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History of the UNC Jazz Studies Program

The Jazz Studies Program enjoys a storied tenure at the University of Northern Colorado. Founded in 1965 by School of Music Director, Dr. James Miller, and Trombone Professor, Buddy Baker, the program was reorganized and expanded in 1967 by Percussion Instructor, Derryl Goes. During the next decade, Jazz Ensemble 1 would go on to win numerous national competitions, launching its reputation as a nationally acclaimed institution to study jazz music.

In 1976, the University of Northern Colorado announced the addition of the Director of Jazz Studies position. After an extensive national search, Gene Aitken was hired and quickly began building the program into one of international stature. Aitken developed a curriculum adding jazz history and improvisation, allowing the program to expand its ensembles to 4 big bands, 4 small groups, and 1 vocal jazz group. In 1980, graduate courses were added, including a Secondary Emphasis option to the Doctor of Arts degree.

In March of 1998, UNC Jazz was named “One of the Top 5 Jazz Programs in the Country” by U.S. News & World Report.

Gene Aitken retired in May of 2002, and after a successful search, Dana Landry was appointed as the new Director of Jazz Studies. Since his arrival, the program has added jazz degrees at the Bachelor, Master, and Doctoral levels.

Today, the UNC Jazz Studies Program boasts 5 Lab Bands, 8 Combos, 4 Vocal Jazz Ensembles, Guitar Ensemble, and a Latin Jazz Ensemble. At this time, the program has garnered hundreds of recognitions, including more than 90 Downbeat Magazine Student Music Awards, and has been invited to perform internationally.


Full list of UNC Jazz Awards and Citations