We have a commitment to teaching jazz as an integral part of the African musical diaspora and, historically, as a place where European, African, and Native American musical and cultural practices flowed together. We also regard the music as evolving, while becoming increasingly socially and culturally diverse. It is also a technologically inclusive art form that should not be frozen in time.
Consequently, our emphasis is on giving our students a strong foundation of basic musical skills, a thorough understanding of the history behind the music, and an emphasis on the individual developing her or his creative process. To this end we combine, theory, history, and technical skills training with a strong improvisational/compositional regimen.
Our goal is to teach students to be the creative artists of the future rather than uncreative repeaters of the past. Our students are notable for the uniqueness of their self-expression and the quality of their original music while at Bard, and we have been gratified to see the exciting work that many of our graduates go on to do after Bard.
Students wishing to study jazz are required to take Jazz Harmony l (a music theory course). If they are planning on specializing in performance, it’s also strongly advised that they take Jazz Improvisation I or II (depending on experience) during their freshman year. Students are also required to take at least one semester of the Sight Reading Workshop, unless they already read music well. Jazz students must be able to sight read to moderate into the upper college. The Contemporary Jazz Composers Ensemble is open to all jazz students who have advanced sight reading and performance skills.
Students who play an instrument are required to take private lessons in conjunction with their course schedule. See the FAQs page for more information.
Moderation and Senior Project
For their Moderation project, most students give a 25- to 40-minute concert of their own music and/or music by other composers; a substantial music history or theory paper written for a class may also be accepted. The Senior Project consists of two concerts of approximately 45 to 60 minutes each. In certain cases a produced recording or a substantial (70 pages) research or analytical paper on an approved topic, overseen by an adviser, may be substituted for one of the two concerts.