The New School for
Jazz and Contemporary Music


academics-curriculum01 Instrumental Proficiency
Before they begin their studies, all students admitted to the Jazz BFA program receive a booklet describing the minimum instrumental proficiency they are expected to require in order to graduate. Upon entry, all students are evaluated on the basis of these minimum proficiency guidelines, and those who place “in proficiency” (IP) are required to take private lessons with an assigned teacher deemed appropriate to their needs. Note: Both proficiency requirements and instrumental faculty are subject to change.

Core Studio Curriculum
Before the start of their first semester, students are also evaluated by selected faculty members in theory, ear training, rhythmic analysis, piano (for non-piano majors), sight-reading, theory and performance, and arranging. The test results are used to determine placement in required core studio curriculum courses. The tests also help the faculty and administration to develop an overall evaluation of each student.

Once students are placed in appropriate courses, they must complete the required curriculum in each area to earn the BFA degree:

  • New Student Seminar (one semester)
  • Theory through Level IIB
  • Ear Training through Level IIB
  • Sight-Reading through Level IIB (IB for bass, piano, brass)
  • Theory and Performance through Level IIB (IB for drummers; not required of vocalists)
  • Rhythmic Analysis (four semesters for instrumentalists; three for vocalists)

  • One year of Piano (1 credit each semester)
  • Arranging Fundamentals (one semester)
  • Two music business courses (total of at least 3 credits)
  • Private lessons (every semester)
  • Improvisation Ensemble (every semester; not required of vocalists)

Vocalists have these additional requirements:

  • Vocal Musicianship I & II
  • Vocal Improvisation I & II
  • Basic Arranging for Vocalists
  • Vocal Blues Ensemble (one semester)
  • Vocal Performance (two years in place of Improvisation Ensemble)
  • Vocal Jazz Ensemble


Liberal Arts
All students are required to take 18-27 credits in liberal arts (six to nine 3-credit courses). Of these, two must be English composition or literature courses and two must be University Lecture courses. The remaining liberal arts credits are elective. Liberal arts courses must be taken at The New School and can be selected from the extensive undergraduate course offerings of university Undergraduate Liberal Studies (ULS), The New School for Public Engagement, and Eugene Lang College. Students who wish to take courses at another college or university and transfer credit must obtain approval advance from a New School Jazz advisor. At Jazz, the liberal arts requirement is not fulfilled by courses that are “applied” or professional in orientation.

Music History
All students must take six music history courses:

  • History of Jazz (parts A & B)
  • Classical Music History
  • Contemporary Jazz and Its Exponents
  • World Music History
  • 20th-Century Innovators—Debussy to Cage

Sophomore Jury
The sophomore jury is generally held at the end of students' second year. It is meant to evaluate students' competence as jazz performers, check their overall progress toward graduation, and help assess their direction and development.

Jury Guidelines: Students prepare tunes of contrasting styles from a standard repertoire list—ten for instrumentalists and 20 for vocalists. The jury committee selects three of the tunes, and the student performs them with a professional rhythm section. Each jury session lasts for 20 minutes. The committee consists of three or more faculty members.

All songs must be memorized, but students must bring charts already transposed for accompanying musicians. Students are evaluated on the basis of their punctuality, presentation of material, instrumental or vocal skill and improvisational skill, rhythmic sophistication, band leadership, and communication with both the band and the audience.

Passing the sophomore jury is a graduation requirement.

Senior Recital
The senior recital should reflect the student’s technical and artistic growth as a musician. The recital is a formal performance that takes place either in the Performance Space on campus or at another live venue for which the student makes arrangements. Students must perform a senior recital before graduating.

Distribution of Jazz Electives
The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music has an extensive elective curriculum grouped into six areas:

  • Individual composers: e.g. Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Sun Ra
  • Stylistic: e.g. Blues Ensemble, Vocal Jazz Ensemble, Drum 'n' Bass Ensemble
  • World Music: e.g. Afro-Cuban Orchestra, Brazilian Ensemble, West African Heritage Ensemble
  • Technological: e.g. ProTools, Finale, Audio Engineering
  • Composition: e.g. Linear Composition, Advanced Arranging/Composition, Film Scoring
  • Theory/Analysis: e.g. Score Reading and Analysis, Bebop Harmony, Advanced Reharmonization

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