Masters Thesis

A jazz-based beginning band improvisation curriculum

Although aural learning and improvisation of music have been fundamental components of music learning theories for at least two hundred years, published resources for beginning instrumentalists usually take a notation-first approach. An analysis of popular beginning band method books published in the last six years further reveals an emphasis on the teaching of techniques necessary to play music in the Western classical tradition, an emphasis which might influence instrumental teachers' values and teaching approaches. An alternative approach in beginning instrumental music instruction emphasizes improvisation and the development of music listening and speaking vocabularies prior to the development of music literacy. Jazz offers an ideal medium for this exploration, as improvisation is integral to this art form, and it is a genre outside of the Western Classical tradition. The call to incorporate improvisation and jazz into the beginning instrumental curriculum will necessitate the revision of current curricula, the adoption of new learning goals, and the development of additional teaching strategies. This project aims to help fill this void and to make improvisation and jazz available to all instrumentalists through the creation of a jazz-based beginning band improvisation curriculum unit for grades 5 through 8. The unit that is the content of Chapter Four of the project meets the National Standards for Arts Education improvisation content standard and can be taught within the typical time constraints of beginning instrumental instruction in a school setting.