Jazz Performance Core Curriculum

In studying Jazz Performance, you'll acquire significant technical and musicianship skills, developing your own jazz voice. You’ll engage in music theory, musicianship, improvisation, and critical analysis of a wide variety of music; you'll have access to state-of-the-art music facilities; and you'll work with a diverse community of faculty, students, and industry professionals. You’ll gain real-world experience as you complete a combination of studio classes and private lessons that help you become a versatile musician.

Required Courses: Jazz Performance Majors

The Private Lesson is individualized and tailored to the level, background, and needs of each student. It stresses a solid foundation in technical skills and covers a wide range of literature.  Private study includes studio classes which provide students an opportunity to perform for their peers in an informal setting. 

The IAA Orchestra performs major pieces of the symphonic repertoire, full staged ballets, concerti, new and classic music, and performs with choir and other ensembles. The Orchestra presents numerous concerts each year and frequently collaborates with renowned guest artists and conductors. Woodwind, brass and percussion students are placed into either Orchestra or Wind Symphony based on preliminary auditions. 

The IAA Wind Symphony provides a wide variety of performance experiences. Rehearsals offer the opportunity to develop and refine fundamental playing technique and ensemble skills.  The Wind Symphony presents multiple concerts annually of original compositions, representative transcriptions, and works for smaller ensembles. Placement within the ensemble is determined by audition with the studio faculty. 

This select ensemble is one of the most popular concert groups on the campus. The twenty-piece ensemble in big band instrumentation, studies and performs the music of the foremost big band composers, past and present. Students must audition for placement in the Jazz Orchestra.

The jazz combo is a select group of 4-8 musicians who rehearse twice weekly.  Auditions for the Jazz Combo occur in conjunction with the Jazz Orchestra auditions. During the course of the year the students involved in the combo work to improve their understanding of various styles of small group jazz and consistent growth as creative improvisers will be expected.  The jazz combo performs on all of the concerts with the large jazz orchestra.  The students in the jazz combo are excused from orchestra or band rehearsal during the Second period on Tuesdays and Fridays in order to rehearse at that time.  All members of the jazz combo are encouraged to enroll in the Tuesday - Friday section of Jazz Improvisation.

Academy Choir is a requirement for all Voice majors and is open to all students. The choir participates in numerous concerts during the year, performing works from a diverse range of styles, time periods and composers.

This course explores the skills and concepts fundamental to live sound reinforcement and audio recording. Students will be introduced to gain levels, I/O (inputs and outputs), cabling and monitoring, PA systems, basic microphone designs and application, sound reflection and room treatments, digital audio interfaces, DAWs, audio plugins, mixing, mastering, and various audio file formats.

Music theory classes at Interlochen offer instruction in musicianship skills essential for the serious music student. The class objectives are to provide complete and thorough training in all basic musicianship skills; to offer advanced, college-level theory for the highly motivated student; and to stimulate and encourage exploration of the creative process through music creation (classical) and arranging (contemporary). 

This course is an extension of private lessons. It addresses many of the same concepts, but in a group setting. It is designed to be flexible to meet the varying levels and needs of students.

Jazz Improvisation is divided into two sections, beginning and advanced.  In this class the student learns to apply the theory of improvisation to the instrument in order to successfully improvise over a variety of song forms.  The application of scales, chords, scale and melodic patterns to the chosen music, and transcribing solos from recordings form the basis by which the student learns to improvise.

Jazz History is a chronological study of jazz beginning with its origins in African and African-American folk music music, through the most recent trends.  Emphasis is placed on learning the subtle differences between the various eras and styles associated with jazz (New Orleans, Swing, Bebop, etc.).  There is a considerable amount of time devoted to listening and discussing recordings by important jazz stylists.  Additionally the students gain an awareness of the cultural events throughout the 20th century that affected jazz and the musicians who performed it. 

Jazz Class Piano will focus on skill building necessary for all musicians of all instrumental focuses to learn jazz. This class will use the piano as a tool to develop skills in chordal theory, aural skills for melody, harmony, and rhythm, as well as the foundations of improvisation.

Curriculum Guidelines: Jazz Majors


  • Year-long: Private lesson, Studio, Theory I, Choir

Sample Academic Courses
Algebra I; Biology; English I; French I


New Sophomores

  • Year-long: Private lesson, Studio, Theory I, Choir, Jazz History

Returning Sophomores

  • Year-long: Private lesson, Studio, Theory II/Contemporary Theory, Jazz History

Sample Academic Courses
Geometry; World History; English II; French II


  • Private lesson, Studio, Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Combo, Jazz Improv I & II

Sample Academic Courses
Algebra II; U.S. History; English III; Chemistry


New Seniors/PG’s

  • Private lesson, Studio, Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Combo, Music Theory, Jazz Improv III & IV, Jazz History

Returning Seniors/PG’s

  • Private lesson, Studio, Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Combo, Jazz Improv III & IV or I & II.

Sample Academic Courses
Precalculus; Ecology; English IV