Jazz Program

The WSU Jazz Program is part of a comprehensive Department of Music that features a variety of undergraduate degree options for music majors and minors and numerous performance opportunities for students of all disciplines. WSU’s jazz curriculum includes courses in theory, history, improvisation and performance opportunities in both large and small ensembles – all part of an option in jazz studies for both music majors and non-majors. WSU students connect with the community through numerous performances both on- and off-campus, including dances, concerts, tours and special events.

B.A. Minor in Music / Jazz Studies (MUJS)

Required Courses (27 S.H.)

  • 001 Concert Attendance (0)
  • 201 Music Theory I (4)
  • 206: Jazz Fundamentals (2)
  • 334: Jazz Piano Class (2)
  • 110: Jazz History (3)
  • 255: Jazz Improvisation I
  • 256: Jazz Improvisation II
  • 355: Jazz Improvisation III
  • 356: Jazz Improvisation IV
  • 239: Jazz Combo (2 semesters) (2)
  • 244: Jazz Ensemble (2 semesters) (2)
  • Applied lessons in primary performance medium (2)
    (Students must enroll in a minimum of 2 consecutive semesters of applied lessons.)

Please visit the WSU Music Department's degree programs website for information on all the music degrees offered.


The WSU Jazz Ensembles are as diverse in style as those involved in them. Students from all majors come together to play both traditional and contemporary jazz: anything from swing and blues to Latin and funk charts. Their goal is for impeccable performances of challenging music. Jazz Ensemble I meets twice a week under the direction of Dr. MacDonald, and Jazz Ensemble II meets once weekly under the direction of Ray Dretske.

Both ensembles perform several times a year, with concerts in the fall and spring semesters as well as dances in the winter. Their fall concerts feature guest artists from the U.S. and abroad who perform with the students and present clinics, providing additional educational opportunities. The WSU jazz ensembles host the annual high school honor jazz festival during the fall semester.

The Dixie Midnight Runners, endearingly referred to as DMR, is one of the most colorful of all the ensembles at Winona State University. DMR is an eight-piece combo consisting of trumpet, soprano sax/clarinet, tenor sax, trombone, banjo/guitar, piano/melodica, bass/tuba and drums. They specialize in the traditional Dixieland style made famous in New Orleans and Chicago in the 1920s, and recently have added some of the repertoire of modern New Orleans groups like the Rebirth and Dirty Dozen Brass Bands. 

The jazz combos at Winona State University allow students to pursue jazz education in a more intimate setting. Combos focus on improvisation and creating arrangements from lead sheets. Led by Larry Price and Rich MacDonald, these groups feature a wide variety of music, much of it transcribed and arranged by students. After a semester of once-a-week rehearsals, all of the combos hold a gig in the laid-back Art Tye Lounge in the student commons area. Along with this concert, which is free and open to the public, combos are often called upon to play at various venues in Winona and the surrounding area. 

The WSU Faculty Jazz Combo features Dick Hammergren and Gary Urness on trumpet, Ray Dretske on tenor saxophone, Larry Price on piano, Eric Graham on bass, Jeff Strom on vibraphone and percussion and Rich MacDonald on drums and vibraphone. They perform throughout the region, and are also available for performances at schools. Once a month, they can be heard at Ed's No Name Bar (3rd and Franklin) in Winona. The gig is open for students to come and sit in (check the calendar page for upcoming dates). Members of the combo can also be heard on their latest CD entitled Explorations (see the recordings page for more information).