About DCA Jazz

In 2004, Christopher Dorsey began building the Jazz Program at Dillard Center for the Arts in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The band’s skill, style and swing has earned them First Place at Essentially Ellington in 2011, 2012 and 2018 and First Place at Swing Central in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

 DCA JAZZ Band students are active in the FMEA District
and All-State Festivals. Students actively participate in various instrumental honors ensemble festivals throughout the state.

Christopher Dorsey​

Director of Jazz and Contemporary Music Studies Dillard Center for the Arts
Fort Lauderdale, FL

Mr. Dorsey received his Bachelor of Music Education from Jackson State University (1983) and his M. S. of Education – 
Instrumental Music from the University of Florida (1986).

Christopher has taught for more than 34 years at various schools in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. His intent is to give students the opportunity to compete with other high school programs on a State and National level and provide opportunities for students to pursue careers in music. His main mission is to teach life skills through the music.

All of Dorsey’s bands: Jazz, Orchestra and Concert, have received Superior Ratings on the District and State levels for more than 34 consecutive years. Students in all of Mr. Dorsey’s programs, past and present, have been accepted to the finest colleges, universities and conservatories in the US, often with generous scholarships.

Since 2004, Christopher Dorsey, Director of Jazz and Contemporary Music Studies, has developed the Jazz Program at Dillard Center for the Arts into one of the premier high school jazz programs in the country. Over the years, the program has developed from one to three jazz bands and they have reached a level of skill, style and swing that has earned the program a strong national presence.

The DCA Jazz Ensemble, under Mr. Dorsey’s direction, has accomplished some of the following:

  • Finalists of the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019) with performances at Lincoln Center in New York City with world renowned jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis in 2011, 2012 and 2018 as First Place winners.
  • Featured band for the Annual Cannonball Adderley Birthday Concert & Celebration, which takes place each September.
  • DCA Jazz Ensemble performed w/special guest Dr. Ron McCurdy in Ask Your Mama – 12 Moods for Jazz. (The Langston Hughes Project). This performance was April 16, 2016 and was a multimedia concert performance of Langston Hughes kaleidoscopic jazz poem suite which featured the Ron McCurdy Quartet.
  • January 8, 2020 – President’s Concert – Florida Music Educators Conference – Tampa, FL 
  • December 19, 2019 performance at the 73rd Annual Midwest Clinic, an International Band and Orchestra Conference – Chicago, IL.
  • December 20, 2013 performance at the 67th Annual Midwest Clinic, an International Band and Orchestra Conference – Chicago, IL.
  • Performed with Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director of Jazz @ Lincoln Center, at the 66th Annual Midwest Clinic, an International Band and Orchestra Conference – Chicago, IL – December 20, 2012.
  • The 2012, 2011 & 2010 winners of the Swing Central Jazz Competition and Workshop in Savannah, GA.
  • Several jazz band members selected for participation in Grammy Band, Jazz Band of America, Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, All State Jazz Band and All County Jazz Band.
  • DCA Jazz graduates on scholarships to Manhattan School of Music, The Juilliard School, New School of Jazz, University of Miami, Michigan State University and Florida State University.
  • Scholarship winners of the Gold Coast Jazz Society (Jeanette M. Russell Scholarship) attended various jazz workshops i. e.: Vail Jazz Workshop, Brubeck Summer Jazz Colony, Centrum Jazz Workshop, Stanford University, Michigan State University, Aebersold Jazz Camp and the Apprentices in Jazz Workshop.
  • Each year, Chris is pleased to have numerous students participate in the All County Jazz Band and All State Jazz Bands.

The Ensemble has also worked with several well-known and respected artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Lou Donaldson, Rodney Whitaker, Willerm Delisfort, Marquis Hill, Ron Carter, Jeff Clayton, Vincent Gardner, Wycliffe Gordon, Marcus Printup, Victor Goines, Chris Crenshaw, Walter Blanding, John Clayton, Gerald Clayton, Ali Jackson, Ted Nash, Brubeck Brothers, Negroni’s Trio, Chico Hamilton, Sean Jones, John Faddis, Nicole Henry, Louis Hayes and Nestor Torres.

Prior to assuming his position at Dillard Center for the Arts (DCA), Chris was a successful educator at Miami Northwestern Senior High School in Miami, Florida. He served as the Fine Arts Department Chairman and Director of the Jazz, Concert, Symphonic and the Mighty Marching Bulls Bands from 1996 to 2004.

