Students currently in 8th-11th grades may apply for High School Arts Instruction.

The Jazz Instrumental Music Department is designed to create not only a proficient Jazz performer, but a well-educated and literate musician. Students are taught scales, chords, and fundamental stylistic elements of various periods of Jazz through specific repertoire of Jazz literature. Students are expected to memorize a minimum of four songs with solo transcriptions each semester and perform these works in a combo setting in class and the weekly student performance class. Students will also perform these requirements at the Jazz juries at the end of each semester. Also, students are taught via books, handouts, master recordings, performance videos, and various guest artist master classes about the great Jazz artists and their significant contributions to Jazz history. Students also learn about the masterworks of Classical music and study comparisons in the various styles. 

It is strongly recommended that all students first attend the NOCCA Jazz Audition Information Session before attempting the official NOCCA Jazz audition. 

Students should take INDIVIDUAL OR GROUP MUSIC LESSONS OR PARTICIPATE IN AN ORGANIZED MUSIC PROGRAM for at least ONE FULL YEAR with a QUALIFIED Jazz instructor to have the necessary skills required to pass the NOCCA audition. 

At the audition: 

Students who audition for NOCCA are expected to be able to do ALL of the following:

    1. Play the melody and improvise with the blues scale over a basic 12-bar blues form. Pianists and guitarists should know some basic Jazz chord voicings. Students may choose one of following blues tunes or another similar blues tune: St. Louis Blues (F Blues) Tenor Madness (Bb) Blue Monk (Bb), Second Line (Bb Blues) Sonny Moon for Two (Bb Blues) Now's the Time (F Blues) etc. Students may prepare a more advanced Jazz tune if they wish, but at the very least they must be able to improvise over the basic 12-bar blues form. 2. Play and spell the major, mixolydian (7th tone lowered a 1/2 step), and dorian scales (3rd and 7th tones lowered a 1/2 step) EVENLY and ACCURATELY with PROPER FINGERINGS in keys up to 3 flats and 3 sharps (C, F, Bb, Eb, G, D, A).

    2. Play ARPEGGIOS for major 7th (1-3-5-7-5-3-1), dominant 7th (1-3-5-b7-5-3-1), and minor 7th chords (1-b3-5- b7-5-b3-1) EVENLY and ACCURATELY with PROPER FINGERINGS in keys up to 3 sharps and 3 flats (C, F, Bb, Eb, G, D, A).

    3. Have solid knowledge of key signatures (up to 3 flats and 3 sharps), music theory, and basic intervals (minor 2nd, major 2nd, minor 3rd, major 3rd, perfect 4th etc.) for keys up to 3 sharps and 3 flats (C, F, Bb, Eb, G, D, A., and notes in BOTH clefs.

    4. Sight-read a simple melody accurately with correct rhythm and intonation. (All students, all instruments.) Guitar Tab reading is NOT accepted.

    5. Sight-read and play basic rhythm patterns accurately (basic 8th note and simple 16th note patterns, including basic time signatures).

    6. Match pitches and short melodic patterns by ear (from the piano) and play them back on your instrument accurately and relatively quickly.

Drummers are responsible for all the above requirements and will be asked to play scales and find notes on the piano by ear. It is strongly recommended that drummers have some experience playing the piano or some other melodic instrument. All students at NOCCA study music theory and drummers must be able to fulfill these requirements at the same level as every other student. Drummers who cannot fulfill these minimum requirements at the audition will not be admitted into the program.

Jazz Instrumental Scale Exercise

Jazz Instrumental Theory Study Guide

In addition to individual department requirements, all applicants will:

    • Upload to the application a 1-2 minute video of the applicant answering the question, “Why do I want to train at NOCCA?"
    • Upload to the application a copy of the most recent report card. Applicants must have at least a 2.0 GPA.
    • Be prepared with the email of an adult who is not related to you to complete your recommendation. Your recommender will receive an email from Acceptd with a link to fill out a recommendation form online.


Photo of Chris Severin

Chris Severin

Jazz Instructor Jazz
Work Phone: 504-940-2831


Chris Severin is an amazingly talented, versatile, and accomplished master-musician from the Treme area of New Orleans.  He graduated from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) in 1976 during its adolescence and later attended Southern University of New Orleans (SUNO) for music education.

The greats Alvin Batiste, Ellis Marsalis, and Walter Payton were all a part of Mr. Severin’s musical training.

A skilled teacher himself, Mr. Severin believes in and promotes consistent practice as the path to a musician’s success and pay off. His daily discourse often details music history, theory, and fundamentals.  In the business for over 30 years, Mr. Severin’s extensive client list includes many of the world’s most gifted singers and musicians including: Diane Reeves, Dr. John, Terrence Blanchard, Allen Toussaint, Bonnie Raitt, Nicholas Payton, Ellis Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Lou Rawls, Alvin Batiste, Herlin Riley, Victor Goines, Irma Thomas and Kent Jordan.  Mr. Severin has played his seven string bass across the globe and is a frequent flyer for the top jazz recording companies such as Blue Note, Rounder, MCA, and Windham Hill Records.  He is a member of Union of New Orleans Musicians, AFM Local 174-496BMI, the co-owner of Chrisan Music, Lead Engineer at the Box Studios-Studio A, prior member of Windjammer, Vietnam, Allen Toussaint Band, and holds several sponsorships including Schecter Guitars and DR Strings.  Mr. Severin’s universal sound sets him apart. He plays seven-string and acoustic bass for all genres of music including R&B, jazz, and hip-hop. In his capacity as faculty member, Mr. Severin provides music, media arts, and jazz instruction, for the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA).  He also continues to provide private lessons on everything bass and is a teacher during the Sunday Youth Music Workshop at Tipitinas.


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