Jazz and Improvisation: Modern American Music

Modern American Music (MAM) at Longy offers an advanced program in the performance of modern and contemporary musical styles.

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

Incoming students demonstrate extensive experience in either jazz or contemporary European styles (classical), 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 Modern American Music (MAM) jazz faculty contains some of the finest teachers and performers in the Boston area, and the classical faculty boasts an array of active performers in the contemporary music scene. Individual instruction focuses on both written and improvised works with one of the two major American traditions emphasized, depending on the individual's interests and needs. In most cases, one year of private instruction is devoted to jazz improvisation and performance, and one year to modern American classical music. However, students may elect to study both simultaneously.

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.

George Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization: Students examine the behavior of all tonal elements in an objective organization that ultimately embraces all of Western music.

Jazz Analysis – the Composed and the Spontaneous: Through analyzing 90 years of jazz performances, students investigate the intersection of composition and extemporization that contributes to jazz.

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

Ensembles: The MAM department offers many performance opportunities, including big band, traditional, experimental/explorational, and Latin jazz ensembles. These groups reflect the diverse nature of the department in their broad selection of repertoire. 

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.


Peter Cassino, chair

African-American Musical Tradition

Leo Blanco, piano, composition, ensembles

Dave Bryant, ensembles

Peter Cassino, piano, improvisation, ensembles

Jeff Galindo, trombone, ensembles

Bob Gullotti, drums

Greg Hopkins, trumpet, composition

Charlie Kohlhase, ensembles

John Lockwood, bass, ensembles

Nando Michelin, ensembles

Joe Morris, guitar, ensembles

Ben Schwendener, theory

Timo Shanko, saxophone

Stan Strickland, saxophone, flute

Mark Zaleski, saxophone, ensembles

European-American Musical Tradition

Laura Bossert, violin, viola

Pascale Delache-Feldman, double bass

Marco Granados, flute

Robert Honeysucker, voice

Terry King, cello

Robert Merfeld, piano

Vanessa Breault Mulvey, flute

Kenneth Radnofsky, saxophone

Sylvie Zakarian, percussion 

Literature and Materials

Peter Evans

A Day in the Life: Rebecca Phillips, MAM, Violin

Name: Rebecca Phillips
Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO
Instrument: Violin
Degree program: Master of Music, Modern American Music 
Expected graduation: Spring, 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 Modern American Music at Longy.