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Jazz Studies

Read about undergraduate and graduate degree programs related to jazz studies. Find out what you'd learn in a jazz studies program, and explore some jobs you could pursue with a background in this field.

Are Jazz Studies for Me?

Career Overview

As a jazz musician, you can choose to work independently or with a band or orchestra. You can also choose to work regularly, seasonally, nights and weekends or on a tour. You might consider joining the American Federation of Musicians, the American Guild of Musical Artists and/or other unions.

If you are interested in the field of jazz, you can find a variety of jazz studies degree and musician training programs, including bachelor's degrees, master's programs and doctoral degrees. In a bachelor's degree program, such as a Bachelor of Music (B.M.) in Jazz Studies, you can receive instruction on primary and secondary instruments and build your knowledge of jazz culture. Some of these programs also offer concentrations in jazz performance or jazz composition. Additional courses cover writing and arranging music.

You can gain performance experience in jazz and classical music through personal lessons and public concerts. You could also explore improvisation in jazz styles and arrangements. With a degree in jazz studies, you can pursue a studio career as a writer or performer, as well as a professional career as a jazz soloist or ensemble member.

Employment Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median hourly wage for musicians and singers was $23.74 in May 2013, though performers in the 90th percentile earned $68.63 or more per hour (www.bls.gov). Most music directors and composers made between $10.64 and $42.30 hourly in the same year. Music directors, composers, singers and musicians, including jazz musicians, were all projected to have a five percent increase in employment from 2012-2022, according to the BLS.

How Can I Work in Jazz Studies?

Undergraduate Education

At the undergraduate level, you can also find jazz studies in Bachelor of Arts in Ethnomusicology programs. In these programs, you can study musical performance or composition, while also taking courses in world musical cultures, diversity and history. The curriculum might examine jazz theory, history, literature and composition to give you an understanding of the creation and influence of this type of music.

Graduate Education

You can also find a Master of Music program, where you might learn methods for establishing a high school or college jazz program, concentrate in jazz performance or study composition. If you are considering a doctoral program, you can find a Doctor of Music Arts (DMA) with concentrations in jazz performance or jazz composition, a DMA in Performance with a concentration in jazz studies or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Jazz Studies.