Image of criterions


The Jazz Studies Program at the Wells School of Music focuses intensely on creativity and improvisation. An expert faculty guides our students through intensive musical experiences by way of large ensemble performance, small ensemble performance, lessons, and classroom work. The Jazz Studies Program offers more than eight performing ensembles including: The Criterions, The Statesmen, Latin Jazz Ensemble, three combos and more. Classes are offered in arranging, theory, improvisation, creativity, history and technology. Degree tracks offered:

B.M. Instrumental Performance, Jazz
Minor in Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation Studies

Students enrolled are charged with developing:

  • performance and ensemble skills through participation in a professional rehearsal environment
  • a familiarity with representative works from the repertoire under the wide canopy of jazz, popular, experimental, and futuristic music that emerged from the Black American musical traditions and beyond.
  • effective ensemble skills, concentrated on reaction and response in an instinctive improvisatory manner
  • a personal understanding of the subtle rhythmic nuance in creative and popular music from 1900 to present, facilitating wider knowledge of the historic and cultural contributions of the complex history of jazz in America.
  • an understanding of how musical analysis, score preparation, study of recordings contribute to outstanding rehearsal planning and performances.

Beyond this the program hosts a wide variety of guest artists each year to work and perform with students. Recent artists have included: Orrin Evans, Nicholas Payton, David Liebman, Bob Curnow, Steve Wilson, Maria Schneider, and many more. Each year the Wells School of Music hosts an annual festival dedicated to jazz and improvisation, for more information visit:

In the world of scholarship, the Jazz Studies Program is the proud home of the Bob & Darlene Curnow Jazz Library. In 2022, legendary composer, arranger and WCU alum Bob Curnow gave his second of two large gifts encompassing his personal papers, all non-published artifacts and published music from Sierra Music Publications. For more information visit:


Jonathan Ragonese

Jonathan Ragonese
Director of Jazz Studies

Marc Jacoby

Marc Jacoby
Percussion, Music Technology

Dan Cherry

Dan Cherry

David Cullen

David Cullen

Peter Paulsen

Peter Paulsen
Double Bass

John Swana

John Swana


Jazz Festival

West Chester University has enjoyed a long history and commitment to great jazz programming. Our own faculty jazz group, as well as our beloved student jazz ensemble, the Criterions, are among our many points of pride for the Wells School of Music. As well, our annual Jazz Festival invites members of the community onto our campus to enjoy some of the finest jazz artists from our region and beyond, programmed in our top-notch facilities, for FREE. We want the community to take full advantage of these offerings, and to share in our excitement for this fantastic programming.

Summer Jazz Camp

The West Chester University Summer Jazz Camp is designed for advanced middle school and all high school students. Participants will explore the pedagogy of jazz improvisation, arranging, orchestration, jazz history, and performance techniques. Visiting artists as well as the WCU faculty will perform and conduct masterclasses on various subjects. All participants will need to have a knowledge of scales, be able to read music, transpose and be proficient on an instrument.

Learn more about the WCU Summer Jazz Camp

Summer Jazz Camp video