The UCO Jazz Lab serves three primary functions. As an Education facility for the jazz studies program, as a community focused live music venue and as a place to learn, write and record music.
EDUCATE: Home of the Jazz Studies Division of the University of Central Oklahoma School of Music. Students utilize the Lab on a daily basis. The School of Music currently offers an undergraduate Minor in Jazz Studies and a Master of Music in Jazz Studies with Majors either in Performance or Music Production. All UCO students, both music majors and non-majors, are welcome to audition and participate in our 11 student jazz groups. Learn more
ENTERTAIN: A World class entertainment venue featuring a relaxed atmosphere styled after jazz clubs in New Orleans! Every week the Jazz Lab features live entertainment with food and beverages provided by Hideaway Pizza. Learn more
CREATE: A state of the art recording studio combining educational endeavors with the highest quality professional tracking, mixing, mastering and duplication of all types of commercial audio products. We have recently completed a MAJOR rebuild of our facility with upgrades that provide our students and limited commercial clients with some of the best equipment available in Oklahoma. Learn more
In early 2000, Gary Gabrel, president of Hideaway Pizza, considered it a great coincidence that the University of Central Oklahoma's Jazz Lab Department was looking for a home for its jazz studies program while he was looking for a place in Edmond to house a new Hideaway Pizza.
When developer Mark Neighbors donated land at South Litler and Fifth Street to the university through the UCO Foundation, UCO President Roger Webb's dream to build a jazz lab and an evening performance venue began to unfold.
Webb believed there was a definite market for a site that would serve as a teaching facility by day and as an entertainment spot by night.
After all, UCO's jazz studies program has grown, since its foundation in 1974 by Dr. Kent Kidwell, from one 20-piece jazz band to it current program which includes three 20-piece jazz bands and numerous small groups.
Partnering with Hideaway Pizza was an ideal fit for a jazz lab. Audiences could eat pizza and enjoy beverages while listening to jazz and other entertainment such as blues, pop, country, bluegrass, ethnic, classical, and even a taste of Broadway.
The Jazz Lab became an actuality thanks to a creative collaboration with the university, the UCO Foundation, the Neighbor's family, the Edmond Economic Authority, and the City of Edmond.
With Edmond's growth and emerging reputation for good restaurants, the linkage between Cafe 501, Boulevard Steakhouse, and now Hideaway Pizza and an evening performance spot was a natural extension and quality move for both the university and the Edmond community.
The daytime facility–led by its appointed director, longtime faculty member, and renowned jazz musician Lee Rucker–opened for its 60 jazz students at the beginning of the spring 2002 semester.
The facility is comprised of practice rooms, faculty offices, a state-of-the-art recording studio, a box office, seating area, stage, and an encircled plaza area outdoors for outdoor performances.
The creative team from Hornbeek Larsson Architects–David Hornbeek, Tony Blatt and Allison Perkins–designed the Lab to carry out Webb's vision to give the place a look that is a cross between Beale Street in Memphis and the French Quarter in New Orleans.
The Jazz Lab is the fulfillment of a dream and an excellent companion to UCO's Broadway Tonight series, StrawHat Music Theatre, and the many cultural music, theater and dance performances offered by UCO's College of Fine Arts and Design.
In 1974 Dr. Kent Kidwell established the first formal jazz ensemble in the curriculum at the University of Central Oklahoma, named Central State University at the time. Before then, there had been student jazz groups led by the late Wayne Nichols as far back as 1960. Some of these earlier jazz ensembles, though very successful, were short lived. Dr. Kidwell, with administrative support, was able to establish the jazz ensemble as an accredited part of the music curriculum.
The very next year (1975) Dr. Kidwell's Jazz Ensemble received top honors at the Wichita Jazz Festival. This festival hosted jazz bands from prominent music schools across the country. From that point on, jazz studies at UCO has grown from one 20 piece jazz ensemble to its current state, which includes Jazz Ensembles 1-5, a Latin Jazz Ensemble, the "Civilized Tribe Dixieland Band", and numerous smaller combos. Since 1975, UCO jazz ensembles, combos, dixieland groups, and individual students have received numerous awards and honors for outstanding performances at events throughout the United States and Europe.
In 2002 the UCO Jazz Lab facility first opened to the public under the direction of long time faculty member, and one of Dr. Kidwell's first star students, Mr. Lee Rucker. Under Rucker's leadership the Jazz Lab has consistently been voted as the top live entertainment venue in Oklahoma for numerous years.
In Fall 2006 Mr. Brian Gorrell, the current UCO Jazz Studies Division Head, was instrumental in finalizing a Master of Music in Jazz Studies with areas of emphasis in Performance and Music Production. Today the Jazz Program at UCO is consistently recognized as the premier jazz program in Oklahoma and is receiving wider national recognition all the time, with multiple performances at European Jazz Festivals, the UNC Jazz Festival, and a performance at the JEN Conference since 2010.
Clint Rohr - Jazz Lab Director
Brian Gorrell -
Jazz Studies Division Head
Jazz Ensemble I
M.M. Jazz Graduate Advisor
The UCO School of Music enriches lives through excellence in teaching and performing. We provide a comprehensive, creative, and personalized educational experience, empowering students to realize their full potential. The School of Music is a division of UCO's College of Fine Arts & Design.