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About YJED (Youth Jazz Ensemble of DuPage)

The Youth Jazz Ensemble of DuPage (YJED) was founded by current director Robert Blazek in 1998 to provide the top high school jazz musicians in the 20+ high schools in DuPage County and surrounding areas the opportunity to perform high-level jazz music literature in concert and in an annual studio recording.


Since its founding in 1998, YJED members have had the privilege playing for highly prestigious events and with a number of jazz greats.  Some highlights include:

  • Multiple invitations to participate in the Essentially Ellington Festival in New York City, including selection as the winner of the “Conglomerate Division” and selection as a finalist (receiving "Honorable Mention" status) in different years.

  • Performed with Gordon Goodwin at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago.

  • Performed with Terell Stafford at the Illinois Music Educators Association Convention

  • Performed and recorded with other jazz pros including Roger Ingram, Victor Goines, Wycliffe Gordon, Orbert Davis, Steve Weist, Clay Jenkins, Mark Colby, Rob Parton, and Bob Lark.

Auditions are held in October for membership in YJED, to identify band members who can perform challenging professional-level jazz music literature at a high level. The band rehearses weekly to prepare music for two concerts, a studio recording session, and other performance opportunities. Through the year, they will also work with respected jazz performers and clinicians in rehearsal and performance. 


By the end of the year, they will have grown musically as they have been challenged to rise up to the level of difficult and important jazz literature, other top high school jazz musicians, and jazz pros they performed with.  And in doing so, YJED not only supports the high-school musician, but also their high school (which benefits from their growth) and the jazz community (with the potential next generation of players and jazz enthusiasts).  

About YJED Director and Founder Robert Blazek

Robert is a 1980 graduate of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where he performed with
the 2 O’clock Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Ron Modell. He earned his M.M.ed.
in 1988 from VanderCook College of Music. He was privileged to study clarinet from
Clark Brody, Larry Combs, J. David Harris and Stan Davis, as well as conducting from
Margaret Hillis (Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chorus) and Seiji Ozawa. He has performed
with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Sir Georg Solti and Seiji Ozawa as well as
the Grant Park Symphony.


For 22 years he was Director of Bands at Monroe Middle School in Wheaton. While at
Monroe Middle School his bands qualified for the I.G.S.M.A. State Festival each of those 22 years, achieved Division I Concert Band ratings at State Competition 20 years, achieved Division I
Jazz Band ratings each of the 22 years (12 of those years with a second jazz band as well).
Robert hosted I.G.S.M.A. District VII /State Jazz contests for 10 years and Solo and Ensemble Contests three times.  He served as I.M.E.A. Jazz Chair for District 9 for 5 years. Under
his direction the Monroe Concert Band performed at the 2010 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago.


He is the Director of Music at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Crystal Lake.  Robert lives in Huntley with his wife Cheri.

Mr Blazek in action.jpg

About the YJED Mission

The Youth Jazz Ensemble of DuPage (YJED) is a non-profit 501 (c) founded in 1999 by Robert Blazek. Our mission is to assemble, by audition the top high school jazz talent in the DuPage
and surrounding areas and combine their skills in the performance of jazz music literature.
YJED creates the opportunity to work with professional studio musicians as well as college professors in the Chicagoland area. These masters in the jazz field share their talent through rehearsal clinics, concert performances, and our yearly studio recording projects. Through
these experiences, YJED students gain the love and tradition for America's own great music - jazz.

About the YJED Board of Directors

Robert Blazek          President

Cheri Blazek            Vice President

Judi Jenz                 Treasurer

Mark Alder               Board Member

Jeff Novak               Board Member

Mike Klos                 Board Member


Click album covers to hear or buy via

2023: Robert Blazek, Director.

Guest artists Roger Ingram,
Matt Shevitz

2022: Robert Blazek, Director.

Guest artist Kirk Garrison


2019: Robert Blazek, Director.

Guest artists Bob Lark, Mark Colby, Tim Coffman, Rick Haydon

YJED Album Cover Front FINAL 2.png

2018: Robert Blazek, Director

Guest artists Dave Katz, Rich Moore

2017-18 YJED Album Cover b.jpg

2017: Robert Blazek, Director

Guest artist Tim Coffman

Selected earlier discography

2015: George Andrikokus,

Director; Guest artists Art Davis, Mark Colby

2016: Robert Blazek, Director

Guest artists Mark Colby,

Art Davis

2014: George Andrikokus, Director

Guest artists Mark Colby,

Robert Blazek, Donnie Sujack,

Eric Morong

2013: George

Andrikokus, Director

Guest artist Mark Colby

2009: Doug Stone, Director

Guest artist Jeff Campbell

2008: Robert Blazek, Director

Guest artists Terell Stafford,
Bob Lark

2007: Robert Blazek, Director

Guest artists Wycliffe Gordon,
Jim Pugh

2006: Robert Blazek, Director

Guest artists Mark Colby,
Kirk Garrison

2005: Robert Blazek, Director

Guest artists Clay Jenkins,
Steve Wiest

2004: Robert Blazek, Director

Guest artists Tim Coffman,
Mark Colby, Kristy Parton,

Rob Parton, Doug Beach

2003: Robert Blazek, Director

Guest artist Terell Stafford

2002: Robert Blazek, Director

Guest artists Ruben Alvarez, Mark Colby

2001: Robert Blazek, Director

Guest artists Ron Carter,

Bob Lark

2000: Robert Blazek, Director

Guest artists Antonio Garcia,
Mark Colby

1999: Robert Blazek, Director

Guest artists Rob Parton,
Mark Colby

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