The following guest post was written by current Eastman jazz major Emiliano Lasansky. Thanks Emiliano! For more info on majoring in jazz at Eastman, please also visit the Jazz and Contemporary Media department website.
A normal day as a Jazz major at Eastman can be exciting, and is often pretty busy. When we’re not in a rehearsal or a class we might be playing on sessions, checking out recordings or practicing. This article will give you a good idea of what a normal day in the life of an Eastman jazz major your junior year is like.
- 8:30am-10am, Music History: This class makes up part of the core requirements for any undergraduate degree. Music History is a 3 semester long course. I am currently in my 3rd semester where we cover 1900 to present day. Today we studied some of Bela Bartok’s shorter compositions for piano based on folk songs he recorded in Hungary. We learned that this is an early example of musicology!
- 11:00am-12:30pm, Jazz Theory: I’ve found this to be my favorite class this semester! This is a two semester long course with Prof. Dariusz Terefenko, professor of both Theory and Jazz Piano. This course focuses on learning theory principles used by Bach and 20th century composers like Webern, Messiaen, Debussy and Shostakovich to name a few. Today we analyzed Messiaen’s Prelude #5, and its’ use of the diminished scale, which turns out to have some interesting connections to jazz harmony. For next week our assignment is to write a jazz composition using the harmonic techniques of Messiaen.
- 12:45am-2:30, Eastman Jazz Ensemble: As jazz majors, we audition at the beginning of the academic year for a large ensemble. This year I am playing bass with the Eastman Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Prof. Bill Dobbins. We just played a concert of Jim McNeely’s music recently. Mr. McNeely visited Eastman and worked with us in preparation for the the performance, and then conducted and played piano with us in the concert.
Today we started learning some of the music of Billy Strayhorn. This year is the centennial of Strayhorn’s birth. As a tribute to the composer Eastman Jazz Ensemble is giving a series of concerts of Mr. Strayhorn’s music. I’m really excited for one performance this March! The band is traveling to New York City to play some of Strayhorn’s music at Dizzy’s Jazz Club in Lincoln Center.
- 3:30pm-4:30pm, Jazz Composition: In this class we work with Professor Dobbins to analyze compositions by composers like Bill Evans and Joe Henderson. After analyzing a collection of tunes by that composer, we attempt to write our own composition in that style. This is fun and very challenging! As part of the class everyone has one on one meetings with Prof. Dobbins where we fine tune our own compositions for the class.
- 5:30pm, Dinner: I usually eat dinner with my friends in the Dining Center in the dorms. We usually go over the stuff we did that day, hang out and talk about music or sometime the NBA (one of my friends is a 76er’s fan, and they haven’t been having a good season…)
- 7:00pm-9:00pm, Homework/Practice
- 9:00pm-11:00pm, Rehearsal for Friend’s Recital: One of my close friends who is a saxophonist is giving his Senior Recital in a couple weeks so we’ve started rehearsing for it. Jazz majors get to pick the repertoire we play in our degree recitals. This can make for a fun and challenging concert. For my friends recital we are playing music by Joe Henderson, Thelonious Monk and some of his original compositions.
While the days here sometimes get to be very busy, there is never a shortage of new experiences.