Students currently in 8th-11th grades may apply.

The Jazz Division 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 PRIVATE 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:

    • 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.
    • 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).
    • 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).
    • 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.
    • Sight-read a simple melody accurately with correct rhythm and intonation. (All students, all instruments.) Guitar Tab reading is NOT accepted.
    • Sight-read and play basic rhythm patterns accurately (basic 8th note and simple 16th note patterns, including basic time signatures).
    • 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 of 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.


Photo of Michael Pellera

Michael Pellera

Music: Chair, Jazz: Assistant Chair, Jazz Piano and Composition, Jazz Combos Jazz
Work Phone: (504) 940-2832


After studying at Berklee College of Music, Mr. Pellera has been a jazz educator serving New Orleans since 1989.  He taught jazz piano and improvisation for fifteen years at Loyola University before joining NOCCA’s faculty in 2002. In the last 25 years, he has lived in New Orleans and New York, giving his music a unique perspective that draws freely from the influences of the two cities.  As a composer he has created a body of work that encompasses modern jazz harmony, indigenous New Orleans rhythms, and elements of the classic American songbook of the 30’s & 40’s. He has released two critically acclaimed CD’s of his jazz compositions.  His first CD, “Cloud Nine” was released in 1997 and his second CD “Son of Sky” was released in 200l. Both CD’s featured a veritable of “who’s who” of the New Orleans modern jazz scene, such as, Bill Huntington, John Vidacovich, Steve Masakowski, Tony Dagradi, Bill Summers, James Singleton, and Phillip Manuel.  As an arranger and producer he has worked in a variety of contexts from trio to big band.  He has performed with a multitude of great jazz artists, including Wynton Marsalis, Buddy Rich, Branford Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin, and Harry Connick Jr.  Some of his former students include Brian Blade, Jon Cowherd, Jonathan Batiste, Troy Andrews, Rich Vogel and others who have created distinguished careers for themselves with artists like Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Wynton Marsalis, Liz Wright, Joni Mitchell, Lenny Kravitz, and Galactic

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