Advanced Certificate in the Art of Improvisation


The Advanced Certificate in the Art of Improvisation offers a course of study for Eastman students interested in exploring and advancing their skills in improvisation in a wide array of musical styles and ensemble settings. It is open to all Eastman graduate students (MM, MA, DMA, and PhD). Many of the requirements can be met under the electives category that exist as part of the students’ major curricula and courses that the students are required to take in order to graduate.

A live audition is required for all applicants to the Advanced Certificate in the Art of Improvisation program. Applicants must demonstrate skills in two different styles of improvisation (Renaissance, Baroque, Classical/Romantic, Jazz, Contemporary, Aleatoric, Non-Western [examples might include Zimbabwean, Indian or Aboriginal musics], Folk, or Cinema) and submit a brief, original composition (with an improvised section). In addition, the applicant must submit a 3-page (750 words) statement describing his/her experiences with improvisation and his/her motivation to pursue the Advanced Certificate in the Art of Improvisation.

No more than five students will be accepted to the certificate program each year. Students who are interested in applying are urged to contact Professor Dariusz Terefenko and to submit the above materials by December 1. In consultation with Eastman faculty, Professor Terefenko will identify applicants who will be invited to audition. Final applicants will be asked to improvise spontaneously, and will be assessed in the following areas: keyboard skills, aural skills, score reading, rhythm reading, and musical interaction. A jazz rhythm section (piano/bass/drums), a continuo player, or any other accompanying units (within means) can be arranged upon request.

What are the Requirements?



JCM 524/TH 526         (3.0 credits – Theory/Practice of Improvisation) or

JCM 523/TH 525         (3.0 credits – Theory/Practice of Harmony) or

MUE 483                     (3.0 credits – Improvisation) or

MHS 590                     (3.0 credits – The Improvising Musician)

MUSIC THEORY (at least one theory course):

TH 452                         (3.0 credits – 18th C. Counterpoint) or

TH 480                         (3.0 credits – Advanced Harmony and Composition) or

TH 475                         (3.0 credits – Intermediate Keyboard Skills) or

TH 476                         (3.0 credits – Advanced Keyboard Skills)

or any other theory course approved by the advisor

ENSEMBLES (at least two semesters of ensembles):

ENS 408                      (1.0 credit – Collegium Musicum II)

ENS 446                      (1.0 credit – Eastman Saxophone Project)

ENS 460                      (1.0 credit – Percussion Ensemble)

ENS 400J                     (1.0 credit – Grad Jazz Ensemble)

ENS 415                      (1.0 credit – Graduate Gamelan Ensemble)

JCM 451-452              (1.0 credit – Graduate Jazz Performance Workshop)

Musica Nova, Mbira Ensemble, or any other ensemble approved by the advisor.

ELECTIVES (remaining credits):


KBD 405                     (1.0 credit – Organ Improvisation)

KDB 444                     (1.0 credit – Keyboard Continuo Realization)

KBD 451                     (2.0 credits – Jazz Piano Improvisation)


MHS 443                     (2.0 credits –Baroque Performance Practice II)

MUY 592/590             (4.0/3.0 credits – Improvisation in the 19th Century)

MHS 590                     (3.0 credits) seminar on improvisation-related topic

or any other musicology course approved by the advisor. 


MUE 465                     (3.0 credits – Instrumental Methods and Techniques)


JCM 409-410               (1.0 credit – Jazz Mallet Performance)

JCM 484                      (4.0 credits – Advanced Studies in Improvisation)

COMPOSITION: any graduate-level composition course approved by the advisor.

MORE ELECTIVES: Summer Institutes for Improvisation; Independent Studies in Improvisation.

Note: Students enrolled in any of these classes must inform the professor that they are pursuing the Advanced Certificate in the Art of Improvisation in order to devise, in a close collaboration between the student and the teacher, assignments/projects compatible with their course of study.

RECITAL: At the completion of the coursework, for which the student must receive a grade of B+ or higher, the student will organize/perform an hour-long improvisation recital demonstrating a range of improvisational skills in different ensemble settings (for instance: as a solo performer; soloists with a chamber group, a large orchestra, a jazz ensemble: a studio orchestra, collaborative multi-media ensembles with visual arts, movies, dance, poetry, computer generated graphics, etc.). A detailed proposal of the recital program is required and must be submitted at least 2 months before the recital for approval.

MM and MA students will register for ESM 410: (0 credits – Advanced Certificate in the Art of Improvisation Recital)

DMA and PhD students will register for ESM 510: (0 credits – Advanced Certificate in the Art of Improvisation Recital)

How Can I Apply?

Please submit an application form and cover letter to the Graduate Studies Office. 

To request a hard copy of the Advanced Certificate in the Art of Improvisation Application Form please contact:

Graduate Studies Office
26 Gibbs Street
Rochester, NY 14604
Phone 585.274.1020
Fax 585.276.2150