Tips For Organizing A Community Jazz Group

Have you played trumpet, trombone or saxophone in the past and have the desire to play again? If so, you are not alone. Millions of people over the last 50 years have participated in band or school jazz groups while in high school or college, but for one reason or another lacked the opportunities to continue performing after they entered the work force and began raising families.

Very few musicians who play a musical instrument well will ever make a living at it, but that does not mean you should quit and sell your horn on eBay! Forming a community big band or small jazz group may be a the best excuse for dusting off that old instrument and beginning a regular practice and performing routine once again. A community jazz group not only offers local musicians a creative outlet, but it also offers members of your local community a chance to hear big band music performed on a regular basis.

The first step in starting your local community band is to identify the size of group you would like to assemble. Jazz groups can range in size from a trio to a full big band. The size of your group will most likely depend on the availability of musicians in your area. If you live in a sparsely populated area, the task of finding available (or any) musicians could turn out to be a rough task. Every reasonably populated city or town, however, should be able to produce enough musicians to outfit a small or medium sized jazz group or even a big band.

Local Musicians Union

The first place to look for available musicians should be the local musicians union membership. The local union will have a list of all members of the union, both professional and non-professional. If you are a member yourself, you should receive a directory of all other musicians who are members. This directory will contain all contact information for every member of the union. Don't be afraid to approach or contact the best musicians in your area when putting your band together. Good musicians like to peform in groups (paying or non-paying) that are top notch in quality. You will have a better chance of putting together a better band if you go after the best players first.


Once you have contacted a handful of skilled players in each section of your band, ask those same players for referrals of other musicians they would like to have in their section. For example, Joe is the best lead trumpet player in your area and he agrees to come to rehearsal and play in the band. Immediately after getting Joe's positive response, ask him if he knows other trumpet players that he would recommend. Invariably, the musicians you ask for referrals will always give you names of other top players in town.

When calling these new "prospects" always mention that "Joe" (or whoever the referal came from) told you to call. Mention that they were referred to you as one of the best players in town. This approach will not only help break the ice when calling but it will give you credibility at the same time. Use this referral tactic with all sections of the band that need to be filled - trumpets, trombones, saxes and rhythm section. Referrals are a powerful way to put together a highly skilled ensemble.


The popular website Craigslist may help you pull musicians "out of the woodwork" as well. Place an ad under the music categories to find any spots that need to be filled within your band. Make your ad specific to the type of player you are trying to reach. Don't simply put: bass player wanted. Be specific as to the type of music you will be performing and the level of musician you are looking for. Always audition musicians that respond to classified ads, and do not promise anything until you have made sure they perform to a level that you are seeking. The world is full of instrument "owners" who think they can play!

Starting and organizing a community big band or jazz group can be a rewarding endeavor for both musician and listeners. The monetary compensation will never be great, but the emotional and esthetic rewards will more than make up for it.

By: James P Martin

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