A wide variety of unique ensemble courses offer essential curricular opportunities for Music majors to collaborate, hone their talents, and perfect their musical mastery.
Weekly rehearsals prepare you and your ensemble for scheduled performances throughout the semester. See videos of performances here.
- Styles and Techniques (Introductory): Perform in a variety of essential and influential styles from the 20th century and beyond, including Blues, Motown, R&B, and more.
- Performance Survey (Intermediate): Perform in a variety of essential and influential styles from the 20th century and beyond, including Blues, Motown, R&B and more.
- Performance Genre (Advanced): Perform, and in some cases, create your own original arrangements. Ensembles at this level include Jazz Combos, Hip-Hop, the New Music Ensemble, American Roots, and Gospel Repertory.
- Showcase Genre (Professional): Ensemble at this level include Fusion Ensemble, Columbia College Jazz Ensemble, Latin Ensemble, Pop/Rock Showcase Ensemble, and Chicago Vox.
About the Ensembles
The Fusion Ensemble is an advanced ensemble that performs a wide range of music, from the intricate compositions of Herbie Hancock to the eclectic R&B sounds of Snarky Puppy, as well as original compositions. The ensemble includes horns, saxes, guitar, piano, bass, drums, and vocals.
Through the Artists in Residence program, the Fusion Ensemble has had the opportunity to perform with jazz legends Stefon Harris, Wycliffe Gordon, Bob Mintzer, Dave Douglas, Christian McBride, Mike Stern, Peter Erskine, and Fred Wesley. The ensemble has performed annually at the Notre Dame Jazz and Elmhurst Jazz Festivals and has received numerous Outstanding Soloist awards. In 2017, the Fusion Ensemble performed with Wycliffe Gordon at the Jazz Educators Network convention in New Orleans. The group was recognized for outstanding performance in the 2017 DownBeat Student Awards.
The course includes works from the American gospel literature, including traditional spirituals and anthems. Students initially learn by ear and then learn to read and notate as well as analyze and describe gospel repertory. Additional emphasis is placed on understanding the relationships between gospel music, the other arts, and the cultural context in which contemporary gospel music functions. The Gospel Choir performs at many campus events, including Manifest, Open House, Commencement, and regularly scheduled concerts.
Gospel Band MUSC 480G This Showcase-level course is for instrumentalists and vocalists and explores both theory and performance techniques within the context of gospel music and the African-American church tradition. Students learn and perform challenging and rewarding gospel repertoire, ranging from “the roots” music of the early 1900s to the contemporary hits of today. Ear training, “ear trusting,” improvisation, and artistic freedom are valued and emphasized as central principles within the gospel music tradition.
Groove Band is an eclectic pop/rock ensemble for instrumentalists of various skill levels. The repertoire frequently changes with each semester, including representative work from artists from Muddy Waters to Motown, Stevie Ray Vaughan to Sly and the Family Stone, and many others.
This ensemble performs a wide variety of music drawn from across hip-hop history, including the work of such artists as The Roots, Kendrick Lamar, Common, A Tribe Called Quest, and other hip-hop legends. The Hip-Hop Ensemble includes a live band and vocalists including singers and MCs. The group strives to include material that is socially relevant and challenging. MCs collaborate with the class and develop their writing style and musicality. Instrumentalists develop musicianship, improvisational and collaborative skills, while creating a cohesive performing unit.
The Jazz Combos is a performing group experience for instrumentalists and singers in which high professional standards of small group performance are explained and achieved. Performances include music written especially for the group and works by Louis Armstrong, John Kirby, Duke Ellington, Art Blakey, Benny Goodman, Dave Brubeck, Jimmy Giuffre, Chick Corea, and Gerry Mulligan.
Columbia College Jazz Ensemble
While steeped in the tradition of big bands, the ensemble has become a catalyst for original contemporary music composed and arranged by Columbia students. Students workshop their material in rehearsals, receiving feedback from their peers, teachers, and visiting artists in residence. Student works are featured in performances at legendary Chicago venues like the Jazz Showcase, on Campus, throughout the Chicago region, and in the recording studio.
The band has also performed in concert with many celebrated jazz artists, including Donny McCaslin, Stefon Harris, Benny Green, Dave Douglas, Jeremy Pelt, Gerald Clayton, Barry Harris, Wycliffe Gordon, Lee Konitz, Terence Blanchard, Cyrus Chestnut, Bob Mintzer, Peter Erskine, Fred Wesley, Christian McBride, Benny Golson, and Vincent Gardner. Numerous of its members have won awards as performers at area festivals, and many alumni have traveled the world pursuing their life-long dreams as performers.
The Jazz/Pop Choir advances the understanding and proficiency in jazz and pop through rehearsal and performance of group repertoire in a variety of styles. Traditional choral skills of blend, balance, unison and harmonic intonation, and articulation in swing, pop, and Latin genres are studied through rehearsal and performance using microphones and sound reinforcement. Students learn to sing with a rhythm section, a cappella, as soloists, and in men’s, women’s, and mixed small groups. Students participate in an end-of-semester performance and additional performances on and off campus.
New Music Ensemble
The New Music Ensemble (NME) performs music specifically created for and by its performers/composers in any style—from classical to EDM and anything in between—for the instruments available, including computers and digital instruments. Typically, between 25 to 30 performers strong, the goal of NME is to produce music that makes both the composer and our ensemble sound at their best, and capable of entertaining an audience at a high level of accomplishment. The ensemble offers the exciting possibility to write for hybrid orchestra, to involve DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations), non-linear composition, and more. Ensemble members and composers are involved in making their own recordings and mixes for posting on the web.
