Jazz Studies

The Mason Jazz Studies Department combines performance, curriculum and service to support House Resolution 57 which states jazz is “hereby designated as a rare and valuable national American treasure.”


The Mason Jazz Studies program (instrumental and vocal) offers opportunities for improvisation, performance, recording, writing, leadership and service. Our ensembles have performed at the Shanghai Concert Hall (Beijing, China), Center for the Arts, Hylton Performing Arts Center, Virginia Music Educators Association Conference, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, Blues Alley, Kansas City Jazz Summit, JEN Conferences 2014, 2018 (Dallas, TX), JENerations Jazz Festival 2017 (New Orleans, LA), University of Trinidad and Tobago and more. Our students have won “Outstanding Ensemble” accolades, military band positions and DownBeat Student Music Awards.

A high point of students’ time at George Mason University is Jazz4Justice, an annual concert that combines the Jazz department with local law communities to raise money for academic initiatives and public access to justice.

Our students and jazz community have the benefit of attending master classes with world-class musicians throughout the year. Past artists include Eric Alexander, Peter Erskine, Doc Severinsen, Peter Bernstein, Byron Stripling, Bobby Floyd, Chip McNeill, Bria Skonberg, and more. Spring 2022, we are excited to host American composer, Jazz Orchestra leader and multiple Grammy award-winner, Maria Schneider.


ENSEMBLESOpen to all university students, based on audition

Ensemble Auditions – Fall 2021 (current Mason students) 

  • Instrumental Piece:  Doxy
  • Instrumentalists:  Play the melody for one chorus and improvise for two choruses. In addition there will be sight-reading on the audition. Please bring your own musical accompaniment/backing track for iPod, Phone or CD player. (Bring adapter if your phone does not have a headphone jack)
  • Vocalists:  Sing one song of your choice (jazz preferred), sight-read a solo musical line and sing a brief tonal melody test. Please bring your own musical accompaniment/backing track for either iPod, Phone or CD player.
  • Visit the SEATING PLACEMENT AUDITIONS page to sign up for an audition. If all audition slots are filled, please e-mail Dr. Darden Purcell





  • AUG 20, 11:30am:  Mason Welcome To Mason Block Party – Wilkins Plaza (The Steel Pan Ensemble and Jazz faculty perform at the opening events for the Fall 2021 semester!)
  • AUG 22, 5pm:  Mason Jazz Welcome Back Party – De Laski 3001 (Mandatory for Jazz Majors, strongly encouraged for minors and those performing in ensembles – All are welcome!) 
  • AUG 29, 7pm:  Mason Jazz Faculty “Back to School Party” at JAMMIN JAVA! $15 All Tickets | $10 for Students. Purchase tickets: jamminjava.com/shows/george-mason-university-jazz-faculty
  • OCT 9, all day:  Mason Jazz Student for a Day – Join our Jazz faculty, students and ensembles for an “inside look” into a typical day as a Jazz student at George Mason University! More details at music.gmu.edu/visit-us/mason-jazz-student-for-a-day/
  • OCT 16, 7pm:  Mason Jazz Guitar/Vocal Night at Epicure Cafe! The guitar and Jazz voice studio team up for an evening at our favorite Fairfax live music establishment, Epicure Cafe! $5 cover charge! epicurecafe.org
  • OCT 30, 8pm:  Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra “Swingin’ with the Met” – Join Director Jim Carroll and the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra for an evening of Big Band era hits! Purchase tickets:  hylton.calendar.gmu.edu/metropolitan-jazz-orchestra
  • NOV 15, 8pm:  Mason Jazz Vocal Night (director, Dr Darden Purcell) – Center for the Arts
  • NOV 18, 8pm:  Jazz Combos/Steel Pan Ensemble (directors, Wade Beach, Victor Provost) – Center for the Arts (free and open to the public) 
  • NOV 20, 8pm:  Jazz4Justice 20th Anniversary Concert (director, Jim Carroll) – Center for the Arts. Purchase tickets:  cfa.calendar.gmu.edu/jazz-4-justice
  • NOV 30, 8pm:  Jazz Workshop (director, John Kocur) – Center for the Arts (free and open to the public) 
  • DEC 1, 8pm:  Jazz Combos/Braddock Road Brass Band (directors, Wade Beach, Graham Breedlove) – Center for the Arts (free and open to the public) 
  • DEC 10, 8pm: American Festival Pops Orchestra: Holiday Pops (director, Tony Maiello) – Hylton Performing Arts Center. Purchase Tickets: hylton.calendar.gmu.edu/american-festival-pops-orchestra-holiday-pops/
  • DEC 11, 8pm:  American Festival Pops Orchestra: Holiday Pops (director, Tony Maiello) – Center for the Arts. Purchase Tickets:  cfa.calendar.gmu.edu/american-festival-pops-orchestra/


  • Wednesday, SEP 22, 8pm:  Jessica Boykin-Settles, DMA Performance Recital, (Center For the Arts) 
  • Saturday, DEC 4, 4pm:  James Weiss, Jazz guitar Senior Recital (De Laski 3001) 

DownBeat Student Music Awards

The Latin American Ensemble is honored to have been awarded “Latin Group, Graduate College – Outstanding Performance” for 3 years in a row (2019, 2020, 2021) in the DownBeat Student Music Awards! Congratulations to our students and director, Juan Megna!



Mason Jazz 2021 International Jazz Day Celebration is featured in Northern Virginia Magazine “These Are the Best Things to Do in NOVA this April!”  northernvirginiamag.com/things-to-do





E-mail dpurcel2@gmu.edu for hard copies.


George Mason University: Music Library’s move to Fenwick met with Music and Fanfare! 

George Mason University:  Mason Joins Worldwide Jazz Day Celebration with an All-Jazz Concert!