The Augsburg Jazz program, directed by Rafael Rodriquez, offers a complete curriculum that includes a big band, combos, and a vocal jazz group, each of which is directed by a faculty member. These ensembles are open to all Augsburg students through auditions each fall. Augsburg Jazz also features many guest artists and composers. Music students rehearse and perform side-by-side with some of the best jazz and gospel musicians in the Midwest, many of whom are Augsburg alumni. In recent years, the Augsburg Jazz Ensemble has performed with Steve Wiest, Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Delfeayo Marsalis, trombone; Swedish jazz artist Nils Lindberg, trombone & piano; and performed works by Dr. William C. Banfield, artist in residence.
The Augsburg Jazz ensemble also provides an opportunity to create a unique union of big band and vocal jazz that performs for conventions, churches and schools (formerly known as Gospel Praise). They have appeared at three ELCA National Youth Conventions in Atlanta, New Orleans and St. Louis as well as The Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis, Famous Dave’s Blues Club in Uptown, and the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. In 1995, they presented a command performance for the King of Norway, and in recent years have performed for nearly 20,000 including Sheila Raye Charles, Jane Fonda, and Hillary Clinton.