Experience Jazz

About Experience Jazz

“While rooted in jazz, this program embraces the power and artistry of hiphop, rhythm & blues and other genres students and instructors want to explore together. We strive to bring together students of a multitude of cultural and musical backgrounds in an innovative music-making environment.”

– Justin Christy, Board Chair
Minnesota Jazz Education 

Experience Jazz is a genre-bridging music ensemble program for instrumentalists, vocalists, rappers, DJs and other aspiring musical artists. The goal of this program is to foster creativity and collaboration by bringing together aspiring artists from diverse backgrounds with a common desire to make new music rooted in jazz, blues, pop and hip-hop. 

Launched in 2017, this innovative weekly combo program takes place every spring semester, as an incubator for middle and high school musicians to learn, play and compose new music together. Presented in partnership with High School for Recording Arts (HSRA), students rehearse together in HSRA’s state-of-the-art Studio 4. There is no other program like it in Minnesota! 
Students work in combos, each focused on a different musical style, based on student interest. Combos are led by professional local musicians, with additional workshops presented by industry professionals, focused on teaching students new skills, and providing the hands-on experience of integrating musical styles.
Musicians of all skill levels, grades 7-12 are encouraged to participate! No prior jazz experience required. Read on for information about this year’s program, and past years’ programming.

Contributions from community members like you ensures the future of innovative programming like Experience Jazz. Make a gift today!  


Experience Jazz Program DirectorKatia Cardenas – katia [at] mnjazzed.org.

Experience Jazz 2021 - Apply Now!

This year’s program is will run online for 12 weeks, meeting Saturday mornings 10:30am-12:30pm on Zoom, March 21-June 12, 2021, with an orientation at the same time on Saturday, March 13. After auditioning, accepted students will be placed in one of 3 combos led by local professional musicians. 

Applications currently accepted through Friday, March 5, 2021Due to limited space, we encourage interested students to apply up as soon as possible. We will contact you by mid-March to confirm acceptance to the program. 

Teaching artists for our 2021 program will include Jeff Bailey & Cody LeDuc, Kavyesh Kaviraj & DeCarlo Jackson, and DJ Michel/Be & DJ Mickey Breeze. Bios & photos coming soon!

Due to COVID-19, this year’s program will take place online, with a possibility of in-person, outdoor, socially distant rehearsals in the latter half of program, to be determined as the program progresses.

Program fee is $150, due by the first day of program. Check or cash can be mailed to PO Box 4453, St. Paul, MN 55104, or via PayPal info@mnjazzed.orgFinancial assistance available upon request to anyone who needs it. 


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How to Apply for Experience Jazz 2021
(1) Complete the application form (below)

(2) Submit an audition (audio and/or video)

Please submit a video and/or audio recording that will give us an idea of your musical style. Recording should show you performing (and improvising, if possible!) on 2 separate songs, 1-2 minutes each of contrasting styles or feels (e.g. one ballad and one upbeat tune; one blues and one R&B). We want to get an idea of your playing ability and style. Songs can be performed a cappella (preferably with a click or metronome), with live accompaniment and/or pre-recorded backing tracks. Info on how to submit your audition can be found in the application form.

You application will only be considered if you fill out the sign up webform (above) and submit both recordings. 

Experience Jazz 2020

In this historic year, Experience Jazz 2020 ran over 16 weeks, February 8 to May 23, 2020 (February-March in person, April-May online due to COVID-19). In-person sessions took place Saturdays 1:30-4:30pm at High School for Recording Arts (HSRA), a secure facility with ample free parking, centrally located in St. Paul, off University Avenue and Lexington Parkway.

Teaching artists included Arthur “L.A.” Buckner, Omar Adbulkarim and Scott Herold, with studio interns DJ Mickey Breeze and TL Reigns.

COVID-19 Response

When faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, we made the brave decision to move the program online. This enabled students the unique opportunity to continue learning together remotely, and learn how to record from home songs they composed and arranged in program, pre-COVID. 

Full-Length Album

The students released “Experience Jazz 2020: The Sounds of Distance,” a full-length album featuring 13 tracks, all recorded from home in the early days of the pandemic. The songs included original compositions, interpretations of pieces by Roy Hargrove, Slum Village, War and Nneka, and as well as 5 remixes. Mixed and mastered by studio interns TL Reigns and DJ Mickey Breeze. Released through HSRA’s student-run record label “Another Level Records.” Read the full press release, here.

“Experience Jazz 2020: The Sounds of Distance,” is available worldwide on all digital platforms! Download, stream and add to your playlists now. Find us on SpotifyiTunesYouTube Music, and Bandcamp. Proceeds go to supporting Minnesota Jazz Education.

This activity is supported, in part, by the City of Saint Paul Cultural Sales Tax Revitalization Program, by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

Experience Jazz 2019

Led by local jazz musicians Tasha Baron, Kavyesh Kaviraj, and HSRA staff members Scott Herold and Gabe Moore, Experience Jazz 2019 served 15 students from across the metro area. Students played songs by Sam Cooke, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Roy Hargrove, The Jazz Messangers and more! Throughout the spring, students collaborated to compose new songs, and some brought in original compositions to play with their combos–some students even learned to play new instruments!

Experience Jazz students recorded their songs in High School for Recording Arts’ state-of-the-art recording studio, “Studio 4” and released their tracks online through HSRA’s “Another Level Records!” Check out their “Experience Jazz EP” available on Spotify and iTunes. Also check out the student-made promotional videos for their public performances (below), for a behind-the-scenes look at the recording process!

Public Performances

Experience Jazz 2019 students performed at Saturday Night Jazz At the Black Dog, opening for the Twin Cities Latin Jazz Orchestra, at Jazz Central Studios, opening for Hoaxer, and a final performance at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, joined by special guest vocalist Sheridan Zuther

Student-Created Videos 

This activity is supported, in part, by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

Experience Jazz 2018 - The Pilot

Experience Jazz launched in Fall 2017 with teaching artists Aaron Hedenstrom, Steven Hobert, Kenny Watson, and Lucia Sarmiento, led by Tasha Baron. In it’s inaugural year, the program took place every two weeks over the 2017-2018 school year, with 3 combos that embraced the innovative take on jazz education. Students created original music, and 

Early Moves

This program kicked of in partnership with McNally-Smith College of Music, but by December, the college’s leadership shocked the local music community with its sudden closure, devastating hundreds of local music students and teachers, and leaving Experience Jazz with nowhere to go.  The program found a new home at HSRA/Studio 4, which have proven to be committed partners, thanks in large part to Executive Director Tony Simmons, and Business of Music teacher Scotty Herold.

“On behalf of our founder David TC Ellis and our entire HSRA/Studio 4 family, we are proud to partner with MN Jazz Education on such an incredible project! This is what true community collaboration is all about and happens when young people are at the center of our collective work,” said Tony Simmons.

Twin Cities: Meets the Youth of Experience Jazz

The participants of Experience Jazz 2018 made their live performance debut at the Winter Jazz Festival at Crooners Lounge and Supper Club in January. Students from Experience Jazz and High School Performing Arts also performed at our Spring Gala at The Black Dog in May, and at Youth Stage at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival in June.