The Whitworth Jazz Ensemble is one component of the jazz studies program at Whitworth University. This group is one of the Northwest's finest college jazz bands.
Over the past two decades the ensemble has been named the top jazz band in the college/university division at multiple Lionel Hampton Jazz Festivals, was honored as one of the five outstanding collegiate jazz bands at the prestigious Elmhurst (Chicago) Jazz festival, and has been selected to perform at many All-Northwest and All-State Music Educators Conferences, including the 2015 All-Northwest Conference, in Spokane. Whitworth's program has also been listed in Jazz Times magazine as one of the top jazz education programs in the U.S.
The 18-piece Whitworth Jazz Ensemble performs several concerts each year on campus and offers performances at jazz festivals, public schools, civic events, and on annual tours throughout the United States. On seven different occasions they have traveled to Rome for performances with leading Italian jazz artists. Other performance residencies have included trips to Cuba, Germany, Brazil, New York City, New Orleans, Hawaii and Australia.
Over the past decade, the ensemble has performed in standing-room-only concerts with guest artists Chris Potter, Joshua Redman, Arturo Sandoval, Lee Konitz, Terence Blanchard, Kenny Garrett, Nicholas Payton, Kenny Barron, Robin Eubanks, Eric Reed, Jimmy Heath, Byron Stripling, Bob Mintzer, Joe Lovano, Randy Brecker, Phil Woods, Steve Turre, Slide Hampton, Gene Harris, Marshal Royal, Carl Fontana, Bill Berry, Roberto Gatto and Enrico Pieranunzi.
The ensemble is grounded in the fundamentals of jazz, with an emphasis on improvisation and the swing style of groups such as the Count Basie Band. In addition to gaining large-ensemble experience, students at Whitworth can participate in Jazz Ensemble II, five jazz combos, private jazz improvisation lessons, vocal jazz class, and classes in jazz history and jazz arranging. Many jazz students at Whitworth have experienced great improvement in their jazz playing as a result of their weekly private lessons in improvisation and jazz styles. There are currently eight jazz faculty at Whitworth.