The Rialto Youth Jazz Orchestra was founded in June 2011 by Dr. Gordon Vernick. Consisting of two Big Bands (Intermediate & Advanced) and four jazz combos, RYJO exposes students to the full spectrum of jazz music and education.

The big bands are under the direction of Dr. Vernick and Wes Funderburk. Wes Funderburk will direct the intermediate ensemble on Sunday afternoons and Gordon Vernick will direct the advanced ensemble on Monday evenings. The combo program is under the direction of Kevin Bales with assistance from our GSU Jazz Faculty: Robert Dickson, Tyrone Jackson and current GSU Graduate Teaching Assistants. The combos will rehearse either on Sunday or Monday. You can read the bios of these outstanding teachers and performers or go to their websites.

Jazz is American music and it is important to protect and preserve this important musical and cultural heritage. The best way to do this is to teach young musicians about the art form through performance. Our big bands and jazz combos perform music that is both historically significant and challenging. The students receive outstanding instruction in jazz performance, jazz history, and jazz improvisation from our faculty. In rehearsals we stress personal responsibility, musicianship, team work, and artistic expression.

I have envisioned this select high school group as a continuation of our middle school jazz program, Rialto Jazz for Kids. I treat the musicians as professionals, even though they are still of high school age. Many of the graduating high school students go on to become music majors in college. Former band members are currently attending the University of North Texas, Georgia State, the University of Georgia, Kennesaw State, Florida State, and the University of Miami.

Last year participating high school students came from the following counties: Fulton, Cobb, Dekalb, Gwinnett, Clayton, and Fayette. The students are selected through auditions. Home schooled students are also encouraged to audition.

Some highlights from this 2011-2012 school year include two concerts at Georgia State University, a featured performance at Café 290, and our combos performing at Atlanta’s premier jazz club, Churchill Grounds. In past years our groups have performed at the Atlanta Jazz Festival in Piedmont Park and were invited to perform at the Governors Inaugural Reception at Philips Arena in 2011.
We supply all music and folders---the students will purchase long and short sleeve shirts for our performances. It is also helpful if each student brings a 4 GB flash drive to rehearsals so we can give them important recordings to listen to. All rehearsals take place in the Rialto Basement at GSU on Forsyth St.