The Criterions with guests Xiomara and Axel Laugart
The Criterions is the longest running university jazz band in the country. Originating in the 1920s, they were a student-led ballroom dance band, and provided entertainment for university dances, proms and post-Friday night games. As times changed, the “Crites” became a Faculty-led Jazz Ensemble by the early 1980’s, when the School of Music began Jazz curricula. They are known for their mastery of American popular songs, jazz standards, and the ever-widening canon of improvisatory music for large ensemble.
Led by a fantastic array of students along with academic leaders, the group’s student leadership culminated with Robert ‘Bob’ Curnow in the early 1960’s. Overlapping his time with the band with trombonist Lee Southall, who led the band in 1964. The band’s identity and musical prowess changed greatly. After another sixteen years of high-level student leaders, Lee Southall became the first faculty director of the band.
The Criterions are the centerpiece of the Jazz Studies program at the Wells School of Music. Over the last four decades they have been featured around the country, recorded albums, hosted an array of the greatest improvising artists of our time. Most notably, and proudly, their nearly 100-year history, boasts a strong and dedicated alumni. I hope that the information collected on this site is informative, rewarding and does justice to a very real and storied tradition, that I am proud to continue as the current director of WCU’s Criterions
Director of Jazz Studies