GSU offers a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance and a Master of Music in Jazz Studies. Regardless of the student's major career endeavors, each student upon graduation must be able to function as an in¬strumentalist on the professional level. The requirements, therefore, are a reflection of the demands made upon musicians by the music industry.

The Georgia State University Jazz Studies Program is dedicated to providing practical career preparation for today's professional musician. The Georgia State University Jazz Bands, Vocal Jazz Ensemble, and Combos are open to all University students regardless of class standing or area of study. Musicians of all levels are encouraged to participate and are placed in groups according to the level of their ability and experience. We attempt to instill an understanding of jazz, and with guidance, our program offers a unique opportunity for the musician to find new modes of self-expression.

Although the top jazz ensembles are performance oriented, certain performance quality expectation will be made of all performing groups. It is through the medium of performance quality that students can learn to judge musical values and apply what they have learned. Teachers tend to teach as they are taught and demand of their students what was demanded of them.

The program is designed to develop the special talents of the creative jazz artist as well as the skills required to prepare for a career as a professional musician. Course offerings in the jazz area include:


The Jazz Studies Program has been able to bring jazz artists of regional, na-tional and international stature to GSU to perform and give master classes/clinics. Some of the artists include such notable artists as Kenny Garrett, Marcus Roberts, Randy Brecker, David Sanchez, Slide Hampton, Nick Payton, Kenny Werner, Ran Blake, Chris Potter, Jerry Bergonzi, Tim Hagans, Dick Oatts, Bobby Shew, Clare Fischer, Joe Lovano, and many others.


The Georgia State University Jazz Bands and Combos are open to all university students regardless of class standing or area of study. They offer students the opportunity to perform in jazz groups of recognized excellence. Musicians of all levels are encouraged to participate and are placed in groups according to their level of ability and experience. We attempt to instill an under¬standing and appreciation of jazz, and with guidance, our program offers an opportunity for the musician to explore new modes of self-expression.

Performance standards are such that future musicians/educators /listeners establish attitudes towards music and performance that will be of critical importance in their musical and cultural endeavors. GSU jazz ensembles support the cultural, educational and career goals of a large number of stu¬dents while at the same time provide an enjoyable and aesthetic experience for all students as well as for the large audiences that are drawn to the pro¬grams.

One of the purposes of the Jazz Studies Program at GSU is to provide an oppor-tunity for students to participate in quality jazz organizations such as large jazz bands and jazz combos. In addition to the performance groups, students may supplement his/her playing by participating in some of the academic jazz courses such as jazz improvisation, jazz arranging, jazz pedagogy, etc. Some classes have pre-requisites, so the student must be sure to check the bulletin or call the music office.


The primary function of Faculty Jazztet is to further the awareness of jazz as the American musical art form. This is accomplished through concert performances, workshops, and presentations for audiences in the metro Atlanta area, Southeast United States and around the world, including performances in Moscow, Beijing, Brazil, and Costa Rica. Many world-renown jazz artists have performed with the Jazztet and include: Conrad Herwig, Randy Brecker, Kenny Werner, Rez Abbasi, John Hart, Marc Copland, Paul McCandless, Andy LaVerne, Phil Markowitz, and many others. The members of the group have a long list of professional jazz performing credentials and include:

Gordon Vernick is an Associate Professor and the Coordinator of Jazz Studies at GSU. He received a B.M. from Ithaca College, M.M. from the University of Miami and a Doctor of Arts from the University of Northern Colorado. Prior to teaching he played professionally as a freelance musician in Miami, Kansas City, Denver, and New York. A well-respected member of Atlanta’s jazz community he has appeared around the world as a performer and clinician. His radio show, Jazz Insights, is available on I-Tunes and has a worldwide audience. He is the co-author of the jazz history text, Jazz History Outline, published by Kendall-Hunt. His most recent CD, Destination, was released in May 2012.

Kevin Bales received his B.M. form the University of North Florida and M.M. from Florida State. He taught at UNF for 10 years and many of his groups won Downbeat Awards and were invited to perform at IAJE and other prestigious festivals. As a jazz pianist he has performed and recorded with Marcus Printup, Bunky Green, Bob Reynolds, Ira Sullivan, Barry Green, and many others. He has performed at venues from South Florida to Lincoln Center in New York City and is one of the most in-demand pianists in the Southeastern U.S. He teaches jazz piano, jazz history, and improvisation. He currently performs with singer Rene Marie.

