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Studio Jazz Ensemble

Darren Castello, Music Director

The COC jazz ensemble has been in the forefront of jazz education in Santa Clarita since the early years of our college’s history, led first by pioneer jazz educator R.K. Downs, and followed by composer/arranger Dirk Fischer who led the COC Jazz department for 27 years after that. In 2022, Darren Castello began leading the ensemble and continues the tradition of providing excellent live jazz music in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The largest instrumental group at the college is the Studio Jazz Ensemble (Music-153) and it is now divided in two sections: one meeting in the afternoon, and one in the evening. Auditions are required for participation in either section. Each section may occasionally work with vocalists, but they are both instrumental ensembles by design. Vocalists seeking a jazz ensemble should start with Music-171 Vocal Jazz Ensemble. And anyone looking for an introduction and first steps into jazz will find Music-151 Jazz Improvisation an excellent place to start.

The Studio Jazz Ensemble afternoon section is a contemporary big band that presents modern interpretations of literature from the Swing era and the Latin tradition, as well as funk, fusion, and pop charts. The focus of this ensemble is professional training which requires establishing a daily personal practice regimen. Students selected to participate with this ensemble often have substantial prior experience performing jazz as well as excellent reading skills.

Our Studio Jazz Ensemble evening section is a dynamic rhythm section plus multiple horn ensemble that embodies a wide variety of instrumentation and experience. This ensemble focuses on establishing a solid foundation of jazz musicianship by examining classic combo arrangements and Real Book standards. The evening time slot provides accessibility for both high school students and the general public to participate.

Both ensembles present concerts each semester at the Performing Arts Center on campus, and may perform off campus as well. Students may get selected to participate in recording sessions, and we regularly invite professional jazz artists from around the U.S. to rehearse and perform with our students. Ensemble participants also enjoy workshops and clinics throughout the year. Recent guest artists and clinicians with the ensemble have included Wayne Bergeron, Dan Balmer, Aaron Janick, Carey Frank, and Iliana Rose, as well as local Santa Clarita jazz artists Alex Withmory, Ian Vo, Brian Leff, Ryan Buchanan, Nathaniel Coyne, and others.

In April of 2024 both sections of the Studio Jazz Ensemble will travel out of state to participate in the annual Reno Jazz Festival held at University of Nevada Reno.

Check our calendar for COC concert information.

If you have questions about the Studio Jazz Ensemble please reach out via email to