General Information

The Nashville Youth Jazz Ensemble is a community-based, non-profit organization dedicated to the cause of nurturing the love of jazz among young people in the Middle Tennessee area.

Rehearsals for the NYJE occur on Sundays afternoons from September through early May. NYJE presents two or more concerts each semester at various locations throughout the Middle Tennessee region. We also sponsor “NYJE Jazz Fest” each year at the Streets of Indian Lake in Hendersonville, TN. At this event we feature performances by high school and middle school jazz bands from all over Middle Tennessee, in addition to our own NYJE Jazz Big Bands and nationally-known jazz guest artists.


Each fall the NYJE holds auditions for spots in its TWO 22-piece big band jazz performance ensembles. The audition materials are posted approximately 45 days prior to the audition due dates. To receive audition materials and information please go to the “Audition” page of this website and register to audition.


Tuition for student members of NYJE is $260 per year. This amount is payable at the first rehearsal in September. Our organization is proud to be able to also offer needs-based scholarships to students who wish to be in our bands.



Dr. Richard Ripani, director –  After earning an undergraduate degree in music from Vanderbilt University in 1977, Mr. Ripani embarked on a career as a professional musician. As a performer, he has many accomplishments to his credit, including numerous recording sessions in Nashville studios. Among these recordings are one double-platinum and two gold albums. As a live music performer, he has played with and/or conducted orchestras for several national-level musical artists across North America and Europe and performed on numerous TV programs.

After a 5-year stint as director of jazz bands at Cumberland University, his career continued at Hume-Fogg Academic High School in Nashville. His jazz groups at Hume-Fogg were some of the most awarded in Tennessee, having been selected on three occasions to serve as featured guest performers at the Tennessee Music Educators Association Conference.

For the last few years, Dr. Ripani has served as the director of the Nashville Youth Jazz Ensemble and  taught American music history at Belmont University. Mr. Ripani is a highly sought-after jazz clinician throughout the southeastern United States, and he is a member of numerous professional organizations.

 Emily Hartzell, assistant director –  After completing high school at Hume-Fogg Academic in Nashville, Ms. Hartzell earned an undergraduate degree in music education/jazz performance & pedagogy at Illinois State University. She began her music teaching career at Normal Community High School and Jacksonville Middle School in Florida. She has been a valued member of the NYJE staff since 2022.

Clinicians – NYJE brings in guest clinicians and artists on a regular basis, both at rehearsals and on performances. Our clinicians have performed professionally with artists as diverse as: Harry James, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, Jeff Coffin, Steven Tyler, Aretha Franklin, Ronnie Milsap,  Cage the Elephant, Dizzy Gillespie, Pete Christlieb, and Kirk Whalum, to name a few!


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