Jazz Studies Graduate Programs

May 05, 2018

Degree programs in jazz studies are available at the master's and doctoral degree levels at institutions across the country. Explore some of these programs, admissions requirements and common coursework.

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Students interested in pursuing a degree in jazz studies can find several Master of Music and PhD programs in the field. These degree programs typically train students in jazz performance with their particular instrument or voice and require recitals and/or ensemble performances. Learn more about these degree programs and some common requirements.

Information for Graduate Degree Programs in Jazz Studies

Master's and doctoral degree programs in jazz studies usually allow students to take courses in their particular areas of interest, but do typically include courses in private instruction, ensemble, research and composition. While the master's degree programs offer a more comprehensive music education, the doctoral degree programs focus more on the students' area of interest and prepare them for positions in academia, research and publishing. Here we discuss some of the common course topics for these degree programs.

Research Materials

Courses in research materials may also include topics in research techniques and music references. These courses are typically in a lecture format and may include a variety of graduate students studying music and not exclusively those in jazz studies. Usually these courses provide students with an introduction to music research and help develop students' technical writing skills.

Jazz Composition/Arranging

Some programs may offer courses in composing as a tutorial course, while other programs may provide a lecture-based course in composition and/or arranging. These courses may be offered at an introductory and advanced level but typically give students a chance to explore the compositional and theoretical methods used to write jazz music. Students in these courses usually analyze pieces of music and may be required to compose their own pieces.

Jazz Improvisation

Courses in jazz improvisation may also be offered at an introductory and advanced level or broken up into courses that focus on small or large jazz ensembles. Students examine the techniques used in improvisation, such as the construction of chord scales. These courses usually analyze pieces of jazz music and jazz solos from the various periods of jazz, like Swing and Bebop.

Music History

It is common for degree programs in jazz studies to require students to take some kind of course in music history, but these courses may specifically look at the history of jazz or explore a variety of music genres for a given time period. Courses focusing on the history of jazz look at how and where the style began to develop and how it has evolved over time. More general music history courses may explore major music developments from America or other parts of the world for a particular time period.

Jazz Ensemble

Typically, students in these programs are required to take at least one instrumental course in jazz ensemble, but other courses for jazz chamber groups or voice ensemble may be available. These courses are typically rehearsals for larger jazz ensembles and include public performances. Students usually play a variety of jazz styles.

Common Entrance Requirements

Master's and doctoral degree programs in jazz studies typically require applicants to complete the required applications and submit a resume/CV and a statement of purpose. Some programs may also require GRE scores, and/or letters of recommendation and placement tests.

Since most programs in jazz studies are performance-based, programs usually have specific audition requirements for applicants. These requirements vary by school and program, but typically require students to submit 3 to 5 selections of contrasting styles in jazz. Based on these selections, some programs may then require live auditions, and some doctoral programs may also require students to submit samples of original jazz compositions.

Master of Music and PhD in Jazz Studies degree programs are available at several different schools in the country. These programs provide students with private and ensemble instruction and typically require multiple performances throughout the program.

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