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ACADEMIC PROGRAM SPOTLIGHT
Bachelor of Music Degree with a Jazz Studies concentration
It has often been said that jazz is the quintessential American music, and now the Music Department will have its own degree track that focuses on it.
The track will create a curriculum allowing students to obtain a Bachelor of Music Degree with a Jazz Studies concentration. "I am really excited about the new program and the options that it will give our students," Chair of the GRU Department of Music Dr. Angela Morgan said. "We have some students who are excited about the opportunity." And now that world-renowned musician Wycliffe Gordon is joining the GRU faculty as an artist in residence, it will only add to the impact of the jazz courses, Morgan said.
"He’s going to be spending a lot of time here and working with the students," Morgan said. "And we will have some special performances featuring Gordon and the students."
Currently, the department has a Jazz Ensemble and a Jazz Combo, and has offered several jazz classes, but there was no official degree track in Jazz.
"We have a jazz history and literature class, and a jazz improvisation class, but we are going to be adding a few more classes to round out the track," Morgan said. "These would include courses like jazz pedagogy, jazz arranging and composition, and an advanced jazz improvisation course."
Music Professor Robert Foster has been an advocate for a jazz track and is very excited about the possibilities the new courses will offer.
"I am really excited about the advanced jazz improvisation course, " he said. "Many students haven’t improvised before, so the first course is primarily getting familiar with the basic concepts. Now, with the second course, we can explore and apply more sophisticated ideas."
"It’s like learning a language really," he said. "It’s a unique way of playing; in addition to applying the theoretical concepts, you have to really listen and understand how to interact with others."
Foster also said he is enthusiastic about the jazz pedagogy class.
"This class will examine the entire jazz ensemble and how to get a jazz band to work together, not just your one instrument’s role," he said. "This will give students a more comprehensive understanding of jazz from the teaching perspective. Wycliffe is a great asset to have, as he has experience developing fantastic arrangements and working with professional and student ensembles all around the world."
Foster hopes the track will grow and will one day be a major recruitment angle for the university.
The department hopes to start offering some of the courses this fall in a soft launch, with official approval for the program pending from the National Association of Schools of Music, which should come in early 2015.
"We have some students who are already very excited about the program and we are noticing and uptick in new students who are interested," Morgan said. "We have a number of saxophone and trumpet players who are coming in the fall."