Frequently Asked Questions About the Jazz Studies Special Concentration
Q: Can I major in jazz at Columbia?
A: At present Columbia does not offer a jazz major. A Special Concentration at Columbia is an interdisciplinary course of study that is the equivalent of a minor. A student can major in music, for instance, and focus primarily on jazz. Students can complete a Special Concentration in jazz along with any other major, such as political science, economics, history, etc. Students cannot graduate having completed only a Special Concentration; it is intended as a supplemental course of study. See the Special Concentration page for details concerning requirements.
Q: Do I have to be a music major in order to play in ensembles or take lessons?
A: No. Ensembles and lessons are open to any Columbia or Barnard undergraduate or graduate student. Entrance to both ensembles and lessons are by audition. Please see the Performance Program page for more information about ensembles, lessons and auditions.
Q: Are there formal auditions held for entrance into Columbia University?
A: Since Columbia University does not offer a performance major there are no formalized entrance auditions. However, we encourage all applicants for undergraduate admission, including transfer students, who are interested in participating in the jazz ensembles or taking jazz lessons to include a recording with their application as supplementary material.
Q: What should be included on that recording?
A: The tape or CD should include a minimum of three diverse selections that best represent your musical abilities. We suggest a ballad, a medium-tempo, and an up-tempo selection, possibly with different rhythmic feels. One or two could be jazz standards, and original compositions are most welcome. Please be sure to label the cassette tape or CD clearly, including your name, your instrument, the names of the other performers, and the context of the recording. In other words, if it's a school concert, a studio recording, or a home recording, please specify.
Q: How much weight does this recording carry in gaining admittance to Columbia University?
For undergraduate admissions, all applications are first vetted according to test scores and grades, after which supplemental materials do play a role in determining admissions. Recordings from applications which pass through the first round of application screening are carefully considered and can significantly contribute to admissions decisions.
Q: What level of playing ability must I demonstrate in order to participate in ensembles and lessons?
A: All ensembles require some past jazz experience. We cannot accomodate novice jazz players. The level of playing in the ensembles ranges from intermediate to professional.
Q: What determines placement into jazz ensembles and lessons?
A: Ensemble and lesson placement is determined by auditions in the first week of the fall semester. Ensembles are organized according to playing ability and level.
Q: Is practice space available for student ensembles outside of class time?
A: Yes, the Music Performance Program has a room where students participating in ensembles are able to rehearse with these ensembles.
Q: Other than jazz performance opportunities, what jazz-focused classes does Columbia offer?
A: The Music Department offers an Introduction to Jazz History, Jazz Composition and Arranging, Jazz Transcription and Analysis, Seminar in Improvisation, Seminar in Jazz Historiography. The Center for Jazz Studies offers many jazz-focused classes which can be found listed here.
Q: Will a special concentration in jazz at Columbia be sufficient preparation for a conservatory graduate program in jazz performance?
A special concentration alone may not be enough to prepare you for a Conservatory Masters program. However, taking our undergraduate music theory and eartraining classes along with the required jazz classes would provide you with the foundation needed for graduate work, provided that your playing level is on par with other applicants to graduate school.
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