Founded in 1997, this unique program prepares people to do research, publishing and teaching; they rely on the renowned Institute of Jazz Studies (IJS), the largest public access jazz library in the world. While there are many bachelor’s and master’s degrees elsewhere in jazz performance, and a few in composition and pedagogy, this is the only degree at any level anywhere to focus on the history and research of jazz. As such, many of the courses are also not offered anywhere else.
(Please note: The degree is offered by the Department of Arts, Media and Culture, not at the Institute. The institute is a library archive where students conduct research; the degree is administered by the university.)
The required 12 courses cover such topics as historiography, the literature about jazz, music theory and analysis, archival research, interviewing techniques, as well as in-depth studies on individual musicians, and topics such as “jazz and race,” and “jazz and world music.” Many students choose to take private lessons and to play in the jazz ensemble in addition to the 12 courses (these usually do not count towards the M.A. degree, but performance classes taken at nearby colleges can count). Also, private theory study, one-day writing workshops and/or a semester-long writing seminar my be required, at our discretion, in addition to the required 12 courses. At the end of the coursework each student takes a final comprehensive exam, usually in their fourth semester while putting finishing touches on the thesis.
The GRE is not required at present. Applicants should have a Bachelors’ in any field and competence in music reading and performing. Non-musicians who wish to go for the degree are now also welcome! You will be required to audit a basic course in music reading/writing, or to study on your own with a recommended book and pass the exam for that course. You will also learn how to follow sheet music, and how to represent music on graph paper. You will be exempted from the advanced graduate theory course. In every other way your program will be identical with that of the musicians. As always our other graduate students range from well-known performers to amateur musicians.
Ph.D. possibilities: A PhD program in American Studies, with a partial jazz concentration (like a jazz “minor”), is available at Rutgers-Newark. Additional exams and courses are required, and a Ph.D. thesis on a jazz topic. For a music PhD, the faculty can recommend other universities.
There are currently 25 students in the program (including first year, second year, and part-time students), with about 7 to 9 graduating each year. Students range in age from 22 to 61, and have backgrounds in jazz performance, free lance writing, jazz radio, history, etc. While in the program, about half of the students have published chapters in books, liner notes for CDs, and articles for websites. Opportunities like these become available to students while enrolled in the program. They are also teaching at colleges and universities, and of course some often continue to perform and to teach privately. Some graduates are now part-time faculty at other institutions or are attending Ph.D. programs.