The State Youth Jazz Orchetra Hesse is an ensemble in which a selection of the most talented jazz musicians from all over Hesse play big band jazz together. The band was founded in 1985 by Wolfgang Diefenbach as an educational program. Today it consists of four ensembles: the Kicks & Sticks and Kicks & Sticks Voices and the young ensembles Junior-Band and Junior-Voices. In total, the orchestra has about 70 members. The goal of it is to provide highly talented young musicians with professional big band training at the highest level. For many former members of the band, it has been the springboard for a stellar career in jazz. Thus, they can be found in professional orchestras, almost all radio orchestras, independent well-known bands and in important positions in the music business all over Germany.

The orchestra organizes two orchestra camps each year, during which all four ensembles come together for intensive rehearsals with well-known instructors and a final concert. Additional projects and concerts also take place every year, often with international stars and performances at major festivals. The young musicians have had plenty of opportunities to demonstrate their skills on regular tours abroad. The Kicks & Sticks toured Denmark and Romania in 2019, China in 2018 and Canada in 2017.

So far, 14 CDs have been produced with the formations and a DVD has been made. Since 2020, the orchestra also produces videos for its YouTube Channel.

The bands currently play in the standard big band lineup with five saxophones, four trumpets, four trombones and five members in the rhythm section.

Kicks & Sticks Band

The best up-and-coming jazz musicians have been playing in the big band with Wolfgang Diefenbach as the band leader since 1985. The members of the Kicks & Sticks are around 18-26 years old. The Kicks are the main ensemble of the orchestra and play regular concerts throughout the year, often with international soloists. In the last 35 years they have completed 25 foreign tours, including trips to Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, South America, South Africa, Syria, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Canada and the USA.

The first CD recording of the Kicks & Sticks carrying the same title won the German Record Critics’ Award.

Picture: Viola Riesner

Kicks & Sticks Voices

In 2009 the Kicks & Sticks Voices were founded as a separate ensemble. Together with the Kicks & Sticks they study works for big band with choir or soloists. The Voices also regularly present a cappella titles in their concerts with the band. In 2011, the Voices recorded the “Didn’t We” CD with the band. Especially for this recording, the band was provided with exclusive arrangements of the New York Voices by Darmon Meader after a joint performance at the Rheingau Music Festival. For example, “Didn’t We” features new recordings of Louis Prima’s swing classic “Sing, Sing, Sing” and Stevie Wonder’s hit “Don’t You Worry ’bout a Thing” from Meader’s exclusive arranger’s pen.

Picture: Michael H. Sterzenbach


The Junior Band was newly founded in 2007 and is led by former band member Dr. Holger Fröhlich. The members are approximately between the ages of 12-18 years old. Many members from the Junior Band move on to the Kicks & Sticks Band eventually. The Junior Band regularly participates in educational activities such as the Bandleader Workshop and the Pop and Jazz Camp at the State Music Academy Hesse. In 2017, the Junior Band traveled to Greece for a tour to celebrate its 10th anniversary. In 2018, the band recorded their first album called “Yo Tannenbaum” with the Junior Voices.

Picture: Viola Riesner


The Junior-Voices were founded in 2011 at the same level as the Junior-Band. Even at a young age, they master pieces of professional difficulty and are a rarity in the German youth jazz scene. In addition to singing as a choir, they also appear as soloists and enrich the Junior-Band with their quality and verve.

Picture: Viola Riesner

The State Youth Jazz Orchestra has been funded by the Ministry of Science and Art Hesse since 1990.