NEC’s Jazz Studies faculty teach the art of jazz improvisation with an emphasis on individual creativity and group interaction in small ensemble performance.

Rather than learning a single "correct" way to play, you are encouraged to explore the myriad possibilities in jazz, to discover your own original voice, through a rigorous program of ear training, analysis, and historical study.

Jazz is broadly defined at NEC and experimentation is encouraged. At the same time, it is essential that you master the jazz traditions of swing, melodic improvisation on tonal forms, and instrumental technique and expression in order to be a competent professional who can extend those traditions and function in a variety of musical settings.

As a Jazz Composition major, you work closely with a studio teacher in private lessons and have many opportunities to have your music read, performed, and recorded by large and small jazz composers’ ensembles.

Your experience as a jazz major at NEC will extend beyond the classroom with numerous opportunities to be part of the Boston jazz scene. Clubs like the Lily Pad, Western Front, and Lizard Lounge regularly host NEC jazz groups. Art galleries like Artist at Large Gallery double as open improvisational music spaces that often feature NEC faculty, alumni, and students.

Wayne Shorter at NEC

On October 24, 2009, during celebrations of the 40th anniversary of NEC's jazz studies program, the Wayne Shorter Quartet took to the stage of NEC's Jordan Hall, joining forces with the NEC Philharmonia, conducted by Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Director of Orchestras Hugh Wolff. This video captures their performance of Prometheus Unbound, a reinterpretation of the track Capricorn II from Shorter's 2003 Verve album Alegría.

During this visit, members of Shorter's quartet also gave a masterclass with NEC's Preparatory and Continuing Education jazz students.

Curriculum sampler

Find full course offerings.

  • Development of Long-Term Melodic Memory, Development of Long-Term Harmonic Memory, Film Noir
    — Ran Blake
  • Introduction to Jazz Improvisation, Ear Training
    — Hankus Netsky
  • Development of Personal Style
    — Ran Blake, Anthony Coleman
  • Jazz Repertoire, Jazz Theory
    — John McNeil
  • Development of Rhythmic Skills
    — Jerry Leake
  • Jazz Vocal Traditions
    — Dominique Eade
  • Lydian Chromatic Concepts
    — Ben Schwendener
  • Jazz Composition and Arranging, Topics in Jazz Theory and Analysis
    — Ken Schaphorst
  • Jazz Styles: Free Jazz and the Avant-Garde
    — Allan Chase
  • Jazz Ear Training, Jazz Composition for Performers
    — Frank Carlberg
  • Intervallic Improvisation, Melodic Rhythm, Graduate Improvisation Seminar
    — Jerry Bergonzi

Some well-known NEC alumni in the jazz field

Darcy James Argue, Bruce Barth, Regina Carter, Freddy Cole, Marilyn Crispell, Dave Douglas, Marty Ehrlich, Ricky Ford, Satoko Fujii, Jerome Harris, Fred Hersch, Roger Kellaway, Mat Maneri, Harvey Mason, Andy McGhee, Bill McHenry, John Medeski, Vaughn Monroe, Michael Moore, Hankus Netsky, Noah Preminger, Jamie Saft, George Schuller, Luciana Souza, Chris Speed, Cecil Taylor, Daniel Tepfer, Cuong Vu, Phil Wilson, Bo Winiker, Bernie Worrell, Rachel Z

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