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Jazz, Improvisation, and Popular Music

Stanford students from a range of majors play in small jazz combos, the jazz big band, and the latin-jazz ensemble. They have the opportunity to take classes in jazz theory, history, and arranging. Beyond improvisation in the jazz idiom, students invent spontaneous trans-idiomatic music in [sic] (the Stanford Improvisation Collective); they engage simultaneously with improvisors around the world in telematic internet concerts at CCRMA; and they combine passions for coding and performing in SLOrk (the Stanford Laptop Orchestra). Popular music is a vibrant area at Stanford, with creative, critical, and hybrid classes in film music, hip hop, musical theater, rock, soul, and other genres. Courses like Songwriters Workshop bring together aspiring pop artists, laptop-based electronic-music producers, folk musicians, spoken-word poets, heavy metal bands, and many others.


Leland and Edith Smith Professor of Composition, Professor
Associate Professor
Lecturer, Visiting Artist
Advanced Lecturer

Lessons & Courses

Jazz, Improvisation, Popular Music Courses

Music 8A: Rock, Sex, and Rebellion
Music 18A: Jazz History: Ragtime to Bebop, 1900-1940
Music 18B: Jazz History: Bebop to Present, 1940-Present
Music 20A: Jazz Theory (AFRICAAM 20A)
Music 20B: Advanced Jazz Theory
Music 20C: Jazz Arranging and Composition
Music 27N: The British Invasion
Music 31N: Behind the Big Drums: Exploring Taiko
Music 32N: Sculpting with Sounds, Images, and Words
Music 34N: Performing America: The Broadway Musical
Music 37N: Ki ho'alu: The New Renaissance of a Hawaiian Musical Tradition
Music 102: The Art of Music Video: Practice and Analysis
Music 115: Individual Projects in Jazz
Music 120D: Jazz Improvisation
Music 120E: Advanced Jazz Improvisation
Music 124A: Songwriters Workshop
Music 147C: Latin American Music and Globalization
Music 147J: Studies in Music, Media, and Popular Culture: The Soul Tradition in African American Music
Music 147K: Studies in Music, Media, and Popular Culture: Music and Urban Film
Music 186B: American Song in the 20th Century and after

Jazz, Improvisation, Popular Music Lessons

Music 72D: Jazz Piano Class
Music 72DZ: Jazz Piano Class
Music 172D: Jazz Piano
Music 174I: Jazz Bass
Music 174J: Jazz and Contemporary Guitar
Music 175H: Jazz Saxophone
Music 176E: Jazz Trumpet
Music 177A: Drum Set Lessons
Music 272D: Advanced Jazz Piano
Music 274I: Advanced Jazz Bass
Music 274J: Advanced Jazz and Contemporary Guitar
Music 275H: Advanced Jazz Saxophone
Music 276E: Advanced Jazz Trumpet
Music 277A: Advanced Drum Set

Academic Programs

Explore the Major & Concentrations

The undergraduate major in Music is based on a course of study that combines breadth of musical experiences across multiple dimensions with depth in a chosen area, allowing students to develop an array of tools as part of their aesthetic and musical formation. Theory, performance, history, cultural contextualization, technology, and science all contribute to a curricular foundation for all majors. 


Explore the 24-Unit Minor

The music minor allows students to explore music through a flexible program of study. The minor can focus on Composition, History, Performance, Conducting, Theory, or Music, Science & Technology (MST), or on areas not currently served by the major, such as Ethnomusicology, Jazz, or Musical Theater. The minor can also focus on musical aspects of a non-music major such as American Studies, Anthropology, Area Studies, Computer Science, CSRE, TAPS, etc.


Learn about the Performance Certificate

The Performance Certificate program is open by audition to undergraduates who demonstrate a high degree of accomplishment in their area of music performance, study privately with one of the Department of Music's faculty, and wish to inform their performance studies with coursework from the Department of Music's other areas of academic focus: history, theory, computer music, and composition.


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