Bachelor of Music in Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation

This degree program is designed for students who want to combine strong foundations in mainstream jazz training, as well as more eclectic approaches to contemporary improvised music. Applicants should have an extensive background on an instrument and demonstrated improvisational skills.


The Bachelor of Music in Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation requires a minimum of 120 credits: coursework is 75% within SMTD and 25% within the liberal arts.

SMTD coursework to include:

  • Private lessons
  • Music Theory
  • Musicology
  • Jazz ensemble participation
  • Improvisation
  • Piano
  • Composition

Silent Advisor

Degree requirements and term-by-term layout for current students.


Andrew Bishop

Chair of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation and Professor of Music
Department Chair

Mark Kirschenmann

Lecturer of Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation and Lecturer in the Residential College

Ellen Rowe

Chair of Conducting and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Music

Performance Opportunities

From large ensembles in celebrated concert halls to chamber groups in intimate recital spaces, performance opportunities across all disciplines abound, with nearly 900 student performances each academic year. Whether your focus is on early, classical, or contemporary music, whether your passion is for jazz, electronic, or world music, there is an ensemble—or in many cases, multiple ensembles—to suit your interests, including specific opportunities for percussion, piano, and organ & carillon. For students in theatre & drama, musical theatre, dance, and opera, opportunities abound in both professionally produced and student-run presentations.

Jazz Ensemble

Jazz Ensemble

Ellen Rowe, director

The University of Michigan Jazz Ensemble is the most competitive of the University’s jazz ensembles. Open by audition only, most seats are filled by majors within the Department of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation. The ensemble meets twice a week for two hours, performs several times a semester on campus and off.

Jazz Lab

Jazz Lab Ensemble

Dennis Wilson, director

Designed to rehearse, perform, and examine the repertoire of the jazz big band, the Jazz Lab Ensemble explores classic, historically significant repertoire as well as new arrangements and/or compositions. Occasionally non-traditional jazz instruments are used to highlight and expand the diversity of the ensemble. This is also a class that is intended to develop the necessary skills of section lead playing, rehearsal techniques, jazz phrasing and styles. A wide selection of materials is used to attain these goals including the music of classic big bands such as the Thad Jones Orchestra, Count Basie Orchestra, Dizzy Gillespie Band, Oliver Nelson, Duke Pearson and Duke Ellington Orchestra. The ensemble periodically rehearses and performs the music of student arrangers as well. Each year the ensemble performs with guest artists, and student composers are given the opportunity to help compose and arrange a unique selection for the guests.

Chamber Jazz

Small Jazz Ensembles

Small Jazz Ensembles is a course devoted to small group jazz performance. Offered in both the fall and winter terms, students are divided into approximately 6 ensembles, ranging in size from trios to septets.

Creative Arts Orchestra

Creative Arts Orchestra

This is a unique, largely improvisation-based group that invites interaction with other performance fields such as dance, theatre, and music technology.