Study Arranging & Composing at Jazz Port Townsend With NEA Jazz Master Bill Holman

Bill-Holman-photo-by-Lesley-Bohm We’re very excited to offer a track for arrangers and composers for the first time as part of Centrum’s Jazz Port Townsend, and we can think of no one better qualified to lead it than eminent composer/arranger Bill Holman. Bill’s music has been performed by for decades by bands led by jazz luminaries such as Count Basie, Woody Herman, Louie Bellson, Doc Severinson, Buddy Rich and many others.

In 2010 Bill was named an NEA Jazz Master, this country’s highest honor in the field of Jazz. Now you will have the opportunity to learn from this legendary composer and arranger.

You’ll work directly with Bill in studying his music and learning first hand how it’s put together. You’ll also have the chance to learn from other faculty in special topics and master classes, as well as the opportunity to play with other musicians. Here’s how your schedule will look Monday – Thursday:

  • 9 – 10:30am. small group (8 – 10) session with Bill and other arrangers. The focus will be an in-depth study of Bill’s charts, with comments on your scores as time permits.
  • 10:45 – 11:45am. Theory and special topics classes by various faculty, open to all in the workshop. In addition to theory classes, faculty talk about their approach to improvising, the psychology of playing, practicing, their careers, and more.
  • 1:15 – 2:45pm. Instrumental/vocal master classes by various faculty on all instruments. This is the time to dig into specific questions about playing your instrument. You’re welcome to attend any you choose.
  • 3 – 4pm. Arranger’s combo rehearsal. This is your chance for all of you in the Arranging track to play together. You can try out new charts, and experiment with different voicings, etc. Instrumentation will depend on who signs up.
  • 4:15 – 6pm. Faculty Presents concerts. Faculty play for workshop participants in an intimate, informal atmosphere. Some amazing music is made here. These are not to be missed!
  • Evenings. On 2 or 3 evenings Bill will lead sessions talking about and explaining his music, open to all workshop participants.
  • Also in the evening, selected arrangers will have the opportunity to have their music read by one of two big bands at the workshop. Afterwards you can join in any of the numerous jam sessions that spring up around the campus.

Starting Friday we shift into performance mode for all the combos, plus faculty performances on the mainstage and in downtown clubs. A major event you won’t want to miss will take place Friday afternoon, which will be the first rehearsal of a piece for big band and clarinet we’ve commissioned from Bill, featuring fellow NEA Jazz Master Paquito D’Rivera as soloist. The piece will receive its second rehearsal and performance on Saturday. As a bonus, you can witness the unveiling of another new piece for big band, this one by Artistic Director John Clayton. You can have a front-row seat as a top-level professional band plays these pieces for the first time and then forges them into shape for performance.

Is the Arranging track right for you?

This track is designed for musicians who have some arranging experience already, or at least the knowledge of the instrument’s ranges and transpositions. You should be comfortable reading and writing music in bass and treble clefs, and be familiar with jazz harmonies. If this sounds like you, you’re ready.

How to apply

You can register for the Arranging track online . You’ll be asked to upload PDFs and recordings of your music, if you have them. View details on requirements. For questions contact Gregg Miller at or 360.385.3102 x109.

Come and be part of this special week with NEA Jazz Master Bill Holman. We hope to see you here!