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SJA Mission Statement: Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Summer Jazz Academy is dedicated to providing the foundation for talented and aspiring high school Jazz musicians a holistic educational experience.  Through improvisation we will teach personal confidence, through swing we will teach good manners and team work, through the blues we will encourage emotional depth and determined optimism.  

“Nothing was learned better from being learned quickly!”

Students will be provided:

  • Insight to American vernacular music and jazz specific techniques
  • Understanding of jazz through the philosophical lens of the great ensembles and performers
  • Introduction to the communal history of jazz in a socio-political context
  • Guidance on how to interact with an audience as an artist and entertainer
  • Awareness of our mission as jazz musicians today building on the aspirations laid by earlier generations

Teaching Objectives:

  • Redefine virtuosity by emphasizing the most communicative aspects of our music
  • Melody from its vernacular roots
  • Expressive tone in the tradition of the great instrumentalists
  • The primacy of the swing rhythm, with an emphasis on dance-ability and how to construct grooves in the African and Latin tradition
  • Rhythm and harmony as time and space
  • How to construct solos in the context of form and how to help the audience hear the form
  • Three ways of approaching harmony:
    • The sound of each note in a chord including extension
    • The sound of common notes that can be played through a chord progression
    • The sound of progression through different keys
    • Importance of singing


Instructional classes:

Big Band: Ensembles will explore a selected repertoire from the large ensemble works of Duke Ellington, Benny Carter, Mary Lou Williams, Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman, to the pieces we write today.

Combo and the Art of the Small Ensemble: Combos will study and perform music of all eras.  Students will be able to play together in less formal settings, but be provided a training ground around the format and value of this time honored jazz tradition.   

Performance Workshop: An advanced course that discusses and demonstrates specific techniques of any given style including solo learning with analysis of texture, form, and meaning.  Taught by listening, asking questions that require deeper knowledge and playing.

History:  A daily survey of the artists and recordings of the works being addressed in both large and small ensembles, their placement and significance in national and international contexts, and their position in the cannon of jazz.   

Aesthetics:  Jazz aesthetics and culture in the socio-political context through the writings of Albert Murray, Ralph Ellison and Martin Williams.  Student will be assigned readings before the start of the program and will address the concept of the blues as a cultural and social phenomenon and will be expected to understand the retro development is an important part of cultivating artistry. 

Private Lessons: Lessons will focus on instrumental pedagogy from a foundational and jazz standpoint. All aspects of technique will be covered with an emphasis on breathing, tone, attack, flexibility, velocity, range, phrasing, control, special effects, reading, and expressing different emotions.

*Classes are completely dependent upon student criticism. Through the promotion of honesty, learning to critique and be critiqued provides an open forum for evaluative and reflective discussion.