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The Youth Jazz Ensemble course introduces students to the joy of playing and improvising in the jazz idiom, helping them develop the skill set required to perform this challenging and rewarding music. Meeting weekly to rehearse, each ensemble section is directed by an experienced CMS coach, a professional jazz musician who draws upon their onstage experience to help each ensemble reach their full performance potential.

These ensembles are open to all students aged 12 to 18. No prior jazz or improvisation experience is required. The placement process for the course ensures each student is assigned an ensemble that is appropriate for their current musical experience level and age, ensuring the Youth Jazz Ensemble course provides new challenges each year.

The Community Music School Youth Jazz Ensemble course has been at the forefront of jazz education in Canada for over 30 years. Immersing students in the techniques, concepts and repertoire of jazz, this unique course is designed to help students find their individual voices as improvisors while working with others towards the common goal of performance.

Jazz is an art form rooted in the Black American musical tradition that emphasizes artistry and expression through improvisation, the act of spontaneous musical composition. The history of jazz is filled with landmark artistic innovations that changed the course of modern music, forming a rich and ever-expanding musical language that continues to influence and innovate today.


“Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life.”
- Art Blakey


“Jazz is democracy in music.”
- Miles Davis

Meet the Youth Jazz Coaches

Headshot of Johnny Griffith

Johnny Griffith

Johnny Griffith is a multi-Juno Award-nominated saxophonist, composer and producer who has played and recorded with numerous artists including Don Thompson, Hawksley Workman, Jeremy Pelt, Charlie ... Hunter, The Wailers, Fishbone, Ernesto Cervini’s Tune Town, Alex Dean, Laila Biali, Al Henderson Quintet, Brandi Disterheft and Terra Hazelton, to name a few, and is a member of the popular Canadian funk/hip hop group the Pocket Dwellers. He has toured extensively across Canada, the United States, and Europe performing at all the major Canadian music festivals as well as several international venues, including the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.  Johnny co-leads the Griffith Hiltz Trio (GHT) with guitarist Nathan Hiltz, arriving on the scene with the 2009 album Now & Then, produced by and featuring Canadian jazz legend Don Thompson. Their debut album was selected by Terry McElligott at Jazz FM 91 as Jazz Album of the Year and was nominated for a Grand Prix du Jazz from the Montreal Jazz festival. Their second, more experimental release, This is What You Get, was produced by Canadian cult icon Hawksley Workman and sat at #1 on the national jazz charts for three weeks in 2013. Amid the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, GHT released its third album, Arcade, a nostalgic chiptune-jazz fusion nod to the music of film and video games of the 1980s. The Johnny Griffith Quintet is the artist’s first solo venture and launched with Dance with the Lady in 2015. Featuring NYC’s Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, the album was the featured release on WBGO Jazz radio New Jersey. 2018 saw the release of The Lion, Camel and Child, again with Pelt, previewing at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival 2018.  In 2015, Johnny created the non-profit independent jazz label G-B Records and has gone on to produce and/or engineer Nathan Hiltz’s Songs Poetic and Samways, Whitney Ross-Barris' The Bright Lunch Trio, Graeme Stephen’s Projector Trio, Adrean Farrugia/Joel Frahm’s Blued Dharma, Chris Wallace’s Many Names, Andy Ballantyne’s Play on Words and UK’s NeWt Trio’s “Drip.” Johnny is also an active film and television composer. He has composed the scores for the films Still to Go and The Recipe, both films appearing in the Toronto International Film Festival, the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival, Montreal World Film Festival and the Vancouver International Film Festival. He is also a freelance composer for the Bell/CTV media group. Born in St. Boniface, Manitoba, Johnny has a Bachelor of Music from Humber College, a master’s degree in jazz performance from University of Toronto, and for the past 12 years, he has been a Humber Music faculty member.  Johnny Griffith currently lives and performs in Toronto, Canada. Read More .

