Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media

Degrees and Programs

A JCM major is designed for students seeking careers in jazz studies and contemporary media music performance, composition/arranging, and higher education. JCM majors may elect an emphasis in performance or writing skills. As a part of their coursework JCM majors will participate in small combos and large jazz ensembles. They also study jazz history, classical theory and jazz theory at Eastman. Jazz majors have weekly hour-long lessons with resident jazz faculty members throughout the duration of their degree program.




Writing Skills

The Eastman School of Music’s Jazz Writing Skills program has been internationally recognized since the early 1970s. For almost two decades, Professors Rayburn Wright and Bill Dobbins forged the jazz composition and arranging courses and guided numerous students toward prominent writing careers. Prior to the return of Bill Dobbins in 2002, Eastman alumnus Fred Sturm, a protégé of both Wright and Dobbins, assumed the reins of the writing program in 1991 and fostered the development of almost 200 new student jazz works and several award-winning writers.

Today, Eastman’s M.M. jazz writing skills majors engage in a broad range of composing and arranging experiences that include:

  • Personal production of a media project featuring the student’s own works
  • Presentation of a 60-minute final degree recital featuring the student’s works
  • Writing for the Eastman large jazz ensembles
  • Writing for the 70-piece Eastman Studio Orchestra
  • Writing for the Eastman Jazz Performance Workshop Ensembles (small groups)
  • Creating custom charts to feature visiting professional jazz guest artists

JCM Department Recital Guidelines

  • Content and repertoire shall represent curricular work done in courses, ensembles, and lessons during the students time in the JCM department. Students will work to plan and organize their recitals in consultation with their private JCM teachers and faculty.
  • Performers outside the JCM department must be approved by JCM faculty.
  • Technically, a recital is not a concert, but functions to fulfill an academic requirement.
  • No vocals; since there is no vocal component within the JCM curriculum, singing in a recital is not representative of the student’s work within the department
  • The JCM department expects as much thought and planning as any other ESM department. Careful preparation is expected at each stage of the recital process including choice of repertoire, personnel, rehearsals, stage presentation, performance, working with recording engineers, professionalism, etc.

JCM Juries

JCM freshman,sophomores, juniors, and first year MM and DMA students will perform a 15 minute jazz jury.


  • To supply students with a culminating task-oriented performance focus each year, as preparation for the experience of auditions and graduation recitals
  • To allow JCM faculty to present students with meaningful verbal and written commentary
  • To determine “good standing in the major” as required by Eastman policy

Pass/Fail: Juries are graded as “pass/fail” – there are no letter or number grades. Failure of two consecutive juries will result in automatic dismissal from the JCM degree program. Students who fail the freshman or sophomore jury will typically be advised to consider alternative Eastman degree programs or transfer to another institution.

Repertoire and Format: JCM performance majors should prepare three pieces. These are to be performed by memory and should be drawn from materials assigned in applied jazz studio lessons, repertoire studied in JPWs, and student compositions or arrangements, per consent of JCM faculty. Students will perform as soloists in duo, trio, or quartet formats, as discussed with private teacher, advisor, and/or JPW instructor. Each student soloist must coordinate and rehearse accompanying musicians, preferably using other JCM majors. As one of their three pieces, JCM students must select a transcription of a notable jazz soloist and perform it along with the original recording. JCM writing skills majors are required to bring scores and recordings of works from the current year.