Audition Information


There are two types of auditions for jazz camp that serve different purposes: (1) Video Auditions for first-time applicants, and (2) Live Placement Auditions for those accepted to the camp, which also contains an optional Honors component for those interested. Requirements for live and video auditions cannot be combined, or used in place of each other – they serve different purposes, as outlined below.

If you’ve not previously attended the Rutgers Summer Jazz Institute, please go here.

Live Auditions – First Sunday of Camp
Those accepted to the camp, except registered Middle School aged students who choose not to audition, undergo Live Placement Auditions each year on Sunday, the first day of camp which assists in determining each campers playing level and placement into activities. Middle School students interested in more advanced placement are welcome to audition, as well. During this live audition, students also interested in being considered for Honors Placement can perform Honors audition material, as well.

The Honors component is optional and available to those interested. There is no additional signup for Honors placement; students simply prepare the Honors material specified for their live placement auditions.

Video Auditions – Received in Advance of Camp
Audition videos are required for first-time High School age students interested in being considered for acceptance to the camp, or returning students independently seeking scholarship aid for a given year. These are the only instances a video is ever required which are not associated with, or in place of, live auditions, as mentioned above.

If you’ve not previously attended the Rutgers Summer Jazz Institute camp, you must then first submit a video audition to determine your eligibility for acceptance. This video is to be received within the posted camp registration deadline time period. Middle School students and those who have previously attended do not need to submit a video.

For further details, refer to Who Must Submit A Video Audition?


The following takes place at the start of camp week, once acceptance is confirmed and camp registration is complete:

Live placement auditions take place on Sunday, the first day of camp directly after a Student Orientation at 3:30pm, that day. All campers, except for Middle School aged students, complete this audition each time they attend camp, which is used to determine their current level and rank to facilitate placements into ensembles and programs for the camp week. Middle School students interested in more advanced placement are welcome to audition, as well. Honors placement is also considered at this time.

This audition is not to be confused with Video Auditions for New Applicants, which are submitted in advance of camp week only by those new to the program as part of the registration process.

The camp accommodates beginning and experienced students alike. Students less experienced with sight reading or jazz improvisation, or any other aspect listed should not be anxious about these requirements as the camp caters to all levels. Beginning students should simply demonstrate any of the following criteria to the best of their ability. If helpful, students may also re-use the video audition tune selections for their live placement audition, if they feel more comfortable with that.

Advanced Placement
While no one should fret their live audition as stated above, it is likewise important to point out, particularly by those seeking top placement in ensembles, that their performance at live auditions weighs heavily on top placement decisions made by the jazz faculty. Top placements will go only to students demonstrating highest achievement.

How to Prepare for Live Auditions
Students may use the above criteria as a guide to determine how to prepare for the placement auditions. Accompaniment is not typically provided for these auditions, so students should prepare to perform solo. In some cases, any given instructor running the audition may be able to provide accompaniment in some form, but this is not guaranteed. It is to the students’ advantage, both for the camp and beyond, to practice and sharpen their sight reading and jazz improvisation abilities. Again, it is best to ask your private instructor/band director for advice and instruction on how to work on these skills.

Standard Live Audition Criteria

Live auditions focus on four main elements: Sight Reading, Improvisation, Overall Musicianship, and Performance of a Standard Tune:

  1. Sight Reading – age/level appropriate music will be placed in front of students to sight read. Sight reading is the ability to perform unfamiliar music that has not been rehearsed by simply reading it for the first time.
  2. Improvisation – students will be asked to demonstrate jazz improvisational abilities over basic tune structures, such as Blues changes, or Rhythm changes, or other chord progressions a student might be comfortable with. Drummers will be asked to interchange time feels with solos as requested: i.e. four bars time, four bars solo. Eight bars time, eight bars solo, etc. Refer also to item #4 below for Drummers. Please note that the summer jazz camp caters to beginning and experienced improvisers, alike. Any demonstrated level of improvisation is acceptable, including no ability or experience.
  3. Overall Musicianship – instructors will evaluate each students’ overall ability on an individual basis and take into consideration areas each may excel in more than others. Placement and rankings, therefore, may be influenced by these observations and the jazz faculty reserves the right to place and rank students as they deem best.
  4. Performance of a Standard Tune
    Students are asked to prepare a jazz standard tune of their choice, of which they can perform as a solo at the audition. This can be the melody (head) only, or with improvisation over the form, as is possible. It is suggested that students consult with their private instructor/band director for advice on a tune selection and how to prepare, as follows:

Piano and Guitar students should play both the tune melody and chords in a solo style, as well as improvisation over the form as may be possible. Also, pianist and guitarists may demonstrate chord comping abilities over an additional chorus, as would be done within a rhythm section context.

Wind instrument players should prepare the tune melody and improvisation, as possible, in a solo style.

Drummers should instead (in place of a standard tune selection) prepare to demonstrate basic time feels: Swing in 4/4, and 3/4 (slow, medium, and up-tempo, with sticks and brushes), Bossa Nova, Samba, and Shuffle.

Additional Audition Criteria for Honors Placement

Consideration for Honors placement is also handled during live placement auditions on Sunday, the first day of camp, and is an optional component that students may elect to audition for. Picks are based on (1) demonstration of advanced audition criteria, (2) final ranking results, and (3) overall determined ability as observed by the jazz faculty who reserve the right to consider honors placement as they deem best.