Under his direction, the Mighty Marching Bulls and the Symphonic Bands rated Superior five out of eight years. The Jazz Band rated Superior, eight consecutive years on the District level and seven years on the State level. The Northwestern bands received performance awards at the IAJE and Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic conferences in 2001.

Chris has similar success with middle school students. Amid the turmoil and devastation from Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Mr. Dorsey was invited to become the Director of Bands – Beginning, Concert, Jazz and Symphonic Bands at Homestead Middle School. From 1992 to 1993, the Jazz and Concert Bands received straight Superiors. His success continued at John F. Kennedy Middle School, where under his tutelage, the Jazz and Concert Bands received straight Superiors three consecutive years.

Chris continuously inspires, motivates and teaches his students a love for music that can evoke the emotions of the listener. “My career in music education started at Little River Elementary School. The experience I have gained working with children of all age groups, has prepared me to instruct and develop any student to strive to reach their potential.”

Mr. Dorsey is an accomplished musician and has performed with jazz greats such as Nat Adderley, Al Grey, Slide Hampton, Lionel Hampton and the Roland Burnes Quintet. As a featured trombonist, Chris toured extensively through Europe with the off-Broadway production of “Ain’t Misbehavin” and worked with Dionne Warwick and Melton Mustafa.

Chris is an active member of FBA, FOA, NAfME, and FMEA. He is an FBA Certified Adjudicator and has been called upon to adjudicate for Music Performance Assessment Evaluations throughout the state.

In addition to his teaching, Christopher has served as the Conductor of the Miami Wind Symphony Jazz Ensemble, the MMEA NE District 2019 Senior Honors Jazz Band, the GMEA District 8 2016 High School Honors Jazz Band and the 2016 Volusia County Honors Jazz Band. Chris has also served as Guest Conductor for the Broward County’s Honors Jazz Band in 2002 and the Miami-Dade County’s Honors Jazz Band in 1999.

Mr. Dorsey and the band are featured in “Sweet Dillard”, a documentary which chronicled the 2014 school year of the DCA Jazz Ensemble from the first day of class to their participation in the Essentially Ellington jazz competition in May 2015.  This documentary has aired on PBS stations nationwide and was premiered at the 33rd Miami International Film Festival, March 2016.


Professionally, Dorsey is a highly sought-after Adjudicator and Clinician. Chris regularly serves as an adjudicator for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Essentially Ellington Regional Festivals, held throughout the US. In 2017, Chris was nominated and won Arts Teacher of the Year – ArtsEd Forever! The Arts Teacher of the Year Award was created by the Broward County Cultural Division and Council in 1985 to recognize and honor a significant arts teacher in the Broward County Public Schools. Chris received an award for the 2017 Outstanding School Arts Education Professional from the Florida Alliance for Arts Education and Teacher of the year – Dillard Center for the Arts – October 2016.

DCA Jazz Ensemble I

The DCA Jazz Ensemble I is a group of advanced music students who uphold a long tradition of excellence in Big Band Jazz. Under the direction of Christopher Dorsey, dedicated teacher and accomplished jazz artist, the band is considered one of the nation’s top high-school jazz bands.

The band is open to students in grades 9-12. Auditions are mandatory. Students enroll in a class that meets daily and attend extra rehearsals as required.

The program is dedicated to the development of each student’s knowledge and artistic excellence in jazz. A variety of instructional and performance opportunities prepares students either for advanced musical study or instills an appreciation for the arts in those who choose other careers. Students’ progress and growth is directly proportional to the amount of time spent with their discipline. Inasmuch as the Mr. Dorsey considers it a privilege to teach gifted and motivated students, it is reasonable to expect certain work ethics and behaviors from the talented students with whom he works.

All lower level DCA music students are required to take 2 credits of performance class and 1 credit of technique or music theory each year. All upper level students are required to take 2 credits of performance class each year with additional requirements determined by teachers based on the student’s Jury Performance at the end of the second year.m

DCA Jazz Ensembles 2 and 3

DCA Jazz Ensembles provide an excellent transition for middle school musicians interested in jazz performance. These bands allow students to hone their technical skills and learn to explore and express their musical creativity. The students work on fundamentals such as tone, technique, intonation, expression and rhythm.