Headshot of Derek Gray

Derek Gray

Portfolio Website

Derek is currently pursuing his PhD in Music Education at the University of Toronto and is a sessional lecturer (Elementary Musicianship) at University of Toronto Scarborough Campus. Since completing... a Bachelor of Contemporary Music degree at Humber College and, more recently, his master's of ethnomusicology at York University, Derek has emerged as one of Canada’s finest young musicians. At home in Penetanguishene, Derek works extensively as a bandleader, arts administrator, composer and performing musician (drumset, Batá, cajón, djembe, Tibetan Singing Bowls, amongst other sound makers) with a variety of projects. Derek tours internationally with Georgian Bay (2019 Trille Or Recipient: Best Artist - Roots), Gray Matter (2016 Julian Award runner-up contemporary-jazz quintet), Franco-Ontarian family band Ariko, Indo-jazz chamber ensemble Justin Gray & Synthesis, and the trans-Mediterranean group Tamar Ilana & Ventanas (four-time Canadian Folk Music Award nominee). Derek has travelled the world studying, performing, and teaching: Cuba (Folkloric Batá studies), Korea (Daegu International Jazz Festival), Indonesia (Erau International Folk & Art Festival), Spain (Camino de Santiago/Studying Flamenco Cajón), Italy (Atina Jazz Festival), Switzerland (drumming mentorship with Julio Davalos), and across North America (Betty Carter Jazz Ahead, Washington, DC; Skirball Cultural Centre, Los Angeles; Vancouver Folk Festival, BC; Artist Residency at Banff Centre for the Arts, AB, Home Routes Tour, MB/SK, Harbourfront Centre/Koerner Hall/Sony Centre/Stockey Centre, ON). In the summer of 2009, Derek travelled to Ghana to study traditional West African hand drumming with master drummers Kwasi Dunyo and Ledzi Agudzemegah in Dagbamete, a village in the Volta Region. Upon returning to Canada, Derek founded the Hand Drumming in the Schools program in which he travels to schools across Canada and facilitates hand-drumming workshops for students of all ages. Currently, Derek is an Orff specialist and Kodaly-certified music instructor on faculty as an itinerant music instructor in the Toronto District School Board (currently assigned to Virtual Schools program), Humber College Community Music School, and Springboard to Music where Derek has served as artistic director since 2019. As a freelance artist and educator, Derek has developed entrepreneurial, budgeting, and administrative skills. On behalf of various projects with which he is in a leadership role, Derek has received $50,000-plus in municipal, provincial, and federal grant support. In various education capacities, he has worked with well over five thousand students in Canada and abroad. As a lifelong learner, Derek values equity, inclusion, diversity, and respect in nurturing trust-based community relationships. For more info, please visit Read More .

Headshot of David French

David French

David French has played with several artists including Louis Simão, Dan Fortin, Michael Davidson, Fabio Ragnelli, Harley Card, Allison Au, Aline Homzy, Morgan Childs, Jon Maharaj, Devon... Henderson, Joshua Van Tassel, Alex Samaras, Trevor Giancola, Amanda Tosoff, Emilie-Claire Barlow, Reg Schwager, Perry White, Phil Dwyer, Kevin Turcotte, Neil Swainson, Jim Vivian, Don Thompson, Dave Young, the Queer Songbook Orchestra, The Sea And Cake, STARS, the Sam Roberts Band, Broken Social Scene and La Force, to name a few. Media appearances include the Juno Awards, JazzFM.91, First Play Live, Q, Drive, Big City-Small World, Global Village, The Strombo Show, CTV Breakfast Television, Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW (NPR), Live On KEXP, MTV, MuchMusic, CBS This Morning, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with David Letterman, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and La Blogothéque. French has taught woodwinds and jazz ensembles at the Humber College Community Music program since 2002 and has taught woodwinds, wind ensembles, and Community Band at the Regent Park School of Music since 2011. Read More .

Headshot of Holt Stuart-Hitchcox

Holt Stuart-Hitchcox

As a graduate of both the Humber College Community Music School and Humber College Bachelor of Music program, bassist Holt Stuart-Hitchcox has spent the majority of his life involved with... Humber College’s music programs. He returned to the Community Music School as a teacher in the fall of 2018. Holt is focused on jazz and contemporary music education and is certified to teach younger students using the Orff and Kodaly methods. He completed his master of arts in Music Education at the University of Toronto in June of 2021. While pursuing his career as an educator, Holt continues to perform with a variety of musical groups across the country, primarily in the jazz, rock, country, folk, and R&B genres. Read More .

Headshot of Matt Newton

Matt Newton

Matt Newton is a Toronto-based pianist, composer and educator, and has been teaching at Humber's Community Music School since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto jazz... program and has attended the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music where he studied with world renowned trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas and pianist Deron Johnson (Miles Davis). He is a member of the Harley Card Quintet and has performed with such respected artists as Melissa Lauren, Petr Cancura, Chris Gale, Rebecca Hennessy, Karl Silveira, Allison Au, Tim Shia, and Beverly Taft among many others. Read More .

New Students

Please contact for information and guidance for selecting programming before registering.

Spring 2022 Term




CMCE 022

Youth Jazz Ensemble (Ages 12-18)


CMCE 024

Jazz Theory (Ages 12-18)