sit with college students, high school students hang with their own. By the end of week, after an intense week of learning and the comradery of preparing for a concert, we can honestly say that many barriers like age and experience are broken down and most people leave with friendships that sometimes span 50 years in age, where some of the most talented musicians become friends with people who picked up an instrument last year. It is the reason why we have such a strong re-sigining rate. Adults come and learn a lot over the week, take a year to process all of it, and come back for another year of new classes, master-classes, combos, and fun experiences. 

Vocal Workshop

Kelly in the vocal workshop
Kelly in the vocal workshop

If you are a vocalist, beginning to advanced level, the MDJW offers a vocal workshop inside the camp, exclusive to you. You are with the other students for most of the day, taking part in theory, composition, improvisation, and master-classes. While other students spend the last hour and a half in instrumental combo rehearsals, you join the other vocalists, faculty instructor, and accompanist to work on vocal techniques, bandstand leadership, concepts, and other important things related to vocal jazz performance.


You'll also prepare a solo song or two to sing witht the faculty rhythm section at the Cliff Bells concert on Sunday. Instructed by our faculty vocalist, you will find new, inspiring ways to approach singing and show off some of your new skills.


The vocal workshop will have special guests to present vocal master-classes throughout the week to offer more insight and give you other points of view.


The vocal workshop strikes the right balance between participation in the regular camp and independence in going off to study with fellow vocalists.


If you are a singer who feels inferior to the musicians around you because you lack jazz theory and improvisation skills, this is a perfect place to ask questions and learn in a non-judgmental surrounding.

Composition Workshop

Instructor Gwinnell and Nolan
Instructor Gwinnell and Nolan

All composers know that it is sometimes tough to rally live musicians to play their tunes. They have to settle for computer sounds replicating live instruments. Even tougher is to get true constructive criticism and help into becoming better and tapping your inner voice.


You will write part or a whole tune, an arrangement, or reharmonization before the workshop begins. and bring it in to the Composer's workshop. In a positive atmosphere, we will play and discuss as a group.


All levels of composers are welcomed from people picking up a pen fof the first time to seasoned professionals. All of the tunes will be played by your choice of rhythm section and traditional horn instruments.


Along with the playing aspect, reharmonization, orchestration, counterpoint. and other big and small band arranging techniques will be discussed.


The composer's workshop is run by director, Scott Gwinnell, and could have a guest artist.