Jazz Ensemble

Instrumental Music: Program and Philosophy

The instrumental music program consists of two groups, Chamber Orchestra and Jazz Band. Both are scheduled in the class day, meet four times a week and count for academic credit.

Our mission is to help students discover the artists within themselves through various creative outlets. I work with each student, regardless of level, to not only enhance technical abilities, sight reading, and interpretation skills; but to help them discover who they are as a musician, how they learn, and how to work with others in democratic setting.

All matters related to the arts should provide us with a better sense of who we are as individuals within a community. The characteristics I hope to invoke in my students are that they are good listeners, cooperative and work well with others, have the incentive necessary to convey emotion to an audience musically, understand how they learn, and enjoy what they do. These traits make great performers but also great people, and ultimately this is how the instrumental program contributes to the Taft motto of educating the entire person.
-TJ Thompson, director


Flexibility and adaptability are key traits of our performers at Taft. Throughout the year, students learn level-appropriate pieces from every genre of ensemble music written for their instrument. Chamber musicians expect to see it all, whether it is a Baroque Concerto, a Gershwin Suite, a Piazola Tango, a Rossini Overture, or an original student composition, we will play it. Jazz band members expect to study and transcribe recordings and arrangements of Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Maceo Parker, Jaco Pastorius, and the Meters. In short, we cover it all.


Each group performs four to five concerts a year on campus. In addition, both perform in the community three to four times a year as well. Once a year, each group performs in some culminating experience, usually in March. For the past two years, Chamber Orchestra went to Yale to perform for Yale Symphony Orchestra. Later in the year, some students returned to rehearse Dvorak's New World Symphony with the Y.S.O. The Jazz Band has traveled to New Orleans twice in the past four years to perform at Donna's Bar and Grill on the French Quarter and once to Boston to perform at Wally's Jazz Café and The Berklee College of Music.

Leadership and Peer Tutoring

We all learn best from trying to teach others. Aside from section leaders working with some of the less experienced musicians, every two weeks three or four members from the Jazz Band go to Judson Middle School to give free trumpet, clarinet, and flute lessons.

Private Instruction

We have a fabulous staff of music instructors who return year after year to give private lessons. Prices for the lessons vary, although they generally run in the area of $50 per lesson. Once it is all organized in late September, the student meets with the teacher once a week during a free block and their account gets billed once a month. We offer private lessons in violin, viola, cello, guitar, bass guitar, piano, flute, clarinet, saxophone, percussion, harp, bagpipes, and composition. Every year, a student may choose to complete an original work for Chamber or Jazz Band to perform.

Concert Series and Resident Artists

Taft has a concert series throughout the year of a wide variety of musical guests. In addition, each year we have an artist in residence to come work with a specific ensemble. Some of our past clinicians and performers have been The Matt Wilson Quartet, The Manhattan String Quartet, The Anonymous 4, Judy Carmichael, Omar Butler, Five Play, The Arensky Trio, and The Arcadia Woodwind Quintet.

THE TAFT SCHOOL  | 110 Woodbury Road | Watertown, Connecticut 06795 | 860-945-7777 | Info@TaftSchool.org