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About Jazz Studies

In 1977, NCCU became the first university in the state to offer the Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies. The program has since evolved to include a comprehensive vocal jazz component and the Master of Music degree in Jazz Composition and Jazz Performance.

The Jazz Studies Program is under the leadership of saxophonist/flutist Ira Wiggins, Ph.D., and offers curricula leading to the Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in jazz.

Alumni of the program include internationally renowned solo performing, recording and touring musicians, band leaders, and instrumentalists performing with jazz greats including Gregory Porter, Houston Person, Kim Burrell, Prince, Joey Calderazzo, Branford Marsalis and others. In addition, many NCCU Jazz Studies Program alums are teaching as adjunct or full-time professors at colleges and universities, and as K-12 music teachers.

Faculty members include guitarist Baron Tymas, assistant director of the program; trombonist Robert Trowers; trumpeter Albert Strong; Arnold George for piano, saxophone and voice; Lenora Helm Hammonds, vocals; Ed Paolantonio, piano; Thomas Taylor, percussion; Aaron Hill, saxophone; and Damon Brown, bass. and Artists-in-residence Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo are also involved in workshops and other instructional opportunities.

The Jazz Studies Program supports 10 performing groups: two big bands, four combos, a guitar ensemble, a brass ensemble, percussion ensemble, and a vocal jazz ensemble. These ensembles have performed with major artists including Jimmy Heath, James Moody, Kenny Burrell, Branford Marsalis, Joey Calderazzo, Ed Thigpen, Vanessa Rubin, Fred Wesley, Louie Bellson, Alvin Batiste, Clark Terry, Frank Foster, Nnenna Freelon, Nicholas Payton, Steve Wilson, Geri Allen, Slide Hampton, David “Fathead” Newman and others.

NCCU’s jazz groups have performed throughout North America, Europe and the Caribbean. Major performances include the Montreux Jazz Festival, Vienne Jazz Festival, Detroit Jazz Festival, New York City Jazz Festival @ Jazz at Lincoln Center, Annual Collegiate Jazz Festival at Notre Dame, the Newport Jazz Festival and the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) festival in Toronto, and Jazz Educators Conferences.

Ensembles have earned recognition at numerous college festivals, such as the Villanova Jazz Festival, where they garnered first place honors. The NCCU Jazz Ensemble and vocalists were invited to perform at a reception for the White House Staff and Congressional Aides and Vocal Jazz Ensemble performed for a political event to welcome First Lady Michelle Obama to NCCU.

The Jazz Studies Program at North Carolina Central University is dedicated to fostering a quality education, shaping the future of aspiring musicians, and maintaining the integrity of a great art form.

Ira Wiggins's photo

Ira T. Wiggins

Associate Professor, Director of Jazz Studies

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