Our Philosophy

Jazz Studies at The University of Toronto is a close-knit community of creative spirit located in the heart of Canada’s largest and most diverse urban centre.

At U of T Jazz, the best and brightest young musical minds form lifelong bonds with like-minded peers while they interact closely with a faculty comprised of accomplished professional jazz musicians, all of whom are dedicated to sharing their knowledge and passion.

At the core of the program is a philosophy of honoring the jazz tradition while incorporating current trends in modern jazz performance and composition. With an emphasis on team spirit and individual creativity, U of T Jazz students acquire the knowledge, skill, freedom, responsibility and encouragement to forge musical paths into the future. Graduate programs (MM and DMA) offer academic challenges consistent with the University of Toronto’s high standards, while allowing creative musical growth to be enhanced through self-directed curriculum opportunities.

Students enjoy abundant playing opportunities in large and small ensembles. There are many performances throughout the year on and off campus, and rehearsal space is abundant. Weekly masterclasses feature world-class performing artists and speakers from all walks of the music business.

The social experience is as important as the musical at U of T Jazz. Students are highly supportive and push each other towards higher musical goals. Personal expression and innovation is encouraged and celebrated. Intelligent and individual thinking is readily on display; while jazz is the shared passion, conversations in the ‘jazz lounge’ run the gamut of topics.

U of T Jazz students enjoy the benefits of a small, focused program within a highly respected and multi-faceted institution of higher learning, ranked as one of the 25 best universities in the world by the ARWU and one of the top three by the NTU. The opportunities for personal growth within the University of Toronto are boundless.

All told, the students, the faculty and the location make the University of Toronto one of the premier locations to study jazz in North America.


Photo by Lisa Sakulensky

Why should you choose to study Jazz at the University of Toronto?

Far and away, the U of T Jazz students provide the most compelling reason to want to join the ranks. Musically, they stand toe-to-toe with anyone. Personally, they project an atmosphere that is supportive, encouraging and challenging as they propel each other towards higher goals. The connections you make here will last your entire career.


The University of Toronto is located in the heart of one of the most vibrant cities in Canada. Shops, restaurants and jazz clubs are steps away from our front door. In fact, the Toronto jazz scene is one of the most active you will find anywhere in the world outside of New York: you can hear world-class jazz performed virtually every day of the year. This is a crucially important factor in your education.

U of T Jazz is a small and elite program. This is important on two levels: a small student body means an overall higher level and smaller classes. Surrounded by motivated and focused colleagues, with small student-teacher ratios, your growth will be rapid.

Despite the small student body, we have a large faculty comprised of 100% professional working musicians. In your four years at U of T you will establish a close working relationship with many of the top jazz musicians in Toronto. The information you get from your teachers is informed and relevant; the connections you make are significant.


As a member of at least two ensembles, every U of T Jazz student performs numerous times through the year, at a variety of venues including the REX Jazz Bar, Upper and Lower Jazz Studios, Walter Hall, Hart House and MacMillan Theatre. Unlike some schools, all ensembles have the same opportunities for performance. If you want to play, this is the place for you.


Is UofT Jazz Right for You?

How do you decide where to study music after high school? You may know a school’s reputation through word of mouth; you may have done some research (as you are doing now); your music teacher may make a recommendation (often his or her Alma mater), or you may have a friend who attends a particular institution.

U of T Jazz is one of the best places to study jazz, however it is not the only choice, nor is every talented musician right for this program. To help you decide whether U of T Jazz is a suitable program for you, we’ve put together a list of qualities we look for in our applicants. If these qualities seem to describe you, then it is likely that U of T is a good choice.

The successful U of T Jazz applicant:

  • Is motivated and focused.

  • Is a good student, in all subjects, not just music.

  • Has a private teacher who is well-versed in jazz.

  • Listens to jazz on a regular basis.

  • Is familiar with major jazz artists, past and present, including Canadian jazz artists.

  • May have other musical interests outside the jazz realm.

  • Plays or sings at an intermediate to advanced level.

  • Improvises at an intermediate to advanced level.

  • Has a solid foundation in music rudiments.

  • Has basic to intermediate skills in traditional and jazz harmony.

  • Has had limited experience composing and arranging, and desires to learn more.

  • Has experience playing in small and large jazz ensembles, and may have other ensemble experience as well.

  • Exhibits leadership qualities, as well as collaborative ability.

  • Has a realistic and informed view of the music world today.

  • Is passionate about music, and life in general.


100 Years

Jazz Program


It’s 1973 and I was hired by then Dean John Beckwith and Performance Coordinator Ezra Schabas to take over directing the Faculty of Music Big Band from Ward Cornell, who was leaving to go out west to the University of Calgary. The sessions were during the Fall and Spring terms on Mondays from 7 to 9pm and membership was voluntary from the entire University regardless of what Faculty and from the general public.


During my early days with the band we didn’t always have a full complement and it was suggested that we put a trap line on Bloor Street to capture any busking musicians and bring them into the band. However, in the long run things improved and eventually there were 2 bands and they rehearsed from 7 to 9 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays and full attendance was consistent. Little did we know, at the time, that this was the seminal beginning of the Jazz Program which later, after more than a few years, became a reality through Dean Paul Pedersen who hired Paul Read as its first Director. Its beginning was bumpy but today, in every way,


- Professor Phil Nimmons, Director Emeritus of Jazz Studies

Faculty 100 website created by Tyler Greenleaf.

Click below to visit the site and learn more about the history of the University of Toronto Faculty of Music.

Paul Read

In 1991, he founded degree programs in jazz studies at the Faculty of Music, where he was Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies. Prof Read was Canada’s Representative on the Board of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) from 2002-2008, and was the founding Director of the National Music Camp (NMC) Jazz Program (1987 to 2006). Prof Read retired in 2009 after a brief stint as Director of Graduate Jazz Studies.

Faculty 100 website created by Tyler Greenleaf.

Click below to visit the site and learn more about the history of the University of Toronto Faculty of Music.

Photo Courtesy of Faculty of Music

© 2019 University of Toronto Jazz Studies

90 Wellesley Street W.

Toronto, ON

M5S 1C5

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