Joan Griffith and Guest

Thanks for your interest in our artists. If you’re ready to book, you can do so now. It’s also possible to modify and customize any of our programming, or enquire about this artist doing a different type of program via our contact page.

HomeArtistsJoan Griffith and Guest

Joan Griffith is known in the Midwest as a teacher, performer and composer. She has toured and recorded extensively as a classical and jazz guitarist, a bassist and a mandolinist. The 2011 CD “A Girl Named Vincent” with Prudence Johnson, the 2008 jazz CD, “Sambanova” with pianist Laura Caviani, her 2009 CD “Alma Brasileira” with recorder player Clea Galhano and CD “Enter You, Enter Love,” with Lucia Newell feature many of her own compositions. “Enter You, Enter Love” was chosen as one of the top ten best recordings for 1996 by jazz radio station KBEM. Her choral composition “Sweet Noel” won the 1998 Christmas Carol Contest sponsored by the American Composer’s Forum and Vocalessence. Her performances on mandolin include the Minnesota Orchestra‘s recording of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and as soloist with the South Dakota Symphony on their premiere recording “Journey to the Badlands”. Her mandolin and bass playing can be heard on the many recording of singer/songwriter Ann Reed. She teaches jazz improvisation, guitar, bass and mandolin at the University of St. Thomas and directs the jazz band at Macalester College. She is the host for KBEM’s show “Talkin’ About Jazz” which will air starting April 2016.

Jazz artists share a world of music by combining their musical expertise with a joy for teaching. Led by Joan Griffith (bass player with a variety of well-known jazz acts), and featuring guest vocalist Ruth MacKenzie or Connie Evingson, step into the world of jazz and improvisation to savor a performance, a workshop, or a full residency.

Program Offerings


What is Jazz?

The goal of our residency, “What is Jazz?” is to create an environment that encourages creative risk-taking and respect for oneself and others through the study of jazz and improvisation. Jazz is the perfect vehicle, because individual improvisation requires risk and courage, and performance requires cooperation and respect.

We begin with an interactive assembly program, giving an historical overview of jazz and a safe and encouraging environment for improvisation. Classroom exercises include: vocal warm-ups using call and response, learning the traditional form of the jazz; students composing their own jazz lyrics and writing a jazz melody; and performing for an audience determined by the school’s schedule.

GUEST ARTIST – Jazz vocalists Ruth MacKenzie or Connie Evingson work with Joan Griffith on selected projects. Issues of time and availability will determine whether it is Ruth or Connie who serves as vocalist for this great jazz duo’s work at your site.


This is Jazz + Master Class

The performance portion features jazz standards, blues, and original compositions. Listen to and then work with three of Minnesota’s finest jazz musicians—Joan, guest vocalist Ruth MacKenzie or Connie Evingson, and guest percussionist Gary Gauger.

Note: Performance limited to 100 students. Master class limited to 20 students.

What is Jazz?

Trace the history of jazz through field songs, spirituals, call and response, scat, rap and jam.  Artists use bass, voice, bells and percussion to introduce vocal and instrumental improvisation. Help them compose an original blues song.

Note: Maximum audience size of 250

An Introduction to PolkaSol!

What happens when three well known Twin Cities musicians decide to learn to play new instruments and then form a group? You get PolkaSol! The musicians – Ann Reed, Joan Griffith and Anita Ruth, who usually play guitar, bass, and piano respectively, have tossed those instruments aside and become a trio playing two accordions and a violin. The repertoire consists of lots of polkas, waltzes and old time songs. The music falls into many categories and genres – Scandinavian, Irish, French, old time, folk and popular to name a few. But what PolkaSol likes best is to sing along with their audience. A very interactive group, PolkaSol encourages its listeners to join in the fun. PolkaSol loves to talk with its audience, share stories and humor. PolkaSol wants to bring a smile and a light to the eyes of those that are present and hopefully bring back memories of other days.  


Jazz Improvisation Master Class

This master class in jazz improvisation is designed for vocal and instrumental music students.

Note: Minimum of two workshops or available in combination with a performance.

Professional Development

Jazz as a Reflection of American History

Help write a blues tune and learn the basic principles of jazz. Develop your classroom improvisation skills. Let Joan and guest vocalist engage you in the exciting process of improvisation. Learn about the unique position of jazz in the melting pot of American culture and how the development of this art form reflects the progression of American history.

Stay Connected

Creative ideas, stories, and news from artists and students across Minnesota, right in your inbox!


COMPAS is an arts education nonprofit that puts creativity in the hands of Minnesotans, regardless of their age, background, or skills. Based in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area, COMPAS teaching artists deliver creative experiences and arts programming across Minnesota.

Minnesota State Arts Board LogoLegacy Amendment Logo

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.