About the Columbus Youth Jazz Program:

Whether you’re a high school student looking for a high-level community music program or a middle school student looking to develop your musical voice, the Columbus Youth Jazz program at the Jazz Academy is the place to be! Each ensemble rehearses weekly and offers a variety of performances, guest artist workshops, free CJO tickets, recording sessions, and more during the season.

Auditions for the CYJ program are held in the spring each year and students are placed in one of four ensembles, including the nationally renowned Columbus Youth Jazz Orchestra. Additionally, any student can join the 8-week CYJ Lab in the spring and fall; simply sign up and join us for 8 weeks of jazz! No audition is required for participation in the CYJ Lab.

Find and shape your musical voice in the CYJ Workshop, where students in middle and high school come together to take part in a truly unique jazz experience. From improvisation-based tunes to full big band arrangements, this band sets students on a path to new musical heights.

Exploring jazz styles, standard repertoire and tools for jazz improvisation, the CYJ Ensemble brings together students from a variety of backgrounds and skill levels to create a fun and motivating big band experience.

The CYJ Studio raises the bar for high school jazz band performance. From Ellington to Mingus and more, the CYJS takes a deeper dive into high-level jazz repertoire designed to strengthen musicianship and creativity.

One of the most prestigious youth jazz ensembles in the country, the Orchestra is the flagship of the Youth Jazz Program. The CYJO performs at the Southern Theatre throughout the year along with special performances around central Ohio and beyond.

Youth Jazz Lab

This tuition-free program is held on Sunday afternoons at the Jazz Academy, focusing on listening, learning and performing jazz. Each 90-minute session contains instrumental lessons and jazz combo rehearsals, culminating in a final performance at the Jazz Academy. The Columbus Youth Jazz Lab promotes jazz and improvisation as a vehicle for developing community, creativity, and expression in a fun and engaging environment.

The CYJ Lab meets from 2:00 – 3:30pm at the Jazz Academy (769 E. Long St. Columbus, OH 43203). Vocalists in the CYJ Lab meet from 4 – 5:30pm on all scheduled days.

No jazz experience is required for participation in the Columbus Youth Jazz Lab. However, students should have a minimum one year of fundamental experience on his/her instrument.

Spring 2020 Lab Rehearsal Schedule

1/12, 1/19, 1/26, 2/2, 2/9, 2/16, 3/1, 3/8

Final Performance


Meet Your CYJ Teaching Artists

Mark Donavan

Artistic Director, Columbus Youth Jazz Program

Director, Columbus Youth Jazz Orchestra


Mark Donavan’s broad classroom teaching background and extensive performance resume creates an environment that brings the best out of the young musicians he works with. He has launched two Central Ohio youth jazz bands: the Columbus Youth Jazz Workshop and the Columbus City Schools Jazz All-Stars.  Both groups have brought together students from a variety of backgrounds and have inspired young people to study music in college and to play professionally. Donavan performs in the central Ohio area as a saxophonist and pianist and has appeared on stage with many regional and national acts. His professional writing credits include the Columbus City School district’s music curriculum and a jazz survey course for online learning.  Donavan is currently the instrumental music director at Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School.

Ryan Hamilton

Director, Columbus Youth Jazz Studio


Ryan is the director of the Columbus Youth Jazz Studio. He also teaches jazz studies and jazz trombone at Capital University, low brass and jazz history at Denison University, and is on faculty for the Jazz Labs Dayton Camp. Previous teaching positions include at Kenyon College, Otterbein University, Mount Vernon Nazarene University, and as jazz faculty at Music For All’s Summer Symposium.

Ryan is a two-time alumnus of Capital University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in music performance and a master’s degree in music education, jazz pedagogy emphasis.

As a performer Ryan is a former member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra and is currently a member and soloist with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra. He can be heard as a soloist on their latest recording, Come Together. He is also co-leader of Such Sweet Thunder, an octet focusing on the music of Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn. He is also a member of the Cathedral Brass Ensemble, Vaughn Wiester’s Famous Jazz Orchestra, Yumbambe. In addition, he performs in the pit orchestras of Broadway Columbus; has shared the stage with such performers as Frankie Valli, Bill Dobbins, Johnny Mathis, Spoon, the Temptations, Jiggs Whigham, and the O’Jays; and world tours with the Guy Lombardo Orchestra. You can hear him as a featured soloist on Andrew Hartman and Still Motion, in addition to recordings by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Wet Darlings, New Basics Brass Band, Jesse Henry, and the Famous Jazz Orchestra.

Jessica Sneeringer

Director, Columbus Youth Jazz Ensemble


Jessica Sneeringer is a graduate of The Ohio State University earning Bachelor’s Degrees in Music Education and Trombone Performance as well as a Masters Degree in Music Education. Jessica is currently in her 15th year as the Director of Bands at Columbus Academy in Gahanna, Ohio, and is the Chair of the Performing Arts Department.  A member of the Central Ohio Brass Band since 1999, she was a soloist and principle trombone until 2005, when she stepped onto the podium.  Over her 16 years as COBB’s conductor the group has enjoyed much growth, success, and critical acclaim, having won the 1st Section of the North American Brass Band Association a record 5 times.  In July of 2019, COBB performed at the Interational Trombone Festival with acclaimed recording artist Brett Baker.

