There are four jazz ensembles (2 Big Bands, 2 Combos) at SDSU under the direction of Dr. Yi Chen, and all are open by audition to students from any major on campus. Presenting the best in both traditional and contemporary jazz literature, the jazz ensembles perform a Fall Concert in November and a Spring Concert in April. Student ensembles also perform locally at venues throughout the year. SDSU also offers courses in jazz improvisation, jazz pedagogy, and jazz appreciation.
In 2012, SDSU Jazz Ensemble I performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Many world-class musicians have performed with the ensembles through the years, including: Gary Burton, Louis Bellson, Dizzy Gillespie, Carl "Doc" Severinsen, Dick Oatts, Dana Landry, Paul McKee, Jim White, Phil Wilson, Clayton Cameron, Bobby Shew, and Gary Foster.
The SDSU jazz program hosts instrumental and vocal ensembles throughout the region during the annual
SDSU/Brookings Optimist Jazz Festival. The next SDSU/Optimist Jazz Festival is scheduled for Thursday, April 4, 2019 and will feature guest artists: Jay Mason (saxophone), Jeff Jarvis (trumpet), and Jamie Shew (vocals).