WSU Jazz Arts Ensemble

Welcome to the homepage for the Wichita State University Jazz Studies Department

Jazz has a long and storied history at WSU. Wichita has historically been a popular stop on the concert tours of many of the most famous jazz musicians. Our partnership with the Wichita Jazz Festival, the longest-running educational jazz festival in the nation, continues today and brings our jazz students into contact with some of the best and brightest of the jazz world.

The Jazz Studies Department is part of a dynamic School of Music, which is in turn part of WSU's College of Fine Arts. We boast top faculty from the nation's most prestigious institutions and teachers, including the University of North Texas, Indiana University, the Eastman School of Music, New England Conservatory of Music, and many others. Recent graduates have also gone on to study at prestigious institutes such as the University of Michigan and the Berklee School of Music.

Jazz Studies alumni have gone on to do great things. The ranks of great players to come through WSU include NYC drummer Matt Wilson (student of J.C. Combs), current Assistant Professor of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation at the University of Michigan Andrew Bishop, current WSU Professor of Jazz Piano John Goering and Professor of Jazz Trumpet Scott Strecker, vocalist with the Air Force Band Blue Steel Julie Bradley, and LA-based bassist Edward Livingston.

This website will help you get to know our program. We offer a wide range of performance opportunities with large and small groups. Check out potential courses you'll take as a jazz major, some recordings from our ensembles and groups, and be sure to drop by our facebook page to keep up with our news!

WSU Jazz welcomes Jim Pisano to our faculty!

Jim Pisano

Multi-woodwind specialist James Pisano’s numerous invitations as a performer and teacher have taken him to nearly every state, in the United States, as well as Europe and South Africa.  Pisano has shared the stage as a soloist with many jazz luminaries, such as Phil Woods, Frank Foster, Louie Bellson, Clark Terry, Harry “Sweets” Edison, James Moody, Hank Jones, The Lionel Hampton Big Band, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, The Artie Shaw Band, The Cab Calloway Orchestra, and the Dizzy Gillespie Reunion Big Band, among many others. Currently, Pisano maintains an active performance schedule — most notably as a member of the saxophone section of the Jazz Heritage Orchestra (Cleveland, Ohio) since 2001. In this capacity he has serves as lead alto and tenor saxophone soloist, recently with Benny Golson in a series of concerts culminating in a recording of Benny’s big band music.  Also, with the JHO, Pisano collaborated with Grammy-nominated jazz vocalists Vanessa Rubin and Nancy Wilson.  In May and June of 2015, he toured Brazil and performed throughout the São Paulo region and presented master classes at Federal University of Uberlândia and the University of Campinas.

He has appeared as a sideman on more than 10 CD's and has had many of his own compositions and arrangements recorded and performed.  John Barron states in All About Jazz …“Gisbert and Pisano contribute hard-driving solos throughout, both leaning towards an aggressive approach with dazzling technique and soulful ideas.” In his review, Adam Greenberg from All Music Guide says… “Dry lets Jim Pisano show what he can do with the sax on his solos, and it's a fine thing he can do, no less.” 

Currently he is completing his doctorate in jazz saxophone from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and is working toward the completion of his dissertation entitled, Saxophone Performance Practice in a Jazz Organ Context: An Analysis of Selected Saxophone Solos. He recently formed an organ jazz group called Organique(saxophone, Hammond, guitar and drums) that is dedicated to performing and composing works for this instrumentation. The group gives numerous performances and clinics throughout the region.

James Pisano is currently on leave from his position as Associate Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas.  In this capacity, he led Jazz Ensembles I and II as well as several Jazz Combos, and teaches Jazz Improvisation and the single-reed stu­dio.  Pisano also directs the Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble, which is an auditioned high school honor jazz band ensemble that has been in existence for over 30 years.  Prior to his appointment to Bethel College in 2006, Pisano served as Assistant Professor at the University of Idaho Lionel Hampton School of Music. 

As a clarinetist, Pisano has performed in the New World Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas, as well as the Miami City Ballet and the Florida Philharmonic. He has served in the Wichita Grand Opera orchestra in the position of clarinet/bass clarinet since the company’s premiere performances, in 2001, with Maestros Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.

James Pisano holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of New Hampshire and a Master of Music degree from the University of Miami, both in clarinet performance. While studying at the U of M, he was a member and soloist with the award-winning Concert Jazz Band.  Some of his recent primary teachers include Chip Stevens, Chip McNeill, and Debra Richtmeyer.

Pisano is sought after as an adjudicator and clinician across the nation.  Most recently, he served as guest jazz artist/clinician for the Mineral Area Technical College Jazz Festival, the South East Missouri State Clark Terry Jazz Festival, the Northeastern State Green Country Jazz Festival, the Oklahoma State University Jazz Festival, and the University of Wyoming Jazz Festival.  He has performed at the international Jazz Educator’s Conference in New Orleans and Dallas. He has also served as a clinician for district jazz festivals numerous times.  He is a member of the Kansas Music Educators Association and the Jazz Educator’s Network.