Also a freelance trombonist Jessica has the privilege of playing with many fine groups including The Athena Brass Band (which she is fortunate to have the opportunity to now conduct), the Central Ohio Symphony Orchestra, and a variety of jazz bands in and around Central Ohio. Over the years, Ms. Sneeringer has performed with the Disney Collegiate All-Star Band, Monarch Brass, Phil Smith, Allen Vizzutti, Nancy Wilson, Jiggs Whigham, Frank Foster, Jen Krupa, and Jennifer Wharton among many other artists.

Jessica has been a clinician, adjudicator, and coach for several outstanding groups including The Ohio State University Marching Band , Captial University’s Junior Winds, Ohio State Fair Band, the Ohio Music Educator’s Association All-State Band, and Tuba Christmas Columbus 2018.  She makes her home in Central Ohio with her son Joshua and daughter Jordan.

Zach Compston

Director, Columbus Youth Jazz Workshop

Zach Compston is a highly regarded drummer, percussionist and educator, known for his passion and experience in many avenues of the music world. He is the leader of the Zach Compston Big Band and performs regularly with tenor saxophonist Pete Mills, as well as the Latin jazz ensemble Waves de Ache. His performance credits include Andrea Bocelli, Columbus Jazz Orchestra, Bobby Floyd, Greta Matassa, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, Lafayette Symphony and Owensboro Symphony.

As an educator, Zach is well versed in many teaching settings. As an Associate Instructor at Indiana University while pursuing his Master’s Degree, he taught the percussion techniques course, gave private lessons, and conducted the percussion ensemble. He has given clinics at Wichita State University, Beavercreek Jazz Festival, Jazz Education Network Conference and the Ohio Music Education Association Conference.  A yearly instructor at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival in Alaska, Zach has developed a keen ability to communicate and connect with people of all ages and ability levels.

Zach is currently Director of Education and Community Engagement at the Jazz Arts Group of Columbus, America’s oldest non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the art of jazz through performance and education. He develops and implements in-school programs as well as community engagement opportunities for all ages.

Bryan Olsheski

Columbus Youth Jazz Lab Teaching Artist


After graduating in 1995 from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music with a Bachelors in Jazz Performance, Bryan cut his teeth in the industry as a soloist and guest artist with performers around the world on the Princess and Royal Caribbean Cruise lines. He then relocated to London, England for three years. He started teaching and also began performing and recording in salsa, jazz and function bands hired out for weddings and other special events. Bryan formed his own band playing original music at many of the popular jazz clubs in London, including The 606 Jazz Club, the Jazz Café and the Bulls Head Barnes. He has shared the stage with some of the most famous names in jazz such as Joe Henderson, Kenny Garrett, Wes “Warmdaddy” Anderson, Conrad Herwig, Jack McDuff, Slide Hampton and George Benson. He has also been a featured soloist for the Temptations, The Columbus Jazz Orchestra, Steve Winwood, Vaughn Weister’s Famous Jazz Orchestra, Afro-Rican Jazz Ensemble, Kico Cowan and Expresion Cubana, The Four Tops and The Spinners.

Bryan has lived in Columbus for the last 13 years. During this time he has dedicated himself to composing and perfecting his craft. In March 2005 he recorded his first CD under his own name showcasing five original compositions. The CD features Bobby Floyd on the B3 Organ, Derek Dicenzo on guitar and Reggie Jackson on drums and was named the best jazz CD of 2005 by “The Other Paper.”

Bryan especially enjoys his career as a teacher at a private music studio in Hilliard and through the “Choices” program. He occasionally works with other education programs through the Jazz Arts Group. Bryan has been teaching beginners through professionals for close to eight years.

Derek DiCenzo

Columbus Youth Jazz Lab Teaching Artist


Derek DiCenzo is a multi-instrumentalist who is as comfortable playing jazz on the acoustic bass as on the guitar or even the steel drum. He has been a full-time musician based in Columbus, Ohio for many years; his diverse influences and uncanny musical intuition has made him a much sought-after player. He has been a performer and instructor for Jazz Arts Group’s education programming for many years. Derek inspires students with his love of music and is well-versed in teaching students of all ability levels.

Robert Mason

Columbus Youth Jazz Lab Teaching Artist


Robert Mason is a pianist and organist from Columbus, Ohio. He graduated from OSU with a BM in Jazz Studies and a minor in Music, Media and Enterprise.

Robert has won numerous awards for jazz performance including the Louis Armstrong Award for outstanding musician in high school. He also received several scholarships at OSU including the Atkin Jazz Scholarship, Tom Battenberg Jazz Scholarship, and the George and Janice Scantland Jazz Scholarship.

Robert currently performs with numerous groups in Columbus including Fomodeep, Soul Revival, and the Robert Mason Trio. He also helps lead the worship band at Flintridge Community Church.

Faheem Najieb

Columbus Youth Jazz Lab Teaching Artist

Hailing from Cleveland, Faheem Najieb is a professional saxophonist and educator
currently living in Columbus, OH. Faheem studied at Ohio State University and following
graduation in 2015 with degrees in Jazz Studies and Music Education, he accepted a teaching position in Columbus City Schools. Faheem enjoys a balanced and busy career of performing and educating at Mifflin Middle School, private lesson studios, Jazz Arts Group as well as bands around the greater Ohio area.

Rachel Sepulveda

Columbus Youth Jazz Vocal Teaching Artist

Rachel Sepulveda is a graduate of Capital University, where she completed her undergraduate degree in jazz studies, and Michigan University, where she earned a Masters of Music. Rachel has been an educator for many years teaching privately, in summer camps, and directing choirs. She draws inspiration in her own music from Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday.