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Jazz Up 2022!

Preparing the next generation of jazz musicians for the collegiate and professional world.

Audition Now!! Deadline: June 1, 2022 

Jazz Up is a community-focused, high-quality music education opportunity for promising, serious-minded student musicians.  Jazz Up will use material the students already know to help them understand how to better improvise and realize their creative potential. Jazz Up also provides a business component, offering real-world expertise in the music industry with a focus on relationship building and communication techniques.

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Jazz Up's mission is to create an environment for emerging jazz students to play in small ensembles and work with some of the industry's top professional jazz artists.  Small ensemble playing allows more in-depth focus on soloing techniques, communication, jazz harmony, rhythmic techniques, and building repertoire. Through the process of studying jazz and improvisation, students will sharpen communication skills, strengthen techniques of information processing, working with others, memorization, self-confidence, and have a safe space to develop their unique identity and voice.  Students will also learn about American history and many other cultures that have influenced jazz.


Founded by renowned saxophonist Sharel Cassity, Jazz Up! is a program giving diverse jazz students a platform to improvise and learn together regularly in Chicago's NW Suburbs. After the inaugural year in 2020, Jazz Up had six students attend university music programs on scholarship, and 2 more earn placement in the high school Illinois All-State, ILMEA Jazz, in 2021. This program is designed to give students in the suburbs access to professional, world-renowned musicians and instruction, as well as a positive environment of like-minded people to develop their craft. 

 Admission is by audition only, auditions are currently open for all instruments, and all levels are encouraged to apply. See the auditions page for more information. Attendees  will be charged a one-time fee of $100 to cover expenses during the summer intensive week. 


Jazz up is largely donation-funded in efforts to keep costs down for students so that all deserving students are able to attend. Please consider donating through the donation page. 


Rehearsals at The Jazz Place

Sharel Cassity, saxophone
Richard Johnson, piano
Clark Sommers, bass
Neil Hemphill, drums

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Sharel Cassity, Director

Listed as “Rising Star Alto Saxophone” in Downbeat Magazine for the past 12 consecutive years, Sharel earned her MA from The Juilliard School under full scholarship, won the 2007 ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award & has over 15 years experience as a professional saxophonist/ woodwindist in the jazz industry. A member of the Dizzy Gillespie  All-Star Big Band, Sharel has performed with jazz luminaries including Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis & the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Roy Hargrove & Aretha Franklin. She has released five albums as a bandleader and toured 24 countries performing at leading venues like the Newport Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival & the North Sea Jazz Festival. Cassity is currently a Professor of Saxophone at DePaul University, Columbia College Chicago, and Elgin Community College. Sharel is a proud Vandoren and Yamaha Performing Artist.

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Richard Johnson, Piano

Richard has been a member of Wynton Marsalis' Septet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra between 2000-2003 and has also played as part of the Russell Malone Quartet, Delfeayo Marsalis Quintet & The Bobby Watson Quartet. 
Richard serves as a full-time Jazz professor at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, MD as well as the piano instructor for the Ravinia Jazz Program. 
located in Chicago, IL. Richard is a graduate of Berklee College of Music, and the Thelonious Monk Institute for Jazz.

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Clark Sommers, Bass

Clark has toured and performed extensively throughout the world. He has had the privilege of performing with Jazzmasters Cedar Walton, Brian Blade,  Bennie Maupin, Von Freeman, and many more. Clark is proud to be the bassist with vocalist Kurt Elling and has played on two GRAMMY-nominated recordings with the band, one of which won the GRAMMY for best vocal jazz album in 2009. Clark is a recent DePaul University Graduate.


Neil Hemphill, Drums

Awarded as the 2020 Luminarts Fellow in Jazz Improvisation, Neil Hemphill is an in-demand drummer on the Chicago jazz and hip hop music scenes. A recent graduate of DePaul University, Neil has performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Jazz Showcase, the Green Mill, and is a regular with the Richard Johnson Quartet. 

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How to Audition

Send a link to your video or mp3 recording to . Recordings must include your name, age, and school or city in the information field. 

Videos are preferred; type of accompaniment is at the

players discretion. 

Audition Deadline is June 1, 2022. Possible extension available upon request. 

Saxophone, Trumpet, Trombone, Piano, Bass, Drums:

1. Choose from one of the 5 songs below. Play the melody to the composition and improvise, 2 solo chorus maximum, following with the melody out. Backing tracks are allowed. (Drums play the rhythmic melody)

​ Song List:

 Billie's Bounce

Take the A Train 


Autumn Leaves


2. Choose a transcription or etude from an artist on your instrument showing

technical ability.  

Want to support Jazz Up? 

We are having a great time working with the students and watching them grow, but we could still use your support! Please consider donating to the link below :) 



Thanks for submitting!

How to Support Jazz Up!

Jazz Up would not be able to operate without its supporters who make everything possible. 

Some of our costs include: 

piano tuning, bass strings, amps, drum heads, and other equipment

guest artist fees, recording fees

 printing, web, & lunch/ snack costs

All contributions are appreciated

Thanks for visiting!


"Invest yourself in everything you do. There's fun in being serious."

John Coltrane

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