Jazz & Contemporary Music

Jazz & Contemporary Music

Jazz & Contemporary Music

3 students playing Sax

The Conservatory’s Jazz & Contemporary Music offerings will continue to preserve and share the unique heritage of American Jazz — a longstanding WCM tradition — while celebrating its proud heritage that is ever present in the music of today.


Middle & High School students with at least one year of experience on their instrument can enroll in Jazz Lab. Jazz Lab meets once a week on Wednesday evenings and includes participation in a jazz combo, opportunities to work with visiting guest artists during the academic year, and performance opportunities in the Milwaukee community. Students have the option to add a Jazz Theory class and deepen their knowledge of music theory and improvisation, rounding out their Jazz & Contemporary Music education at the Conservatory.


Adult students have a variety of opportunities at the Conservatory, including: funk, rock, blues, pop, Latin jazz, jazz standards, and songwriting studio ensembles. Scroll down to view current offerings and enroll today!

Jazz Students

From Jazz to the Music of Today

Jazz, at its core, is music of connection — to West African rhythms, to European-style brass bands, to work songs sung by enslaved peoples in the American South, and even to the structures found in classical music. Jazz musicians experience connection through improvisation, spontaneous composition, and understanding of a shared musical language.

What then does Contemporary Music add to the equation? Contemporary styles like rock ‘n’ roll, hip-hop, and salsa find their roots in Jazz music and also all share a keen ability to connect cultures and traditions from around the world. By fusing diverse styles, jazz & contemporary musicians create the music of “the now.”

Student playing the electric guitar

Make the Connection

Jazz & Contemporary Music are linked by their ability to fuse global cultures and traditions to create the music of “the now.” Here are just a few examples:

  • Jazz great Duke Ellington has claimed inspiration from the works of classical French composers such as Claude Debussy, and his influence can be heard in Ellington’s compositions from the swing era to his symphonic works.
  • Mississippi Delta Blues, one of the earliest styles of American blues music, served as key inspiration for the British Invasion bands of the 1960s.
  • Modern day hip-hop sampling allows individual artists to create “mash-ups” and shatter traditional genres through the use of music technology.

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Jazz Camp 2020

Online application deadline: February 3, 2024

Jazz & Contemporary Music Scholarships

WCM offers Jazz & Contemporary Music scholarship opportunities at the annual Scholarship Audition Day in March. Students in grades 8 – 11 are eligible to audition.

Audition Dates: March 3, 2024

  • Entry Level | Auditions open to woodwind, brass, percussion, strings, bass, guitar, piano, and voice students currently in grades 8-11 (high school students in 2021-22)
  • Audition Material | Students will be expected to prepare all of the requirements as listed in the appropriate category. Time limit is 10 minutes.
  • Evaluation | Auditions will be judged on the following elements of musical performance: improvisation, accuracy, rhythm, time, technique, stylistic awareness, and harmonic skills. All judges’ decisions are final.




Jazz & Contemporary Music Faculty

Meet Our Teachers


Hannah Johnson


  • Bachelor of Music, Jazz Studies | Indiana University Jacobs School of Music


  • Joined the Conservatory faculty in January 2019.
  • Teaches and plays various styles of music on the drum set, specializing in jazz.
  • Plays with her modern jazz quartet in the Milwaukee area.
  • Featured as an instructor for the Vic Firth video series “Inside the Teaching Studio” entitled How to Sound Like Elvin Jones.
  • Has played with musicians such as Leni Stern, Ingrid Jensen, and Jamie Baum.
  • Enjoys teaching the bucket drumming and world percussion classes through the Conservatory Connections program, as well as private percussion lessons.

Aaron Van Oudenallen


  • Berklee College of Music


  • WCM faculty member since 2005.
  • Moved back to his roots in Milwaukee after 10 years of living in New York and touring and recording with the band ulu.
  • Has played and recorded with many bands and artists, including De La Buena, Choir Fight, Jamie Breiwick, Steve Peplin, The Static Chicken, Tristan Royalty Squad, The Extra Crispy Brass Band, The Soul Trio, The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and Eric Bennet.

