Private Lessons | Jazz | Contemporary Improvisation (CI)

Private Lessons—Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation


Private instruction is the foundation of a sound musical education. At NEC Prep, the depth and expertise of our faculty assure a great match for our students' individual needs. Private lessons of 30, 45, and 60 minutes are offered for students of all levels (including beginners!). Prospective jazzand brass students must set up an audition or placement interview with their respective department chair or coordinator, who will advise each student personally regarding an appropriate studio teacher placement and path of study. For information on teacher placement interviews and scheduling an appointment for Jazz or CI, please contact the Prep office.

For information on how to get started, please click here. Private lessons can begin at any time during the school year.


David Zoffer, Jazz Department Chair

The Preparatory School jazz program develops skills necessary for understanding the jazz tradition of improvisation. Repertoire studied will include classic and contemporary jazz literature as well as its African and European roots. Classes will involve ear training, composing, writing, singing, and playing of materials.

Students in our Jazz program participate in all or a combination of the below offerings.

Audition and Placement Information

To sign up for a Jazz placement audition (jazz ensemble, classes, or private lessons), please fill out an audition sign-up form by clicking here.

Both new and returning jazz students must also complete an admission form by clicking hereCompletion of this form does not constitute registration or payment. If you have already registered, you must still fill out this form in order to get placed in the jazz course schedule.

For more information on how to audition for our Jazz program (with the exception of YJO), click here.

For information on how to audition for YJO, click here.

Contemporary Improvisation (CI)

Lautaro Mantilla, Chair

CI is for everyone, whether you are a classical performer, a traditional jazz musician, a songwriter, a singer-along-with-the-radio, a brand new instrumentalist. You can immerse yourself completely in CI or enhance your other performance studies by joining an ensemble or taking individual lessons with our diverse faculty. In addition, the CI department will help you develop other important skills: getting comfortable on stage, communicating with audiences, teaching, organizing concerts and community events, like barn dances, jam sessions, or improvisational the CI department, the possibilities are endless!

What does the music of all these folks have in common: Nina Simone, Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, Ornette Coleman, Carla Kihlstedt, Gilles Apap, Aoife O’Donovan, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Gustav Mahler, Ran Blake, John Zorn, Astor Piazzola, Stevie Wonder, the Dirty Projectors, Thelonious Monk, Gunther Schuller...come find out in CI!

Classes and Ensembles

Introduction to Contemporary Improvisation (Ages 7-11)

Lautaro Mantilla, Instructor

With a number of different exercies and methodologies, young musicians will learn how to improvise and how to develop their musical creativity.  This is a safe environment to experiment with music from different traditions and to learn approaches used in Contemporary Improvisation.  The goal is to build ear skills while students gain facility on their instruments.  Come PLAY with us.

Saturdays, 9:00-10:00 a.m.

Introduction to Contemporary Improvisation (Ages 12+)

Lautaro Mantilla, Instructor

In this ensemble, we will present a "bag of tools" for young musicians to become future improvisers.  We will create new songs, compositions and improvisations using different techniques, new approaches to ear training, and different ways to play and notate music.  We will be using our ears and voices as powerful vehicles to interact with others.

Saturdays, 11:00-12:00 p.m.


New England Contra Dance Band

Rachel Panitch, Instructor

Learn fiddle tunes by ear from the New England contra dance repertoire.  As part of a Contemporary Improvisation training, students will practice changing the melodies and developing harmonies using improvisation.  The class will also develop their own arrangements of fiddle tunes as a band, focusing on style and groove.  At the end of the year, this class will perform a live contra dance.

Day/Time will be announced shortly...


A Cappella Singers

For more information about CI A Cappella, click here.

Chinese Music Ensemble

Hui Weng, Instructor

This ensemble is open by audition to all NEC Prep students and offers an opportunity to perform and arrange repertoire from a variety of Chinese traditional and other world musics.  During each rehearsal students will listen to a diverse world music repertoire.  They will learn musical forms, modes and rhythms of typical instruments within each tradition.  Students will also develop improvisation skills based on the different musical forms.  The goal is to foster individual creativity and create a new musical language that innovates and crosses boundaries.

Saturdays, 6:30-8:30pm

South Indian Classical Ensemble

Deepti Navaratna, Instructor

The ensemble is an introduction to the concepts of Raaga, Taala, genres and improvisational methods unique to South Indian Classical music.  Students will learn repertoire, acquire an understanding of melodic and rhythmic improvisational methods, and work out their own arrangements as an ensemble.  No prior training or exposure to Indian Classical music required.  The ensemble is structured to facilitate access to traditional material to learners from different backgrounds.  Open to singers and instrumentalists.  (Ages 6-18)

Saturdays, time TBD

Songwriters' Workshop

Valerie Thompson and Abby Swidler, Instructors

This ensemble offers a framework for students to work both on their own compositions and re-arrangements of existing songs, in all kinds of genres. This is a great place to get your feet wet as a songwriter, or to broaden your skills. Students will have the chance to try out their ideas with other musicians and will perform a concert of their works at the end of the year.

Saturday, 10:00am-11:00am