Pop Rock Showcase Ensemble
The Pop Rock Showcase Ensemble is an advanced ensemble performing several styles of the pop/rock genre from the 1960s to the present. This group typically includes two guitars, keyboards, bass, drums and four vocalists, and strives to replicate all parts from historically great recordings.
Columbia’s Artists-in-Residence program has provided the opportunity for the group to perform with acclaimed and Grammy Award recipients, including Paula Cole, Todd Rundgren, Joan Osborne, Shawn Mullins, Ivan Neville, and Charlie Sexton. The ensemble performs both at on and off-campus venues in the city.
An advanced performance ensemble drawing its repertoire from classic and contemporary R&B artists such as Earth Wind & Fire, James Brown, the Gap Band, Chaka Khan, Parliament and others, this ensemble prepares students to perform with confidence and professionalism in a contemporary rhythm and blues context. Students learn how to front a band and interact with fellow band members to create an exciting live performance.
Ensemble members research and present material to the rest of the group for inclusion in the ensemble repertoire. Students learn the keys to playing tight R&B grooves while perfecting a live show to be performed at various venues on and off campus.
Recording and Performance Ensemble
The course represents the students’ progression from the advanced to the professional level and is intended for performers, performing writers, and producers. While the course is a required capstone experience for Bachelor of Music candidates in Contemporary, Jazz, and Popular Music, qualified instrumentalists, singers, and writers with requisite ensemble experience and Music coursework may also participate. Placement into RPE requires the approval of the CJP Program Director.
Not so much an ensemble as a year-long collaborative project, the Recording and Performance Ensemble (RPE) experience includes extensive work in the multi-track recording studio, as well as regular on- and off-campus performances.
RPE students form collaborative, original music projects, which last through consecutive fall and spring semesters. Over the course of the academic year, these bands write, record, perform, and develop their material, and overall artist profile under the guidance of their faculty project directors, staff, and guest producers, visiting artists in residence, and student artist-development teams from the Music Business program. Each RPE project works with their team to develop an EPs-worth of high-quality recorded material, as well as a performing act suitable for showcasing to industry professionals. Other areas of Columbia student collaboration with RPE bands may include live booking, music video production, regional touring, and showcasing at industry events, including SXSW.
Chicago Vox is a jazz ensemble of eight to 12 vocalists and a rhythm section. The ensemble performs an a cappella and accompanied repertoire of jazz and pop with global musical influences; all music is memorized, and improvisation is encouraged. The ensemble performs on the Music Department’s schedule of concerts and for events such as Manifest, Columbia’s annual urban street festival, Commencement, and other special engagements throughout the year. Placement requires audition and approval of the Vocal Coordinator.
Performance Survey Ensemble
This intermediate level ensemble focuses on a variety of essential and influential musical styles, with each genre taught by a team of professional practitioners who specialize in the area of focus. The semester is divided into modules dedicated to a particular genre, rigorously investigating music of iconic genres such as blues, R&B, pop/rock, jazz, gospel, Latin, and progressive rock artists. Students learn important historical background as well as the idiomatic musical language of each genre they study.
Styles and Techniques Survey Ensemble
This introductory level ensemble focuses on a variety of essential and influential musical styles, with each genre taught by a team of professional practitioners who specialize in the area of focus. The semester is divided into modules dedicated to a particular genre, rigorously investigating music of iconic genres such as blues, R&B, pop/rock, jazz, gospel, Latin, and progressive rock artists. Students learn important historical background as well as the idiomatic musical language of each genre they study.
Guitar Ensemble (Introductory)
This is an introductory level course designed for playing guitar in all styles.Through rehearsal of appropriate multiple-part arrangements and the practice of composing and improvisation, the group prepares a series of performances. Students increase repertoire and develop musicianship skills.
Guitar Ensemble (Intermediate and Advanced)
Designed for intermediate and advanced guitarists, this course emphasizes ensemble playing for guitar in all styles. Through rehearsal of appropriate multiple-part arrangements and the practice of composing and improvisation, the group prepares a series of performances. Students increase repertoire and develop musicianship skills.
American Roots Ensemble (ARE)
True to the name, ARE investigates the various sources of American popular music from a detailed historical and musical perspective, investigating classic recording, instrumental and vocal techniques, and diverse stylistic approaches. The ensemble discovers the origins of today's popular music by reaching back to its originators, exploring the forebears of blues, country, folk, rock and roll, rockabilly, soul, funk, reggae, and punk; often times before names describing each genre existed. An eclectic tidal wave of music that lived side by side on the radio dial, defying region, race, and sexuality way before the world could catch up with it. Repertoire represents essential genres and the times they originated on the American airwaves, paying strict attention to what makes them unique, while striving to add a modern interpretation, expressive of the popular music of today.
Columbia Laptop Ensemble
This ensemble electro-acoustic performs music by autonomous performers in a live setting. Each performer uses their laptop computer running custom-designed software (usually in the Max environment) for each composition. Just as in a chamber ensemble of acoustic instruments, the audience experiences each performer’s sound as if it were emanating directly from him or her. The ensemble’s performance is often enhanced by means of handheld controllers such as smart phones or game controllers.
The repertoire is varied, and includes traditions embraced by Varèse, Stockhausen, Cage, and others, and expanding to sound art, soundscapes, spectral music, structured improvisation, EDM, and the imaginations of living composers, many of whom workshop their pieces with the ensemble. Collaborations include dance, poetry, and invented sound controllers.