Jazz and Contemporary Music

Jazz and Contemporary Music at Longy puts innovation, imagination, and curiosity at the forefront of its curriculum. Our students study jazz and contemporary music at an advanced level while building the core skills that are essential for 21st century musicians. Structured and non-structured improvisation are learned through the musical idioms of jazz and contemporary improvisation. 

Jazz and Contemporary Music students develop advanced improvisational skills, high technical proficiency, and an understanding of contemporary repertoire that will help them flourish as they launch their careers. 

Incoming students demonstrate extensive experience in either jazz or contemporary improvisation, as well as a strong desire to explore and create in both genres.

Programs Available

Program Highlights

Studio Lessons: Collaboration with a faculty mentor is the cornerstone of conservatory education at Longy. Together you will explore your unique artistic and professional goals while expanding technical and musical insight. The Jazz and Contemporary Music faculty contains some of the finest teachers and performers in the Boston area. Classical instrumental study for one half of the program is still available to students, however, it is not required. Students can instead focus on developing their improvisational skills in jazz and non-idiomatic “free” improvisation.

Master Classes and Seminars: Through workshops, master classes, discussions, and presentations, weekly seminars offer insight regarding interpretation, repertoire, and teaching methods for both improvised and notated music. Performance opportunities are rotated to ensure every student has numerous chances to work with visiting artists and master teachers.

Intersections of American Sonic Practice: History, Aesthetics, Connections (Fall Only): This class will lay the Historical and Aesthetic frameworks, exploring the lives and conditions of the noted Musicians and their Music, delving into the musical, historical and intellectual trends of the past 100 years of American Music, examining the Musical creators who sought (and seek!) to integrate various aspects of American Sonic Practice. Of greatest importance is the uncovering of various connections between Musicians, whether they be personal one-to-one connections or connections across the years forged by shared interests in Music and American culture. Though academically-oriented, classes will not be lectures but rather full of discussion, reflection, and ways for students to explore their own paths.

Intersections of American Sonic Practice: Analysis, Techniques, Tools (Spring Only): This class will musically explore the Historical and Aesthetic frameworks, as students compose, create transcriptions and study scores as they relate to notation, composition, and improvisation. Techniques ranging from simple scales, chords, sets to the more complicated aspects of sonic design and serial and aleatoric processes as a means of understanding the integrative products of the last 100 years in Music. Emphasis will be placed on shaping and creating new possibilities along those lines and forging new directions. Open-ended approaches, such as those put forth in Cogan and Escot's Sonic Design will allow for students to appreciate all aspects of the music, from pitch to rhythm, fonn, timbre, etc. The semester will culminate in a class concert where all the students will be able to compose, conduct, and improvise their way through the materials discussed in MA514, as well as allowing for students to explore their own creative paths.

The Properties of Free Music (Fall Only): This course examines the nonharmony based materials that are consistently used and redefined by improvising musicians. Includes the study of several seminal methodologies, (Unit Structures, Harmolodics, Tri-Axiom Theory and European Free Improvisation), with the focus on how they inform individual and group improvisation. Students will perform in class, compose short pieces—some with text descriptions, and create graphic scores.

Contemporary Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice (Spring Only) Rehearsals emphasize small-group playing and listening, constant instrumental experimentation (combinations as well as new techniques), and the creation of forms and patterns to be followed in performances. Classes will stress listening, analyzing, and responding to notated and improvised works by contemporary composers and performers from 1950 to the present. Introductions to graphic scores, conceptual frameworks, and treatises by composers out of the fluxus, minimalist, post-minimalist, and free improvisation fields will be made. Selfcomposed performance games and structures will be designed by the class. Evaluation of student progress considers participation, the ability to exhibit listening skills (to music and to other ensemble members), and initiative in preparing repertory and designing improvisations. Notated chamber works may be assigned and rehearsed alongside regular improvisation exercises.

Lydian Chromatic Concept: Students examine the behavior of all tonal elements in an objective organization that ultimately embraces all of Western music.

Jazz Analysis: This four-semester sequence examines American art music from both an aesthetic and historical perspective. Individual composers, musicians, and improvisers and their works are discussed in detail. Offered spring semester only, alternate years (Spring 2018, Spring 2020, etc.)

Techniques of Jazz Composition and Arranging: Students compose and arrange music using various techniques, with compositions integrated into various Jazz and Contemporary Music ensembles.

Ensembles: The Jazz and Contemporary Music department offers many performance opportunities, including big band, traditional, experimental/exploratory ensembles, and performance groups that focus on non-structured improvisation. These groups reflect the diverse nature of the department in their broad selection of repertoire. Ensembles include: By-Ear Ensemble, Repertoire Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Latin Ensemble, Free Ensemble, Harmolodic Ensemble, and the Longy Big Band. 

Teaching Artist Program: Required of all students, this two-semester program includes active learning experiences, discussions, foundational readings, and interactive presentations. It culminates in student-designed and student-led musical projects in various community venues throughout the Greater Boston area.

Faculty

Peter Cassino, chair, piano, improvisation, ensembles

Sara Bielanski, voice

Leo Blanco, piano, composition, ensembles

Dave Bryant, ensembles

Peter Evans, composition

Bob Gullotti, drums

Eric Hofbauer, guitar

Greg Hopkins, trumpet, composition

Charlie Kohlhase, ensembles

John Lockwood, upright/electric bass, ensembles

Nando Michelin, ensembles

Ben Schwendener, composition

Stan Strickland, saxophone, flute

Mark Zaleski, saxophone, ensembles

 

In addition to the faculty listed above, Jazz and Contemporary Music students are free to choose a classical instrumental instructor from Longy’s world-class faculty.

A Day in the Life: Rebecca Phillips, Violin

Name: Rebecca Phillips
Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO
Instrument: Violin
Degree program: Master of Music, Jazz and Contemporary Music 
Class: 2017

Describe your ideal career: I would love to have a career that allows me to be both a teacher and a performer. Collabarative music is my passion, and I would be thrilled to perform in both the Classical and Jazz fields. 

Why did you choose to attend Longy? 
I chose to do my graduate work at Longy so that I could study with Laura Bossert and Peter Cassino. They are incredible teachers who continue to inspire and support me every day...

Read more about Rebecca's experience studying Jazz and Contemporary Music at Longy.