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A Guide to a Degree in Jazz Studies

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 12/30/2010

A jazz studies degree involves both musical practice and class time. Learn more about what this degree can be used for and its components.

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    A jazz studies degree combines learning about music theory and history and the technical mastery of an instrument. Earning a degree in this field will help an aspiring jazz musician find a more stable career in music. Learning more about what this degree entails, the schools offering it, and the career possibilities will help aspiring jazz musicians determine if a degree in this field is best for them.

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    Education

    As a student earns a degree in this field, they will often practice on a primary instrument, as well as a secondary instrument. Students will also work on developing their knowledge of jazz culture. Those pursuing a jazz studies degree can also add a concentration in jazz composition or jazz performance to their degree. Students will take lessons and give performances to increase their experience in classical and jazz music. Students may also learn more about improvisation in jazz arrangements and styles. The curriculum often includes jazz history, composition, theory, and literature.

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    Schools Offering the Degree

    Bowling Green State University offers a degree in this field. To be admitted, students must pass an audition in addition to all other admission requirements. Students living in Ohio will pay about $9,704 per year. Ohio residents living on campus will pay about $17,214 per year. Non-Ohio residents will pay about $9,704 per year, plus a non-resident fee of $7,308 per year. Non-residents living on campus will pay about $24,522 per year. Book and academic supplies cost about $800 to $1,200 per year. Students pursuing their jazz studies education at this university will have to perform in jazz ensembles, complete jury examinations, prove keyboard proficiency, perform in a recital, complete 20 credits in advanced jazz studies courses, take six credits of music electives, 27 credits in basic musicmanship, foreign language, writing proficiency, and general education.

    The University of Louisville School of Music offers this degree as well. Students must pass an audition in addition to all other admission requirements. Residents will pay about $4,212 per semester and non-residents about $10,212 per semester. Students will also have to purchase books and pay any other associated fees. This school does have scholarship assistance available. Students will take a variety of courses and the ones focused on jazz studies include the evolution of jazz, jazz style and analysis, jazz piano class, jazz improvisation one and two, jazz theory, jazz piano proficiency, and music electives.

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    Possible Careers

    Those who have obtained a Bachelors of Music in Jazz Studies often find themselves qualified for jobs as performers or composers. They may also seek professional careers as ensemble members or as jazz soloists. Many students who wish to have a professional career will continue their education to obtain a Master's degree in this field. Those working in this field may find themselves performing in an orchestra, in a band that plays at weddings and parties, as a solo artist, or in another capacity. Those with an advanced degree may teach jazz studies at a college or university. Those with any degree level may give private lessons at schools or community centers, or on a freelance basis.

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    Career Outlook and Salary

    About 40 percent of working musicians, excluding the famous musicians, are playing or singing and are self-employed. This means that they are paid per gig. The median hourly rate is about $10.81 to $36.55 per hour. Jobs in this field are expected to grow at an average rate through the year 2014.

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    Resources

    State University. (2010). Music Job Description. Retrieved on December 27, 2010 from State University: http://careers.stateuniversity.com/pages/129/Musician.html

    University of South Florida College of the Arts. (2010). School of Music. Retrieved on December 27, 2010 from the University of South Florida College of the Arts: http://music.arts.usf.edu/programs.html

    Bowling Green State University. (2010). Jazz Studies. Retrieved on December 27, 2010 from Bowling Green State University: http://www.bgsu.edu/colleges/music/departments/MUSP/jazz/

    University of Louisville School of Music. (2010). Jazz Studies Program. Retrieved on December 27, 2010 from the University of Louisville School of Music: http://louisville.edu/music/degrees/undergraduate/jazz/jazz-studies-program.html