Johnny Padilla


  • Johnny Padilla is currently leading his group in support of his recording “Bright Morning” on the BP Music label.
  • Johnny has been a touring musician for Jimmy Buffett, Mongo Santamaria and Angela Carrasco.
  • Since moving to Milwaukee, he has performed with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.
  • Johnny has been a featured artist for:
    •  “Jazz in Cutler Park” Waukesha, WI
    • “ Third Ward Jazz Festival” Milwaukee, WI
    • “Starry Nights” Wilson Center Brookfield, WI
    • The Towers Concert” Narragansett, RI
    • “Arts Concert” Vero Beach, FL
    • “The Miami Latin Jazz Festival” Miami, FL
    • “The Dade County Youth Fair” Miami, FL
    • “The Dade County Book Fair” Miami, FL
    • “Tropical Nights” Hollywood, FL
    • “Artwalk” Hollywood, FL
    • “Riverwalk Sunday Brunch” Ft. Lauderdale, FL
    • “The Hispanic Heritage Festival” Miami, FL;
    • “The Beaux Arts Festival of Art” Miami, FL
    • “The Art Council’s Concert” Key West, FL
    • Pleasure Island @ Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL.
  • Johnny has toured as a musician to the countries of Austria, The Bahamas, Canada, Colombia, England, France, Italy, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and throughout the United States of America.

Mitchell Shiner

Chair, Jazz & Contemporary Music


  • Bachelor of Music, Emphasis in Jazz Studies | Indiana University Jacobs School of Music
  • Performer’s Certificate for Senior Recital


  • WCM faculty member since 2016.
  • Began playing drums at age eight and has been studying percussion since age nine.
  • Co-leads tour-de-force fusion group, “Match Stick,” which released a self-titled album in 2019.
  • Released his debut CD, “FLY!”, in 2014, which invites listeners on a musical journey of original compositions and out-of-the-box arrangements for 20-piece big band.
  • Featured clinician for the 2015 Summerfest Big Band Camp, along with Curt Hanrahan and Mike Steinel.
  • Conducted masterclasses at UW-Parkside, University of Indianapolis, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Park Tudor School, and Nicolet High School.
  • Teaches percussion at several Milwaukee public schools through the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s Conservatory Connections program.

Rosemary McGee Walzer


  • Bachelor of Music | Heidelberg University
  • Master of Music, Instrumental Conducting | University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


  • Music educator and saxophonist Rosemary McGee Walzer is Director of the UWM Youth Jazz Ensemble, and Director of Bands at Maple Dale Elementary School.
  • During her time at UW-Milwaukee, she studied conducting with Dr. John Climer, saxophone with Curt Hanrahan, served as a graduate conducting associate with both the University Band and the Youth Wind Ensemble program, and assisted with the overall administration of the university band program.
  • Additionally, she served as music director for Pankratz Arts Exchange in Mount Calvary, WI for five seasons.
  • In addition to her regular teaching gigs, Rosemary has served as a guest lecturer, clinician, and music camp instructor.
  • Is a regular clinician with the Woody Herman Jazz Festival, and has been invited to work with many instrumental ensembles throughout Southeast Wisconsin.
  • As a performer, Rosemary was one of the winners of the Heidelberg University Concerto Competition in 2003, and received the Arthur Bean Award there in 2005.
  • Freelances in the Milwaukee area and has been in several instrumental ensembles, including the funk/soul band Montage, the East Side Jazz Orchestra, the Kicks Big Band, and the Milwaukee Jazz Orchestra.


Thank You

Supported by the City of Milwaukee Arts Board & the Wisconsin Arts Board

WCM Jazz Residencies in Schools are supported in part by a grant from the Milwaukee Arts Board and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.