About the Workshop


Musicians entering grades 7 through adult, who can read music, and who want to learn or advance their skills in improvising jazz are welcome to register. Past participants have played saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, flute, vibes, guitar, bass, piano, voice, and drums; but one can improvise jazz on any instrument. We are always looking for bassists and drummers!


A 5-week workshop where students learn improvisational skills by playing in a jazz combo with similarly skilled peers. The workshop consists of 5 two-hour combo sessions and at least one concert. Also, each student recieves one additional 45-minute private or small-group (sectional) instructional session focused on her/his instrument.

Area students have been learning about jazz improvisation in a combo setting through the Grayslake Jazz Combo Workshop since the summer of 2001.


Students will be placed in either a Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday combo, based on ability, age, experience, and availability. For students new to the program, we hold placement auditions to help us form combos. Previous GJCW participants do not need to audition. (Note: these auditions are for placement only; they are not competitive.)

Note: When space is needed for multiple rhythm section players (piano, bass, drums), students may alternate between drum set and auxiliary percussion, play on multiple keyboards, or alternate on tunes.

See Workshop Dates


Sessions are held at…

  • Chapin Jazz Studio, 146 Center St., Suite 4, Grayslake (see map below)
  • The Rails Jazz Club (Paul Nielsen residence music room) at 93 Railroad Av., Grayslake. Get directions


To gain valuable experience playing in a combo, to get lots of time to improvise in a low-pressure setting, to learn the higher level of professionalism required to perform in concerts, and to have fun and groove to the beat of the most American form of music–jazz.

Topics we may cover: Scales and patterns for improvisation; jazz theory beginning to advanced; introductions and endings; trading fours; soloing; learning jazz styles such as swing, latin, waltz, blues, ballads; playing with proper time and feel and, of course, jamming on jazz tunes.

Typical Combo Session: Setup and warm-up–10 minutes; improv on the blues–20 minutes; ear training games and exercises–10 minutes; break–5 minutes; jazz theory–10 minutes; rehearsal of tunes and jamming–60 minutes; assignments and review–5 minutes. Often, a snack is provided.


Bill Chapin has been playing piano professionally in the Chicago area since 1978, taught jazz piano at the the College of Lake County for 8 years, and currently teaches jazz piano and improvisation at Chapin Jazz Studio. Bill performs regularly with multiple groups, including the Bill Chapin Jazz X-tet. See Bill’s bio.

Paul Nielsen is well-known in the Chicago area, both as a jazz and music educator and as a working musician on multiple instruments. He directs the choirs at Grayslake North High School and can be seen playing bass with the College of Lake Jazz Ensemble and other area jazz groups. See Paul’s bio.

Tim Barclay currently directs the music program at the Carmel Catholic High School and performs with numerous professional groups. Tim is a graduate of North Texas State University and has previously taught at the College of Lake County, and at Vernon Hills, Libertyville, and Hersey High Schools. See Tim’s bio

Jon Rarick is a recent graduate of the Eastman School of Music, where he earned his masters degree in jazz writing. In addition to playing trumpet with several big bands, pit orchestras, and jobbing bands around Chicago, he leads the Jon Rarick Nonet, a nine-piece band dedicated to playing his arrangements and compositions. He teaches private lessons in trumpet, improvisation, arranging, and composition and serves as an instructor with the Ravinia Sistema program. Jon is also a graduate of Grayslake North High School and is himself an alumnus of the Grayslake Jazz Combo Workshop. See Jon’s bio

When needed, we hire additional qualified instructors to lead combos.


  • $195 (20% discount) if both registration and payment are received by May 15th, 2018
  • $245 if received after May 15th, 2018.

Students may not participate unless paid in full by the first rehearsal. Cost includes a workshop T-shirt, instructional materials, photocopying, and all administrative costs.

Note: We will not pro-rate the cost for missed rehearsals.

Except for situations where we need to balance combo instrumentation, positions in combos will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. We will maintain a waiting list if necessary.

Registration: Please complete online registration here. You may pay by credit card or mail your form and check to Bill Chapin-Chapin Jazz Studio, 146 Center St, Suite 4, Grayslake, IL 60030. Make checks payable to Chapin Jazz Studio.