High School All-Stars

Auditions 2015 - 16


Auditions sign-ups for the 2015-2016 season are now open

Thank you for your interest in the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars program! Auditions will be held August 20-22, 2015 from 10am-4pm at the SFJAZZ Center and August 23 from 10am-7pm at the Oakland School for the Arts.

What to Expect at the Auditions

You will be given 10 minutes, though most auditions do not take that long. Judges will be evaluating you based on technique, musicality and familiarity with the jazz language, improvisation and sight-reading ability.

Big Band

Musicians on all instruments will audition unaccompanied. Guitar and bass amps will be provided, along with a drum kit with cymbals (you do not need to bring your own).


Prepare a jazz standard and blues head of your choice. Be prepared to improvise on both pieces. Doublers are encouraged to audition on multiple instruments.

  • Lead Trumpet Players: Please inform the audition staff if you are auditioning for the lead trumpet chair. You will be asked to play one or two phrases in the extended range.
  • Trombone Players: Please inform the audition staff if you are auditioning as bass trombonist.


Prepare a standard and blues of your choice. Be prepared to play the melody, improvise, and comp through the chord changes. Sight-reading will include melody and chord changes.


Prepare a standard and blues of your choice. Have the melody prepared for the blues. If comfortable, the melody can be prepared for the standard as well. In addition, we will hear you walk bass lines through both forms, and improvise, as well as demonstrate (separately) playing a Latin-style or straight-eighth figure. Sight-reading will include chord progressions and notated rhythmic figures.


Be prepared to play examples of the following feels: swing at different tempos (medium, very fast, and ballad), Latin, bossa, and funk. Sight-reading will include typical big band charts and a 32-bar standard and/or blues form. Please bring brushes. All drummers will play on the same drum and cymbal set up.


Prepare a standard and blues. You may sing with a backing track (phones or mp3 players with an 1/8 jack are fine, no CDs please); please inform us of your technological needs ahead of time. Vocalists are not required to take a solo chorus, but are encouraged to do so if they feel comfortable (if you are auditioning for the Combo you are required to solo).  You will be asked to sing one or all of the following: chromatic scale, major scale, harmonic minor scale, mixolydian scale (major scale with lowered 7th degree).


The All-Stars Combo is a training and performance workshop throughout the year with an emphasis on composing and arranging. Students interested in the Combo program must demonstrate proficient improvisational ability, as well as an interest in learning the craft of composing and arranging. The Combo meets weekly (separately from the big band) and requires time commitment for at-home arranging, rehearsals, and performances.

Frequently Asked Questions from potential participants:

Q: How do I know if I’m ready to audition for the All-Stars?
A: SFJAZZ High School All-Stars candidates have least 4 years of experience with their instrument, and at least 1 year experience playing jazz.

Q: When does the band rehearse?
A: The Jazz Orchestra (AKA Big Band) will rehearses from 5:45 to 7:45 pm on Tuesday nights. The Combo rehearses afterward, from 8 to 9:30 pm on Tuesdays.

Q: Where is rehearsal?
A: Both bands rehearse in the Joe Henderson Lab at the SFJAZZ Center. The space is easily accessible by MUNI and BART. Street parking is available, however very limited.

Q: How much does tuition cost to be in the All-Stars?
A: Tuition is $500 to be a member of the Orchestra or Combo. If a student is in both ensembles, a discount of $200 is given for a total of $800 for both bands. It is free to be an Alternate or in the Mentorship Program.

Q: Are scholarships available?
A: Yes. Need-based scholarships are available by e-mailing SFJAZZ Education at scholarships@sfjazz.org.

Q: Does the band travel?
A: Yes. We aim to travel to at least one out-of-state festival per year. In previous years the band has been to Boston, New Orleans and New York City. Both the Orchestra and the Combo also aim to travel to local jazz festivals such as Monterey and Healdsburg.

Q: What is an “alternate”?
A: An “alternate” is someone who is not a regular member of the band but will be called upon to sub for a band member at rehearsals or performances. Benefits include free concert tickets to select SFJAZZ shows, invitations to clinics and workshops, and a standing invitation to observe rehearsals. The program is free of charge.

Q: What is the Mentorship Program?
A: The Mentorship Program is designed to offer less experienced yet enthusiastic young musicians in grades 8 - 12 the opportunity to be exposed to rehearsals, clinics, and concerts to encourage their interest in jazz music. Mentorship Program participants are welcome to attend all High School All-Stars rehearsals and events, and are offered free tickets to select SFJAZZ concerts and classes. Those interested in participating in the Mentorship Program must attend one of our Free Summer Workshops, which will be considered their audition; please note workshop times, dates, and locations here. The program is free of charge.