Middle/High School Class Description

September-December • January-May

Small Jazz Combo Improvisation classes for Middle and High School students meet from weekly from 7-9pm. Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced sections are offered. Students work in small groups of 6-10 members. They mentor with various Alaska Jazz Master artists/educators including: John Damberg, Mark Manners and Nick Petumenos. Topics covered include: basic to advanced improvisation skills development, music theory, song forms, Jazz History, repertoire, teaming skills, and developing music business skills. Students perform two recital concerts per semester during the school year.

Beginning Section is for students just beginning to improvise. Students need to know the notes on their instrument, be able to read music and play at least six major scales. This class will focus on developing basic improvisation skills including: music interval, chord, blues, major & minor scales, and key center recognition. Students will explore five songs in the 12 bar blues form in different rhythmic feels including: Funk, Swing, Slow Blues, Bossa Nova, and New Orleans 2nd Line Style March.

Intermediate Section is for students who have past experience improvising in a school group or an AJW group. They need to prove, via a placement audition, they have mastered the basic improvisational skills covered in the AJW Beginning section. These sections focus on soloing over more advanced 32 bar song forms, chord changes and rhythm styles.

Advanced Section will focus on developing song repertoire in a wide variety of styles including: jazz, Blues, Latin, funk, pop,etc. Students will build song repertoire through reading music, rehearsing as a band, listening and transcribing songs, and through exploring and expressing their inner vocabulary on their instruments. Weekly assignments will be given to promote learning new vocabulary, song repertoire, and developing improvisation skills.

Class Rules:

  1. Students should plan to attend all sessions. Students will pay for all class sessions at the time of registration or agree on the monthly payment plan. Thee will be no refunds for missed classes. Please call or tell me at least 24 hours in advance when you will be absent.
  2. Students agree to work to fulfill all the class requirements, goals, practice their music and do the homework assignments.
  3. Come to class prepared with your music, notebook, pencil and instrument.
  4. Learn all assigned songs in the band repertoire list. I welcome your input regarding songs you want to learn.


Call John Damberg for more information and to schedule your level placement audition at 907-332-3234.

Level Requirements

Beginning Class
Students need to know the notes on their instrument. Be able to read music. Play at least six or more major scales. They must want to learn how to improvise.

Drummers need to know how to keep steady time when playing the following beats:
swing, basic rock, Latin Rock, shuffle, jazz waltz, hip hop, and the 12/8 gospel slow blues beat.

Students agree to come to class prepared to learn by bringing their music books, pencil, drum sticks, and instruments. They also agree to practice their assigned pieces and improvisation exercises.

Students must attend all classes & are required to perform in the student recitals, except in the case of sickness and family or national emergencies.

Intermediate Class
Students need to prove, via a placement audition, they have mastered the basic music theory and improvisational skills covered in the AJW Beginning section including:
Interval recognition, Knowledge of major scales, the modes of the major scale, and blues scales in C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, and A concert.

Knowledge of how to form  the basic 3 note triads and 4 note 7th. chords. Ability to solo on the 12 bar blues form. Ability to play the following song melodies and solo on them- Bag’s Groove, Watermelon Man, Blue Bossa, Mercy, Mercy , Mercy, and Tenor Madness.

Advanced Class
Students should be able to sight-read music and improvise at the intermediate to advanced level. They should have at least two years of experience playing in a school jazz ensemble or one of the AJW Jazz Ensembles. 

Students should be able to solo effectively over the more advanced chord changes in the following songs including: Take the A Train, Tune Up, Four, Road Song, In a Sentimental Mood, and the Chicken. 

Students in the Advanced Section should be prepared to commit to playing in the AJW Advanced Ensemble from September to May, as the primary focus of this class is to build a professional level group to perform concerts locally and to take a field trip in the Spring, to perform at a Major High School Jazz Festival like the Monterery Next Generation Jazz Festival. Call John Damberg for more information 907-332-3234.


Audition Information

Level Placement Auditions:
New students and students wanting to move to the next class level must schedule a level placement audition with John Damberg.

Auditions last one hour.
Students will be asked to do the following:

  • All Students should be prepared to perform one prepared piece of music that demonstrates their current playing level
  • Play any major and blues scales they may know,
  • Sight-read music
  • Improvise on a song that demonstrates their playing ability from a simple 12 bar blues song to a more complex 32 bar standard song form.
  • Students will be asked music theory questions to determine their knowledge level.

Please contact John Damberg to set up auditions at: (907) 332-3234.

Fall-Spring Application
Weeklong Summer Jazz Camp Application

Summer Jazz Camp Application

Scholarships Available