Why Study Jazz at NCC?

The North Central College College Jazz Studies Program is truly an international program, attracting students not only from all over the United States, but also from Japan, Russia, Ecuador, Great Britain, and Poland. 

The North Central College Jazz Studies Program is staffed by internationally known professional jazz artists at the pinnacle of their professional careers:


Mitch Paliga - Jazz Saxophone

Art Davis - Jazz Trumpet

Tim Coffman - Jazz Trombone, Coordinator of Jazz Studies

Juan Pastor - Jazz Drum Set

John McLean - Jazz Guitar

Brad Stirtz - Jazz Vibraphone

Chris White - Jazz Piano


Graduate success stories:

Alyssa Allgood - voice (class of 2014) –

          Winner, Down Beat Student Award Competition, best collegiate jazz vocalist

          Finalist, Montreux Jazz Festival Vocal Jazz Competition

          First runner-up, Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival Jazz Voice Competition

Grace Blackford - voice (class of 2017) – Sales representative, DownBeat magazine.

Brian Riordan - percussion (class of 2014) – PhD in Composition, University of Pittsburg

Peter Mack - drums (class of 2014) – Active professional on the Chicago music scene

Grant Gustafson - guitar (class of 2013) –

          Featured on the LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN show

          Featured in Rolling Stone Magazine

Taylor Martin - bass (class of 2013) –

          Masters Degree in Composition, Lamont School of Music

          Staff Conductor, Colorado Symphony Chorus

Maxx Popp - drums (class of 2013) – Top call drummer, Holland America Cruise Line

Eric Skov - guitar (class of 2013) – Masters Degree in Jazz Performance, Northwestern University.

Alex Williams - bass (class of 2013) – National Manager of Student Experience, Guitar Center

Mark Nelson - piano (class of 2007) – Active professional on the Chicago music scene.

Jakub Rojek - piano (class of 2006) – Masters Degree in Jazz Performance, New England Conservatory.

Jamie Gallagher - drums (class of 2000) – Active professional on the Chicago music scene.

Don Smith - saxophone (class of 1997) – Regional Sales Manager, Pro Music Division, Yamaha International


Our Jazz Ensembles include:

Jazz Combos

Big Band

Latin Jazz Ensemble


Our Jazz Studies Scholarships (see scholarship page) are available to:

Jazz Studies Majors

Non-music Majors


Our Jazz Studies Curriculum (see curriculum page) includes:

Applied Lessons

Jazz Ensembles

Applied functional jazz piano for non-pianists

Jazz Harmony

Jazz Improvisation

Jazz Arranging & Composition

Jazz History


The NCC Jazz Studies Program invites comparisons. When researching jazz studies programs, we suggest that you ask the following questions:


Question:  Does the institution actively support the jazz studies program?

Answer:  In an age when financial support for the arts is being reduced, North Central College enthusiastically supports all of the visual and performing arts on campus. Our ample arts scholarships and the new state-of-the-art Wentz Concert Hall is certainly adequate proof.


Question: Does the location of the institution have a significant impact on the study of jazz?

Answer:  Chicago has long been known as one of the major international centers for the art of jazz.  North Central College is located in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois. We are just close enough to the city to enjoy its many advantages and just far enough away to avoid any disadvantages. Indeed, the Chicago Metra Train Station is located at the north end of our campus, and our jazz studies students certainly take advantage of this convenience. We believe that it defies logic to study jazz at a location that is nowhere near a jazz center.


Question:  Are any jazz ensembles led by students, graduate assistants or secondary faculty?

Answer:  At NCC, all jazz ensembles are lead by primary jazz faculty only.


Question:  Will I be taking my applied lessons with the primary jazz faculty member, or with a graduate student or a secondary faculty member?

Answer:  At NCC, all applied jazz lessons are given by primary jazz faculty. When any of our faculty’s schedules is full, we close enrollment until openings become available.


FINALLY, we highly recommend that you schedule a personal visit day through the Office of Admissions to spend a day with the jazz studies program to rehearsals and perhaps, take a private lesson with a jazz faculty member. It also affords you the opportunity to meet our jazz faculty and the jazz students in the program. We believe that this is an extremely important aspect in your search for a suitable program. Education in the arts is generally a mentoring process…. a great deal of one-on-one time spent between teacher and student. Personal chemistry is a very important element contributing to the success or failure of the process.