The Littlebirds started in 1990 as part of an education program run by the Yardbird Suite. Gordon Towell was the director of the youth band that met every Saturday morning from 9am to 12 pm.

Gordon’s tenure was short lived as he returned to school to start a doctoral degree. Dean McNeill was the next director of the Littlebirds and perhaps best known for establishing the band as one of western Canada’s finest groups. Dean also heard the call of school and left the band to Jerrold Dubyk who directed the band for 2 years. In the fall of 1998 Craig Brenan took over the band and made a few changes related to rehearsal times. Joel Gray took over as director in 2004, and the Littlebirds continue to flourish and develop, sustaining their high level of musicianship.

The Littlebirds Big Band experience has a profound and lasting impact on the lives of Littlebirds members. Some become music teachers or professional musicians. All are motivated students sharing a love of music. The Littlebirds season includes regular weekly rehearsals from September through May, participation in local Jazz festivals, and occasional participation in the TD Edmonton International Jazz Music Festival.

Are you an aspiring musician aged 14-21?

Auditions will be held on September 12th, 2021, 10 AM – 4 PM

Registration is not required, and you can come whenever is convenient. Please allow 30 minutes for your audition. 

We will be holding auditions for BIG BAND and COMBOS. 

Rehearsal times

BIG BAND: Mondays, 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM (starting September 20th)

COMBO: Wednesdays, 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM (starting September 22nd)

Depending on audition numbers, we may add a second combo, which would also rehearse on Wednesdays.

What you need to know if you play:

Wind players should prepare a solo transcription or song in any jazz style. The selection is your choice and composers to consider are Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, George Gershwin, Wayne Shorter, etc. A copy of the music is required for use by the auditioners. Try to pick a selection that demonstrates your playing ability (style, technique, range — high range for trumpet; low range for bass trombone and bari).

To demonstrate improvisation abilities, wind players will have the option to improvise with Aebersold tracks during the audition. Be ready to play one chorus of Bb Rhythm changes at an medium tempo or two choruses of F blues at a medium tempo. All rhythm section players are expected to improvise as part of the audition process over these two forms.

Bass (upright and electric), Guitar and Piano players should play a jazz classic or standard song in any jazz style. Bass players must walk for 2 choruses minimum. The selection is your choice and composers to consider are Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, George Gershwin, Wayne Shorter, etc. Guitar and piano players must comp for 2 choruses minimum (accompany with chords in appropriate rhythmic style, possibly with light fills at the ends of phrases).

Bass players and guitar players, please bring your own patch cable if you need to use an amplifier.

Drummers need to be ready to play the following time patterns: Fast swing with both sticks and brushes, medium swing with both sticks and brushes, medium jazz waltz with both sticks and brushes, bossa; samba, and afro-cuban 6/8.

Drummers, please bring your own symbols and sticks to your audition.

In addition to prepared selections, there will be sight reading as part of the audition process.

Video submission

If you cannot come out to audition on the 12th, you may submit a video audition. Please email these submission to The deadline for video submissions is Sept 12th, at 4:00PM. 


You must be 14-21 years of age. All members must be fully vaccinated. If you are attending Junior High or High School, you must also be a member of your school band program, if it has one. Attendance at rehearsals is mandatory unless a player has good reason to be absent. Players who miss more than three rehearsals may be asked to resign from the band. Players are responsible for all music and materials furnished to them by the Littlebirds. All players are required to take an active role in selling tickets to their own performances. All rehearsals are at the Yardbird Suite.


For those who are successful, the annual non-refundable membership fee for the big band and combo is $400 for the year, payable at first rehearsal in October.

Sign up for September lessons today

  • Please enter a number from 14 to 21.