Jazz Scholar Program

Jazz Scholars Trombone

The Jazz Mentor Program inspires, encourages and trains talented high school students. Founded in 1995 with the help of Ravinia Life Trustee Ramsey Lewis, Coordinator of Jazz at Ravinia Penny Tyler, and William Johnson, former CPS music administrator, the program was the very first Chicago Public Schools initiative of Ravinia’s Reach Teach Play® programs.

The Jazz Mentors, a teaching and performing ensemble consisting of nine of Chicago’s finest jazz musicians, give performances and master classes in Chicago Public High Schools. Beyond building on concepts taught by school band directors, these national leaders in the arts take the time to impart their wisdom and skills to the next generation of great musicians.

A central component of the Jazz Mentor Program is the selection (through audition) of the Ravinia Jazz Scholars, a group of Chicago’s most talented student musicians. The Jazz Scholars receive intensive year-round training by the Jazz Mentors, as well as scholarships and opportunities to perform. Recently, an ensemble of current Scholars, Mentors and Scholar alumni collaborated with Ravinia’s President and CEO and accomplished pianist, Welz Kauffman to perform specially commissioned pieces by Andrew Chuckerman across the Chicagoland area.

The Jazz Scholars benefit from numerous performance opportunities including Music Matters and Ravinia’s Martin Theatre in June. In addition the Jazz Scholars are often invited to perform at events throughout the city. Each summer the Scholars are sent to the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Camp in Louisville, Kentucky, a prestigious training center for pre-professionals. Many alumni from the Jazz Scholar Program have gone on to study music at colleges including Juilliard, Oberlin, Manhattan School of Music and NYU. The Jazz Mentor Program has produced a number of professional musicians, including Calvin Rogers, a drummer who was sought out early in his career by Ramsey Lewis for a recording session, and Franklin Vanderbilt, a drummer who performs with Lenny Kravitz. Former Jazz Scholars Marquis Hill, Michael Piolet and Kyle Swan have been chosen to participate in Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute Program for Jazz. Marquis won the 2014 Thelonious Monk Institute Competition, the most prestigious of its kind.

Chicago Public High School students are welcome to audition for the 2019-2020 class of Ravinia Jazz Scholars. Auditions will take place on October 9 and 12, 2019. See the flyer and audition requirements for details!