Jazz has been an integral part of the University of Northern Iowa School of Music for nearly 50 years. The original band, formed and run by student musicians in the early 1950's, eventually evolved into the UNI Jazz Studies program. This nationally recognized program has grown to include several large and small jazz ensembles as well as a full curriculum of jazz studies courses. Comparing the UNI Jazz Studies program with other programs across the nation, Arts Midwest saluted the UNI program as "one of the best."
The University of Northern Iowa Jazz Band One has a long tradition of award winning recordings with the "Local Color" CD being the 25th release in as many years. Jazz Band One was the winner of 1999 Down Beat Magazine Student Music Performance Award and also recognized in the International Association for Jazz Education Journal with Dr. Herb Wong's International Association for Jazz Education Blue Chip Jazz Award. In January 2000, Down Beat Magazine featured an article entitled, "The Best Jazz CDs of the 90's." In the article, all CDs that received 5- and 4 1/2-star reviews in the 1990s were listed; UNI Jazz Band One was the only university big band to receive two 5-star reviews that year. The group has toured Europe and Asia several times playing at the North Sea Jazz Festival and Montreux Jazz Festival's.