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Department of Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation


Art forms evolve through the interplay of two contrasting, yet complementary forces--the ongoing quest for new possibilities, and the continual inquiry into past forms and practices. When this present-past interplay is centered at the heart of artistic training, students not only gain optimal mastery of skills and concepts within their field, they also experience their field as a vehicle for a broader, cross-disciplinary exploration.

The Department of Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation has harnessed these principles and emerged as a leading new educational voice. Combining the finest in traditional jazz training with systematic study of jazz's eclectic offshoots, along with innovative, interdisciplinary options which are at the cutting edge of pedagogical thought, the department offers students a variety of educational pathways few schools can match.


Andrew Bishop (Chair, saxophone)

Michael Gould (drums/percussion)

Benny Green (piano)


Associated Faculty

Sean Dobbins (drums)

Marion Hayden (bass)

Mark Kirschenmann (Creative Arts Orchestra)

Robert Hurst (bass)

Ellen Rowe (piano)

Edward W. Sarath

Dennis Wilson (trombone)



Cary Kocher (vibes)

William Lucas (trumpet)

Miles Okazaki (guitar)

Martha Travers


image for Prof. Ellen Rowe honored as Arthur F. Thurnau Professor
Prof. Ellen Rowe honored as Arthur F. Thurnau Professor

The first female chair of a major university jazz department in the world, Rowe was cited for fostering distinguished recording, performing, and teaching careers for numerous students.  more

Photo by Kirk Donaldson; Professors Ellen Rowe, Catherine Adams, Cynthia Kortman-Westphal (front), Kathleen Kelly, Courtney Snyder, Julie Skadsem (front), and Andrea Brown
Leveling the Conducting Field

SMTD's female conducting faculty address the issue of gender inequality at the podium.     more


image for SMTD CommencementSMTD Commencement

Friday, April 27 - 4:00pm
Hill Auditorium,
Free - no tickets required

Jazz Ensemble's Rhythm Section
Professor Ellen Rowe directs the Jazz Ensemble Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation Masters Student Colin Campbell  Undergraduate jazz trumpeter Joshua MizruchiReed & Brass Section of the Jazz EnsembleUndergraduate Jazz drummer Quentin Joseph
"My years at Michigan helped me to expand my creative horizons in every dimension....After graduating I moved to Austin, TX in May of 2012, got married, and am working 3 jobs which I love. I'm a performer, a music teacher and a fitness coach. My education at the University of Michigan prepared me to approach all of these jobs with creativity, awareness, and the integration of individuality, tradition, and innovation."
Billy Satterwhite, MM 2012

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower