Jazz & Creative Institute

Youth Large Ensembles

Not your average high school band.

Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra director Benje Daneman leads his students on stage at the “Christmas in Kalamazoo” concert with the Kalamazoo Male Chorus and the Kalamazoo Ringers in December 2018.

Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra director Benje Daneman leads his students on stage at the “Christmas in Kalamazoo” concert with the Kalamazoo Male Chorus and the Kalamazoo Ringers in December 2018.


Youth large ensembles

Our audition-based large ensembles for youth present a unique opportunity for young people to play professional jazz orchestra arrangements and perform in the community with their peers. Auditions for all ensembles are in October of each year. Placement is based on ability, experience, and where the directors feel the musician will benefit the most.

Beyond the music, ensemble members are taught to have a high level of professionalism and preparation, punctuality, and a positive, open attitude. It’s team sports for musicians. Commitment for the seven-month season is required and attendance is necessary at every rehearsal and event.

Thank you for an amazing year, I never knew that there was more to a jazz band than what my high school offers. It is a jazz/rock group that plays more rock and maybe one jazz chart. I really enjoyed the performances and the songs because they are really challenging and made me feel like a professional player because they are made for professional players.
— Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra Member


The 2018-19 Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra performs live in downtown Kalamazoo, MI at Bates Alley directed by Benje Daneman on June 12, 2019.

The Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra (KYJO) is Southwest Michigan’s premier youth jazz ensemble and allows regional student musicians an opportunity to grow as jazz musicians and community musical leaders. KYJO invites students in grades 9-12, or advanced younger students with teacher recommendation, to audition for this seven-month program. During the season (November-May), students rehearse weekly on Wednesdays for two hours and perform professional level music directed by a staff/faculty of professional jazz musicians/teaching artists led by JCI Director, Benje Daneman. KYJO also receives guest clinics throughout the season by regional jazz professionals. KYJO is already slated for multiple performances across the region in many different settings including jazz clubs, concert halls and festivals. Each season is commemorated with a live concert recording experience with a renowned jazz guest artist. 7+ performances are typical for KYJO.

We thought the experience with KYJO was just amazing for our son! Through his interactions with other students who were also serious about music study, it helped to give him what he needed to push himself to the next level as a musician. Through his relationships with the staff and guest clinicians, he gained a broad and deeper understanding of some of the expectations and experiences of a professional musician. The KJYO experience also helped grow his confidence to take the next steps not only as a musician, but in his life as a young adult. Thanks Benje, Ashley and Staff; KYJO has had a remarkable impact this year and we look forward to what will happen for your program in the future!
— Jazz Orchestra Parent


The 2018-19 Lab Band performs live in downtown Kalamazoo, MI at Bates Alley directed by Benje Daneman on June 12, 2019.

The Kalamazoo Youth Lab Band is a jazz orchestra experience for young musicians who aspire to be part of KYJO but need more preparation. This is the ideal situation for students to solidify their fundamental skills and grow as jazz musicians in a very supportive environment. They get lots of playing opportunities in a group setting during their weekly 90 minute rehearsals as well as guidance on their specific instrument. 4+ performances are typical for the Lab Band.

An opportunity to be part of something this good at this point in [my son’s] life will make a profound difference to him. I am so impressed by the quality of what the musicians were able to offer and the relentlessly positive attitude of the director. This is something that needs to continue. I cannot possibly say enough good things about it.
— Jazz Orchestra Parent

saxophone ensemble

The 2018-19 Saxophone Ensemble performs live in downtown Kalamazoo, MI at Bates Alley joined and directed by Seth Ebersole on June 12, 2019.

The Saxophone Ensemble was new to the Jazz and Creative Institute in 2018/2019. Directed by our saxophone faculty member, Seth Ebersole, students focused on saxophone techniques, the art of playing in a section, blending with each other, and perfecting their intonation on exciting repertoire.

You guys did amazing for a first year program and the people you’ve chosen to be part of the team are exactly the kind of teachers and mentors people want working with their children. Not only has our son grown, he has a bunch of new mentors and teachers to guide him in his college choices in the upcoming year. But what this group did goes beyond the music, our son made lifelong friends.
— Jazz Orchestra Parent


Tuition is billed monthly for your convenience November through May. Some limited scholarship is available. We highly recommended that large ensemble members take private lessons during their tenure so they may be their best and advance that much farther. We discount ensemble tuition at 20-30% for those students who take advantage of our private lesson program. Tuition for the 7-month season is $770. Instrument rental or maintenance are additional expenses for players.

Large Ensemble Tuition plus weekly 60min lessons: $302/mo

Large Ensemble Tuition plus weekly 45min lessons: $260/mo

Large Ensemble Tuition plus weekly 30min lessons: $213/mo

Large Ensemble Tuition (7 month commitment required): $110/mo

Enrollment Process

1 - Get any and all questions you have answered via our website, emailing benje@jazzandcreative.com or calling us at 269-350-4311. Come meet us or see the space first if you like. Attend a jam session or other event to get a feel for what’s happening at JCI.

2 - Complete and submit the audition application by the October deadline.

3 - Audition for the directors and get placed in one of the ensembles.

4 - Pay your invoice and get excited to start!