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The Casper College Kinser Jazz Festival exists to provide world-class jazz and jazz education to the current and future generations of musicians in the Rocky Mountain Region. Our focus is to present authentic jazz performances by artists of the highest caliber and to offer a variety of educational experiences for jazz ensembles, their directors, and the public at large.

Casper College is an institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Music.


Festival named in honor of respected instructor and jazz promoter: Dr. Thomas Kinser

The Casper College Kinser Jazz Festival is named for the late Dr. Thomas Kinser, who founded the festival and promoted jazz as a standard component of music study in Wyoming. In 1967, the festival hosted three ensembles. Today, the festival has grown to accommodate more than 50 vocal and instrumental ensembles, with regional junior high schools, middle schools, and high schools participating. It appropriately serves Casper College students, regional public schools, and other supporting organizations.

The main goal of the Kinser Jazz Festival is to educate Wyoming music students. This is accomplished in a variety of settings. Renowned jazz adjudicators listen and evaluate each student ensemble. The clinicians provide written critiques, a rating, and a work session where they strive to improve the students’ performances. Regularly scheduled seminars, workshops, and performances are offered to expose the students to even more quality jazz. Finally, an evening concert featuring some of the finest artists in the jazz industry culminates the festival activities. In past years, jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie, Betty Carter, the Count Basie Orchestra, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Ellis Marsalis, Clark Terry and others have performed.

The Casper College jazz program has a strong tradition of excellence. The comprehensive program includes courses in jazz improvisation and jazz history, and performing groups such as the Casper College Jazz Ensemble, Casper College Jazz Combos, and the Casper College Contemporary Singers. The core of the curriculum is the jazz improvisation course, which has its roots in traditional music theory, while studying and exploring the styles and practices of modern jazz improvisation. The festival greatly augments the Casper College jazz program, and provides the students listening opportunities rarely found in the area.

We’re an Essentially Ellington Regional Festival

Casper College is the only school in the mountain west region to offer Essentially Ellington workshops.

The Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program (EE) is unique among educational resources for high school jazz bands. Each year, Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) transcribes, publishes, and distributes charts by Duke Ellington and other seminal big band composers and arrangers, along with additional educational materials to bands in the U.S., Canada and American schools abroad. Beyond providing these charts, EE also supports its members throughout the school year with a variety of initiatives including teaching guides, the Essentially Ellington website, newsletters, a student composition contest, and professional feedback of student performances of the charts. Schools that join the program are eligible for participation in noncompetitive regional festivals and also have the option to submit recordings for the national Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival held annually in New York City at Frederick P. Rose Hall, the home of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Fifteen bands are selected as finalists and, to prepare, each finalist band receives an in-school workshop in their community led by a JALC clinician. The Competition & Festival culminates in a three-day festival in May for the finalist bands, including workshops, rehearsals, jam sessions, and performances. The three top-placing bands perform an evening concert with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Since 1995, over 846,000 students have participated in Essentially Ellington. To date, more than 280,000 copies of 150 previously unavailable scores have been distributed to more than 5,300 schools internationally. In 2006, Essentially Ellington piloted noncompetitive, education-focused Regional festivals in an effort to reach more bands and provide the opportunity to perform Ellington’s music and receive professional feedback from JALC clinicians and other jazz professionals in their own backyard.

Founding leadership support for Essentially Ellington is provided by The Jack and Susan Rudin Educational and Scholarship Fund. Major support is provided by Jessica and Natan Bibliowicz, Alfred and Gail Engelberg, Casey Lipscomb, Dr. J. Douglas White and the King-White Family Foundation, Augustine Foundation, Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation, and the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, Bloomberg, Con Edison, Entergy, and United Airlines.


Dr. Joshua R. Mietz is currently the Instructor of Woodwinds, Jazz Ensemble 1, and concurrently serves as the Executive Director of Kinser Jazz Festival at Casper College.

