Skip to content Skip to navigation

Jazz, Improvisation, Popular Music

Photo collage of instrumental musicians; some photo credit 2020 Tom Upton Studio

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.


Composition • Improvisation • Music History • Popular Music
Michael Galisatus photo
Jazz Ensembles • Jazz Combos
Wind Symphony • Music Education • Music Theory
Denise Gill photo
Ethnomusicology • Islamic Studies • Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity
Tom Grey photo
Music History • Opera • German Studies • Musical Theater
Charles Kronengold
Music History • Popular Music • Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity • Media Theory
Murray Low photo
Jazz Piano • Jazz Ensembles • Music History
Charlie McCarthy photo
Jazz Saxophone
Jim Nadel photo
Jazz Combos • Music Theory
Joshua Redman photo
Jazz • Improvisation
Drum Set • Jazz
Josh Thurston-Milgrom photo
Jazz Bass • Electric Bass • Jazz Combos
Erik Ulman photo
Composition • Music Theory • Music History
Rick Vandivier photo
Jazz and Contemporary Guitar
Jazz Trumpet

Lessons & Courses

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

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

Courses in the Spotlight

MUSIC 8A: Rock, Sex, and Rebellion

Development of critical listening skills through a detailed study of rock music. Focus will be on competing aesthetic tendencies and subcultural forces shaping the genre. Exploration of rock music’s influence on the American culture and the minority communities which have enriched this form’s legacy as an expressively diverse form. Lectures, readings, listening, and video screenings.

MUSIC 120D: Jazz Improvisation

This class will focus on developing a deeper understanding of jazz improvisation as it relates to individual expression, group interaction, communication and cohesion. Solo and ensemble work, guided listening, ear training, internalization, personalization, and an awareness of the historical evolution of the jazz improvisational language will all be emphasized.


Explore more of What We Do

Explore the Major & Concentrations

Explore the 24-Unit Minor

Learn about the Performance Certificate