In the fall of 2007 the Jazz Workshop was added to the wide variety of performing groups in the Jazz and Improvisational Music Department. This ensemble focuses on three groups of students:
- Students less experienced in jazz who want to develop their jazz, improvisational, and technical skills.
- Music education majors who want to study performing and teaching jazz and improvisation in preparation for becoming instrumental music teachers.
- Lawrence senior student directors who want the opportunity to apply the jazz teaching techniques learned in the Jazz Pedagogy class.
Topics studied in the Jazz Workshop include correct performance of basic jazz styles; learning basic jazz repertoire from early jazz to new compositions; understanding and interpreting chord symbols, progressions, and standard jazz forms; learning about major jazz masters and performing groups; and gaining confidence as a jazz performer and soloist. Two essential skills in jazz and improvisation, the ability to sight-read music at a high level and to employ aural skills in performance, receive special attention in the Jazz Workshop. The Jazz Workshop has regular and frequent interaction with Lawrence jazz faculty in rehearsals and as guest soloists in performances.
Though the mission of the Jazz Workshop is more the "how to" of jazz rather than preparing for performances, the group typically performs one concert each term. These concerts provide an opportunity to perform some of the pieces studied during the term and a public venue for each member of the group to be featured as a soloist. Repertoire for these performances is challenging and focuses on significant pieces and composers in the jazz idiom. Recently performed pieces include standard works by groups and composers such Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington. Modern works by composers such as Fred Sturm, Matt Harris, Bob Mintzer, Bob Washut, Patty Darling and Lawrence student writers balance out the study of jazz standards.