Jazz Arranging at UNT

UNT offers multiple opportunities for the student writer. There are many outstanding ensembles that enable the writer to hear his or her work immediately and get frequent recordings for greater study. There is also ample opportunity to build a professional recording portfolio via CD recordings by the One O'Clock and Two O'Clock Lab Bands, The UNT Jazz Singers, and the eclectic small group known as Zebras. Please take a few minutes to observe on our youtube link three outstanding UNT students who are recipients of the Herb Alpert Composition Award in 2013 : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6isMU59d0k&feature=share&list=UU-QJF0zOB...

Jazz arranging and composition are taught at three levels at the University of North Texas. For information on instructional courses in arranging and composition go here. For information on the graduate degree in jazz studies, go here then return to this page. (Press the back button on your browser.)

Two semesters of arranging classes (MUJS 3610 and MUJS 3620) are required of all jazz majors. Students may elect to continue beyond these two required semesters provided that a final semester grade of A is achieved. Students with a lesser grade must pass the Arranging Continuation Exam (ACE) or submit an electronic portfolio of arrangements that includes PDF scores and mp3 recordings that show ability at the level or beyond the exam's content. Students must also show keyboard facility by performing from memory "Stella by Starlight" at a ballad tempo or faster as desired. Two additional semesters (MUJS 4610 and MUJS 4620) are required of jazz studies majors who pursue the Arranging Emphasis within the BM in Jazz Studies. This status culminates with a Senior Jazz Arranging Recital.

For graduate jazz majors pursuing the Jazz Composition Track, requirements include four semesters of advanced composition (MUJS 5534, 5535), one semester of graduate jazz arranging (MUJS 5760) and one semester of Composition for the Media (MUJS 5540). Note: the 4th semester of Jazz Composition is labeled Recital and includes instruction, recital preparation, and the recital itself (MUJS 5535). Prerequisite to acceptance in this degree option are MUJS 4620 and successful participation in a Senior Jazz Arranging Recital, or its equivalent.

Graduate Jazz Arranging (MUJS 5760), however, is open to any graduate student at UNT who is able to submit a substantive writing portfolio or pass the Arranging Continuation Exam (ACE) whether or not the applicant has taken the junior level arranging courses (3610-20). This course is designed to expand one's perspectives on arranging for various instrumental and vocal groups.

All courses in jazz arranging include study and creative writing for both large and small ensembles. In most courses, students are required to earn the final grade of A or B to progress to the next level. But, to continue beyond the first year of arranging (Arranging I and II), the required final grade must be an A.

Finale notation is required for finished work in all courses. (Sibelius may be used instead of Finale provided the layout and appearance meet the proper standards.) Finale templates created with jazz font and structured to North Texas standards are available online .

Styles covered include sounds and techniques found in the music of Bob Brookmeyer, Billy Byers, Thad Jones, Gil Evans, Gary McFarland, Sammy Nestico, Clare Fischer, Gene Puerling, Maria Schneider, Claus Ogerman, Kenny Wheeler, and others. Pop, rock and other similar styles, while recognized for their commercial value, are not included on jazz arranging recital programs.

Graduate Degree candidates who desire to be in the Arranging track must enter the program as such. To be considered, they must do the following:

  1. submit an electronic portfolio (PDF scores and mp3 recordings) directly to Professor Richard DeRosa at

    Include at least two pieces for big band, several for small group combinations. Orchestral and vocal works are also welcome. Live recordings are preferred but MIDI recordings are acceptable. The portfolio in general should demonstrate prolific capability and stylistic diversity.

  2. schedule a performance audition on their major instrument.

    Ultimately, acceptance into the graduate jazz program is determined by a successful presentation of both auditions.

Undergraduate students who wish to pursue an arranging emphasis within their Jazz Studies degree, must either:

  1. make their intention clear as enrolling Freshmen and submit an electronic portfolio of their written works;
  2. for currently enrolled undergraduate students - the decision to get a Jazz Studies degree with an Arranging Emphasis should be declared no later than the completion of their sophomore year (for more info, go to Jazz Arranging Emphasis). In rare cases, a later migration may be considered, provided that an outstanding portfolio of writing warrants special consideration. Students with an arranging emphasis are also expected to continue to progress as a performer, both in terms of ensemble work and also in improvisation.

Jazz ensembles at UNT are available to play and record student work that is idiomatically sound, with manuscript formatting that is accurate and easily read. They include the nine Lab Bands, the Jazz Repertory Ensemble, the Zebras, three sections of UNT Jazz Singers, the Guitar Ensemble, the L-5 Ensemble, the U-Tubes, and many varied small groups. It is expected that each writer is a current member of one of these groups while at UNT. Exceptions must be negotiated with jazz arranging faculty. In addition, there are opportunities to write for orchestral instruments (including harp).

The Jazz Arranging Recital

The [b]Senior Arranging Recital[/b] is presented during the student's final year of residency. The senior recital is shared with at least one other writer or player. Permission to pursue a senior arranging recital is granted following a successful Final Arranging Proficiency Examination (FAPE), given at the end of the semester preceding the recital. Each writer involved in the recital will present two numbers for large jazz ensemble and three pieces for smaller ensembles (3-hns, 4-hns, 5hns). There must be a cross-representation of styles (including one ballad) to be negotiated with faculty. The length of any arranging recital is one hour. Each writer must present 20 minutes of music with 10 minutes allotted for set-up and announcing, etc. Two full rehearsals for each piece are strongly recommended. The student is also required to be a featured performer on at least one piece and also conduct at least one piece. The recital is presented in Lab West or Voertman Hall. Scheduling and logistical details are listed at the end of this document, for both senior and graduate arranging recitals.

The [b]Graduate Arranging Recital[/b] is presented during the student's final year of residency. Permission to pursue a graduate arranging recital is granted following a successful Graduate Arranging Proficiency Examination (GAPE), given toward the end of the semester preceding the recital semester, and judged on a pass/fail basis by three faculty. The length of a graduate arranging recital is one hour (45-minutes of music with time for set-up and announcing, etc.) and is presented by one writer alone. The content must include original compositions and arrangements for large jazz ensemble, jazz small groups, at least one piece for SATB vocal jazz ensemble, and one piece written for orchestral instruments with a small jazz group. All material must have been written within a two-year span preceding the recital.

For information on the [b]FAPE[/b] and [b]GAPE[/b] requirements, go here.

Scheduling for either level of recital must involve a faculty sponsor, with appropriate forms filled out and signed according to instructions and timing printed on the forms. For either level of recital, the writer(s) are expected to make arrangements to have a high-quality recording made of the event, and assemble three spiral-bound packets that contain transposed scores of the music to be presented. These packets will be given to the three committee members prior to downbeat.

The writers are also expected to engage the help of at least two reliable people to help with setup of the performance space and restoration to rehearsal layout immediately following the end of the recital. The dress code for an arranging recital is identical to that one would expect to see at a One O'Clock concert in Winspear Hall, in every respect.

Contact Richard DeRosa to help with recommendations to prepare a jazz arranging recital.