Originally from Montgomery, Alabama, Robert received his B.M. from The University of Alabama and a Master of Music from the University of New Orleans where he was a graduate teaching assistant. He performed extensively in the New Orleans area and recently relocated to Atlanta after hurricane Katrina in the fall of 2005. In addition to his background in jazz Robert has attended the Brevard Music Camp as an orchestral bassist. He has performed with many jazz greats including Terri Lynne Carrington, Jerry Coker, Dizzy Gillespie, Lou Marini, Jason Marsalis, Steve Masakowski, Irvin Mayfield, Davy Mooney, Ed Petersen, Shannon Powell, Lew Soloff, and Johnny Vidacovich.

Dave Frackenpohl earned both his B.M. and Master of Music from the University of North Texas. Originally from upstate New York, he moved to Atlanta in the summer of 1999. He has performed with such notable musicians as Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Smith, and Charles Earland. He taught at Ithaca College and Hobart College and continues to be on the faculty at Interlochen Music Academy. He teaches jazz guitar and guitar lab at Georgia State University.

WES FUNDERBURK, TROMBONE has performed across the United States and Europe and is currently one of the most sought after trombonists in Atlanta and the Southeast. He is the author of and the inventor of Blog Songs! - his award-winning music blog and iTunes podcast. Wes has performed and recorded with a wide array of internationally-renowned artists including Natalie Cole, India Arie, Slide Hampton, Herbie Hancock, Kenny Garrett, Rich Matteson, and Toshiko Akyoshi. His recording credits include Verve Records, Universal Records, Arista Records, the Cartoon Network and the Weather Channel. His arranging credits include music for Natalie Cole, The Georgia Brass Band, Georgia State University, Joe Gransden and The Piedmont Trombone Society. As an educator Wes has given clinics and master classes at the University of North Florida, Georgia State University, Columbus State University, Tanglewood Music Camp and numerous high schools across the Southeast. He maintains an active private studio for students of all ages and is one of the Rialto Youth Jazz Orchestra jazz bands. Wes earned his B.M. from the University of North Florida and his M.M. in Trombone and Jazz Studies from Georgia State University.

Geoff Haydon is an Associate Professor of Music at GSU where he is the Coordinator of the Piano Faculty, teaches applied piano, jazz history, and jazz theory. He has a B.M. and M.M. in Piano Performance from the University of Richmond and a D.M.A. from the University of Texas. Dr. Haydon is engaged in a varied professional career as a jazz/classical pianist. He has also been working as a freelance pianist in Atlanta since 1988 and is an expert in MIDI/synthesizer applications. He has also played with many renowned jazz artists including: Joe Henderson, Eddie Daniels, Randy Brecker, Paul McCandless, and John Hart.

Mace received his Bachelor and Masters degrees in Saxophone Performance from the University of Texas at Austin where he studied with Harvey Pittel. He also taught at U.T. Austin and presently teaches part-time at Jacksonville State in Alabama. An outstanding performer and teacher, Mace has performed with The Derek Trucks Band, The Temptations, The O’Jays, Odd Man Out, The Austin Symphony, and many other world-renowned artists. An outstanding woodwind doubler, Mace is also a composer and has recorded numerous compositions. His latest CD, When Last We Met, was released this past January.

Ms. Shakir is THE jazz vocalist in the City of Atlanta. An accomplished performer, she has worked extensively in New York and has studied vocal improvisation with famed jazz pianist, Barry Harris. She has performed with many major jazz artists including Kenny Baron, Duke Pearson and Lionel Hampton.

A graduate of the University of North Florida, Justin has lived in Atlanta since 2003. He also studied at the New School in New York City. He was a graduate assistant at Georgia State University and received his M.M. in 2006. As a professional he has toured with Phoebe Snow, Earl Klugh, Christian Tamburr, saxophonist/trumpeter Ira Sullivan, and Bob Reynolds. He is one of the most in-demand drummers in the Southeast and also coordinates the jazz combo program at GSU.