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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

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.
Hannah Barstow
Hannah Barstow (b. 1994) is a pianist, vocalist and composer in the Toronto music scene. As a performer, she is firmly rooted in the tradition of jazz and is strongly influenced by the classic trios and quartets of Shirley Horn, Ahmad Jamal and Blossom Dearie. As a composer, her jazz, classical, pop and Latin music influences come through. She composes and arranges tunes for a range of ensemble sizes from trios to women's choirs and big bands. Hannah has an ARCT in piano performance (Royal Conservatory of Music), a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance on piano from the University of Toronto (U of T) and a master’s degree in Jazz Performance on piano from U of T. She is an alumna of Community Music School and happily returned in 2019 to teach. She is also a sessional lecturer at U of T. Hannah has performed with a number of renowned artists including Emilie Claire Barlow, Kris Davis, Mike Murley, Steve Wallace, Pat Collins, the Brian Barlow Big Band, the Greg Runions Big Band with the Kingston Symphony, and she was featured as a guest arranger and performer with the Kingston women's choir She Sings. In November of 2018, she performed on a short tour in Santiago and Viña del Mar, Chile, with Mike Murley. Hannah has released three jazz EPs: Hannah Barstow Trio, as well as Christmas for Two and Snow with Toronto jazz vocalist Kalya Ramu. She will release her first full-length album, Beneath, in the summer of 2021.
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.
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.
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.

New Students

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

Winter 2023 Term

Private Lesson (All Instruments) 30min Private Lesson  $448
60min Private Lesson $830
Children Children's Musicianship (Ages 3-4) $340
Children's Musicianship (Ages 5-7) $340
Children's Music: Orff Ensemble (Ages 8-11) $645
Youth Advanced Jazz Improvisation (Ages 12-18) $600
Youth Jazz Ensemble (Ages 12-18) $635
Advanced Youth Jazz Ensemble (Ages 14-18) $755