Founded in 2012, the Yale Undergraduate Jazz Collective (YUJC) was formed by a small group of Yale undergraduates frustrated by the University’s deficiency in jazz courses, ensembles and private lessons offered on campus. The group formed an early partnership with Saybrook College, thanks in large part to former Head of College Paul Hudak, who was passionate about the group’s mission. With Professor Hudak’s support, the students launched the Underbrook Concert Series. A key component of our educational branch, the Underbrook Series brings to campus today’s most innovative and in-demand artists from a variety of musical backgrounds to perform their work and lead masterclasses that are free and open to the public.
The momentum from the Underbrook Series during the Collective’s first year resulted in the inception of the spring Jazz Festival. The inaugural festival featured prominent Yale alumnus Vijay Iyer along with his all-star trio. The Festival, like our Underbrook Series has seen rapid growth in attendance and reception by students, community members and Yale administrators alike in recent years. Check out the Festival tab for past Festival lineups and information about our upcoming Festival this spring!
In service of the Collective’s goal to increase performance opportunities for students on campus, the group began lobbying University administrators to expand performance ensembles available to students. When the Yale Jazz Ensemble (YJE), the school-run big band, was discontinued in 2015, YUJC members filled the void by establishing the Yale Undergraduate Jazz Orchestra, a 17-piece student-directed big band. The following year, the Yale School of Music announced a three-year pilot Jazz Initiative that reinstated the Yale Jazz Ensemble, hired saxophonist Wayne Escoffery to teach an improvisation course and introduced three Jazz Combos directed by Mr. Escoffery and local bassist and Yale alumnus Jeff Fuller (Yale College ‘6-, YSM ‘70). The initiative was a significant milestone for the establishment of jazz at Yale, and represented promising results of the Collective’s advocacy.
In recent years, our footprint has rapidly expanded on campus and into the New Haven community. The continued support of the Yale College Dean of the Arts office has been pivotal in guiding our growth and evolution as we seek to deepen and expand our programs. Our Underbrook Series and spring Jazz Festival bring increasingly prominent artists to campus, while our Jam Sessions, Student Concert Series and developing Workshop initiatives have broken new ground, paving the way for student musicians and the performing community to grow and develop through our programs.
We hope to harness our partnership with the Yale College Dean of the Arts office in the near future to maximize the impact of the Collective on campus. Ultimately, we aim to cultivate a powerful community around jazz music at Yale that compels the University to prioritize a comprehensive jazz program that meets this community’s needs.