Students are to indicate upon entering their Sunday live audition that they’d like to be considered for honors placement. Please also note that those placed into the honors program can expect to perform during the Wednesday evening Faculty Concert during camp week, and are asked to make every effort to keep that time available to do so.

The following Honors items are in addition to the standard audition criteria listed above:

Wind Instruments, Piano, Guitar, and Bass (including Pitched Percussion)

  • Play the head to “Evidence” (by Thelonious Monk) against metronome click, quarter=250bpm or faster. Just the Tune-head only, no soloing.
  • Scales:
    • Major, harmonic minor, and melodic minor scales, two octaves as possible in keys C, G, F, Bb, Eb, and Ab, minimum.
    • Basic Blues Scales in keys C, G, F, Bb, Eb, and Ab, minimum.
    • Scale-Modes: Diatonic major Scale-Modes (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian), two octaves as possible in keys C, G, F, Bb, Eb, and Ab, minimum.
  • Arpeggios: Major triad, minor triad, major-7th, dominant-7th, and minor-7th arpeggios, two octaves as possible in keys C, G, F, Bb, Eb, and Ab, minimum.

Note: Keys for Major and Minor scales and arpeggios are denoted literally (not as relative-minors). For instance, for the key of F, requirements would be interpreted as F-major and F-minor, as specified. Major Scale-Modes, however, ARE relative – i.e. in key of G, derived Dorian mode would be an A-Dorian scale (not a G-Dorian), etc.

Honors Drums

  • Perform the following time feels:
    • Swing in 4/4, 3/4, 5/4, and 7/8 (slow, medium, and up-tempo with sticks and brushes)
    • Afro-Cuban 6/8
    • Bossa Nova
    • Samba
  • Interchange time feels with solos as requested: i.e. four bars time, four bars solo. Eight bars time, eight bars solo, etc.
  • Sight read charts and/or lead sheets, outline melodic content and hits while keeping time.
  • Sight read rudiment exercise(s).

A Note Regarding RSJI Audition Results and Placement Decisions
For some students, participation in the RSJI Jazz Camp may be an adjustment from what they’re used to within their native school experiences. Each students’ standing and rank within their own school program can sometimes be based on subjective criteria among their peers that may or may not transfer directly to the RSJI camp as they expect. For instance, some participate in, and have received awards for, “All-State”, district, and other high-level programs which certainly provide for many accolades and recognition. These same students, however, in a new, less-familiar environment might obtain varying RSJI audition results, and expectations of acceptance into the camp’s higher-ranking ensembles may not be realized. This can be met by some with great surprise and disappointment.

It must be stressed that all camp participants equally undergo placement auditions at the start of camp to determine their current level and ranking. While previous achievements and status may be taken into account, each students’ currently demonstrated ability at auditions takes precedence. It is not uncommon for those accustomed to higher placements to now find themselves up against other competitive students who might, in some cases, outrank them at the camp audition results. It is important to understand that this is not a failure or oversight of the instructors to properly assess their ability, but rather, they have simply, and fairly, been outranked by other students.

It is also important to respect that camp auditions are conducted by seasoned collegiate jazz educators in an objective manner who hold each students’ best interest in mind, and who are intent on ranking them appropriately based on their expert observation. These decisions are meant to build up each student to grow and advance in the best possible way. Camp students, therefore, are simply asked to approach auditions and placement results in an honest, open-minded manner, void of pre-conceived notions and expectation. Doing so will allow the camp program to address their individual strengths and weaknesses and promote the highest degree of learning.


Who Must Submit an Video Audition?
Audition Videos are generally used to screen the eligibility of first-time applicants for acceptance to the camp, and are to be received in advance of the registration deadline. They are not associated with, or in place of, live auditions, as mentioned above.

Audition Videos Are NOT Required For:

  • Returning High School aged applicants who have previously attended this camp and are not applying for merit-based aid.
  • Middle School aged applicants, either new or returning
  • Students who have been accepted to the camp by a Mason Gross Extension Division or Collegiate Faculty member. In place of the audition video URL, please insert text “accepted by (faculty name)”

Audition Videos ARE Required For:

  • New High School aged applicants who have not previously attended this camp
  • Returning High School aged applicants seeking to be considered for an unsolicited merit camp scholarships. A current, recently made video must be submitted for each application year.
  • Middle School aged applicants who wish to be considered for advanced placement into High School based camp programs for a given year.

Creating Your Video
First, you will create your own YouTube channel, upload your audition video and then share the video’s URL where prompted in the application. Instructions on creating a YouTube channel can be found here. You will be contacted once your video has been evaluated. Accepted students should proceed to register and pay for the camp. Non-accepted students simply discontinue the registration process.


Video Audition Material

Videos should consist of the student playing along with the pre-recorded tracks, as listed below. That is, the recorded track should be audible in the video, as an accompaniment. While live accompaniment is also permissible on videos, applicants are encouraged to use the recorded tracks, instead.

The video should be created using simple means such as with a smartphone. There is no need for an elaborate video production using special cameras, lighting, or audio equipment, as doing so will have no impact on acceptance decisions. The summer jazz camp caters to beginning and experienced improvisers, alike. You are asked to include improvisation in your videos to the extent you are able to do so. Inexperienced improvisers may elect to play only the head of each tune without improvisation, if they wish.

Note: The video should consist of two (2) selections as indicated.

Horn players (saxophones, trumpet, trombone):
Pianists, guitarists, and bass players: