The Kent State University Jazz Ensembles and combos are composed of undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in performing and learning about this music. The bands are proficient in several jazz styles ranging from Dixieland, Swing and Be-bop, to contemporary Big Band styles, Salsa and Fusion. Works composed by the great Jazz writers such as Duke Ellington, Thad Jones, Sammy Nestico, Gil Evans and Bill Holman as well as original compositions by local writers and student composers are featured.
Kent State Jazz performing groups have won Outstanding Band awards at collegiate jazz festivals such as Notre Dame, Ohio Valley Jazz Festival, Quinnipiac (Conn.), Aquinas College Jazz Festival (Grand Rapids), Tri-C Jazz Festival, and the Elmhurst Collegiate Jazz Festival (Chicago). The band has also performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Jazz Ensemble I has played concerts with jazz greats including Clark Terry, Joe Williams, Marian McPartland, Art Farmer, Dizzy Gillespie and Phil Woods.
In addition to the Jazz performing groups at Kent State, course work is offered in Jazz History, Jazz Improvisation, Jazz Composing and Arranging, and Jazz Ensemble Techniques (for Music Education majors).