Prior to arriving at Casper College, Mietz served as the Instructor of Clarinet at Fort Lewis and San Juan Colleges, the Instructor of saxophone at San Juan College, as well as the Director of Choirs at the First United Methodist Church in Durango, Colorado (2011-2014). He also coached and arranged music for a clarinet choir comprised of Fort Lewis College Students and area clarinetists.  His arrangements vary from rock/pop, church hymns for weekly worship, and re-orchestrations of large-scale works. The clarinet choir from Fort Lewis College performed Mietz’s arrangement of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 1 at the 2014 International Clarinet Association’s annual ClarinetFest in Baton Rouge.

In his spare time, Mietz enjoys ultra-marathon running, vegan cooking, mountaineering and is a member of Lancaster 54 AF & AM and fly-fishing.  He has finished the Bighorn 100, Hardrock 100, the Leadville Trail 100, and qualified for the Boston Marathon six times. At the time of this writing, he has run to the summit of 9 of the 54 Colorado 14-ers. He would also like to give a recital on a summit above 14,000’ and is looking for collaborators up to the challenge.

Dr. Zachary Vreeman

In the fall of 2013, Dr. Zach Vreeman joined the faculty of Casper College as Director of Choral Activities, where he conducts the Collegiate Chorale, Men’s and Women’s Choirs, and the Casper College Contemporary Singers. Before coming to Casper, he served as the Assistant Choir Director at the University of Wyoming. He earned a D.M.A. in choral conducting from the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, where he studied conducting with Peter Eklund and Therees Hibbard.

As a conductor, Vreeman has directed a wide variety of both choral and instrumental ensembles at all levels, including school choral ensembles from elementary to college, and bands and orchestras at the secondary level, as well as community and church ensembles. He appears frequently as a clinician and adjudicator throughout the country, but has also sung professionally with ensembles, including the Anchorage Concert Chorus and Chorale, Anchorage Opera, and most recently with the new Colorado Bach Ensemble and Abendmusik in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Larry Burger

Burger has a linage of audio production ranging from studio recordings, live sound venues, broadcast experience, and  producing radio shows for weekly radio broadcasts featuring interviews and live musical guests.

He gained experience working in broadcast trucks for regional and national presentations.

Burger has performed live sound engineering forcConcerts from jazz greats, concert bands, rock bands and percussion performances. Burger  is the Sound Design Instructor at Casper College.

As an innovator of Digital mixing and Computer Controlled sound systems. Burger is a system design expert from manual operation to sophisticated intelligent automation consoles. Working across the nation and Morocco, Barcelona, and Monaco.

Cynthia Harrison (B.F.A. in Communication Arts in communication from the College of Visual Arts, M.F.A. in Graphic Design from the University of Minnesota) until moving to Casper in 2014 she had been an art director in the Twin Cities since 1994 where she designed national point-of-purchase promotions for got milk?/Milk Mustache; designed collateral materials for licensors such as Disney, Warner Bros., Rugrats, NHL, NBA and MLB while specializing in direct marking and promotions. She has a passion for teaching the applications, principles and theories of graphic design. Harrison currently teaches the graphic design curriculum as well as 2D Foundations.

Professor Harrison is also involved in campus committees such as the Jazz Festival Committee and has supported the art club as an advisor, traveling with students for art enrichment. For the Visual Arts Department, she is responsible for a database of incoming student work that is critical to our assessment plan. In addition, students in the graphic design area have been awarded design work through course poster and logo competitions and have interned at local design agencies. Harrison has also been active in travel aboard opportunities such as through a seminar in France and as a teaching exchange partner with a professor in the Netherlands.

Previous Directors

1967-1987: Thomas Kinser
1988-2001: Tracy Pfau
2002-2009: Robert Kleinschmidt
2010-2014: Jerome Fleg
2015-Present: Joshua R. Mietz

Supported in part by a grant from the Wyoming Arts Council, through funding from the Wyoming State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.