The Eastman New Jazz Ensemble was established to showcase the finest contemporary music from around the world written for jazz ensemble. Performing repertoire primarily from the last 20 years, the New Jazz Ensemble plays music not often heard or yet recorded, and frequently premieres new works, including those of student writers. In 2009 this ensemble was the Downbeat Student Music Award winner for Best College Big Band. They also hosted Bob Brookmeyer’s 80th birthday celebration, with Bob in attendance, and performed new music from Jim McNeely, Bill Holman, John Hollenbeck, Ryan Truesdell, and Dave Rivello — all works that were commissioned specifically for this special event. They have also performed at the NYS Music Educator’s Conference with guests Denis DiBlasio and Mike Kaupa. Featured guest composers have included Bob Brookmeyer, Bill Holman, Jim McNeely, Fred Sturm, Rich Perry, Dick Oatts, Ralph LaLama, Dave Liebman, Maria Schneider, Ellen Rowe, Joey Sellers, John Hollenbeck, Ryan Truesdell, Mike Kaupa, Nathan Parker Smith, and Jennifer K. Bellor.
Lead by composer Dave Rivello, the New Jazz Ensemble is open to Eastman students by audition only. Like the Eastman Jazz Ensemble, it performs in concert at Eastman at least twice per semester, in addition to occasional outside performances.