Call for Participation: Engaging Students through Jazz

Call for Participation: Engaging Students through Jazz

The Jazz Interest Group’s Pedagogy Committee would like to announce a special project with Engaging Students that will bring together essays that explore how the jazz mindset might enrich music theory training: “Engaging Students through Jazz.”

A common observation made by music theory teachers is that students with jazz experience are among the most knowledgeable and proficient in their classrooms. This is likely due to a number of factors: the real-time demands of improvisation require total command of many of the theoretical concepts taught in theory curricula as well as attention towards using those concepts creatively in service of developing an individual language; the tradition of the composer/performer in jazz makes the understanding of music theory more immediate for students, whether or not they self-identify as composers; and jazz pedagogy has developed a method of training focused on the practical aspects of performing that results in theoretical concepts being more strongly rooted in students’ fingers and ears. At a moment when teachers of music theory are contemplating more effective and inclusive ways of teaching, jazz has much to offer.

The membership of the Society for Music Theory’s Jazz Interest Group has long been exploring ways jazz music and training might broadly benefit theory curricula. We believe that by bringing a “jazz mindset” ― the complex of pedagogical orientation, practical application, and creative values that animate jazz practice ― to the core music theory classroom we can not only get students creatively engaged with notions of making music in real time (as well as introduce students to a musical style outside the Western canon), but can also strengthen their knowledge of and skills in common-practice styles.

In service of these goals, we solicit 500-word proposals on any topic relating to using jazz in theory classrooms. Topics to consider might include:

  • Jazz repertoire used to demonstrate theoretical concepts, particularly when used in ways that highlight the distinctive use of that concept in differing musical styles
  • Applications of jazz improvisation to music theory curricula
  • Demonstrations of jazz pedagogical methods (e.g. chord-scale theory, guide-tone lines, the ii-V-I harmonic schema) that might be applied profitably to non-jazz styles
  • Ways of using common jazz chord progressions (e.g. blues, “I Got Rhythm”) in theory classrooms
  • How form works differently in jazz and common-practice music
  • Applications of schema theory to jazz
  • How reharmonization techniques can extend tonal harmony
  • Ways of using chord symbols as an analytical tool
  • Teaching students to perform from a lead sheet, and the strengths and weaknesses of this practice in relation to figured-bass realization
  • Explorations of expressive micro-timing, such as swing, as an integral musicianship topic

We encourage authors to consider what the intersection between jazz and common-practice styles and theories reveals about those styles and theories, how underlying assumptions inherent in them might be exposed by their juxtaposition. Our ultimate goal is to show readers that jazz should not merely be tacked on to existing pedagogical approaches to music theory, but rather that a curriculum imbued with the jazz mindset can train students more comprehensively and deeply, benefiting students’ study of all music.

500-word abstracts are due by February 1, 2016. Using the open and collaborative process pioneered by Engaging Students, the editorial board will review these abstracts and offer feedback to shape the full articles, which will be due May 2, 2016. In keeping with the format of Engaging Students, the final submissions should be short essays of 1500–2500 words. Questions and submissions should be sent to