Jazz Performance


Numerous Jazz ensembles on campus include Afro-Cuban Ensemble, Jazz Combos and Vocal Jazz, among others. View additional descriptions for ensembles.

Your Mentors

Modirzadeh playing the saxophone; photographer: Walter Wagner

Hafez Modirzadeh

Hafez Modirzadeh (Ph.D., 1992) focuses on creative and cross-cultural music, as well as jazz and ethnomusicology. Both an NEA Jazz Fellow and Senior Fulbright Scholar, his Grammy-nominated work on saxophones can be heard on Pi Recordings, while his published research can be found in Black Music Research, Leonardo, Critical Studies in Improvisation and Popular Music Studies. Composition grants include the MAPfund and Copeland, while other faculty positions include BANFF (Canada) and the California Jazz Conservatory. Email: hafezmo@sfsu.edu

Headshot for Dianthe Spencer, a Black woman with long hair smiling at the camera. The photograph is black-and-white.

Dianthe Spencer

Dianthe Spencer is a Professor of Jazz and Musical Theatre at San Francisco State University. She received her B.S. from Florida A&M; M.M. at Washington University in St. Louis; and EdD., University of San Francisco.  Dee founded the Jazz Studies degree program in the School of Music at SFSU and served as director for five years. Her latest recording “Tranquility” was released in 2018.  She is an Annual Screener for the GRAMMYs Music Awards. Her former students include recording artists/producers, Braxton Brothers, BEYONCE’S music director, saxophonist Tia Fuller, and LAUREN HILL’S music director, saxophonist Howard Wiley. Email: dspencer@sfsu.edu

Michael Zisman

Michael Zisman

For the last 28 years, bassist Michael Zisman has been performing with jazz stars such as Harold Mabern, Cecil Payne, George Coleman, David "Fathead" Newman, Ernestine Anderson, James Williams, Eric Alexander, Dena DeRose and many others. Michael previously served as the Artistic and Education Director of the Stanford Jazz Workshop and Festival, and is the creator of “The Real Easy Book” as well as co-author of “Walking Bassics”, all published by Sher Music. Michael has been an adjunct faculty at SF State teaching jazz courses since 2007. Email: mzisman@sfsu.edu



James Witzel

James Witzel

Jazz guitar instructor at San Francisco State University since 1994. Performing as leader and sideman (locally, nationally, internationally); composer/arranger and recording artist. Email: jwitzel@sfsu.edu