Jazz Composition & Improvisation Classes for All Ages!

Posted by on Sep 9, 2016 in Education

Fall 2016

Jazz Composition/Arranging &

Improvisation Classes for all Ages


 Saturdays, September 24 through November 12, 2016
Classes at :: Denver School of the Arts – 7111 Montview Blvd., Denver


We are very pleased to announce that Jeff Jenkins will be leading our Saturday classes this semester.

Jeff Jenkins has released six CD’s in the last 2 decades. The most recent on Origin Records entitled “The Arrival”, is his first in the classic organ trio setting.  He has appeared with many jazz greats including: Freddie Hubbard, Eddie Harris, Clark Terry, Marlena Shaw, David Fathead Newman, Teddy Edwards, the Count Basie Orchestra, The New York Voices, Bobby Hutcherson, John Abercrombie, Richie Cole and others.

Jeff attended the University of North Texas, where he led his own groups. After college he moved to New York where he studied with the likes of Richie Beirach, Kenny Barron, and Fred Hersch, while working on Broadway, and in the clubs.  When not playing the piano, Jeff is busy as the jazz piano professor at CU Boulder, and composing documentary film scores for Havey Productions.


Jazz Composition/Arranging – Level 1 :: Saturdays 10:00am-11:15am
The goal of this class is to create a lead sheet of one new original piece of music. This piece will be performed after all classes are completed! We will spend time each week listening and analyzing music written by jazz masters. My goal for students is to become comfortable writing, sharing and discussing music from a composer’s point of view. Topics will include:

  • What do you want to say? How do you say it?
  • The poetry of composing. Trust and embrace your ideas!
  • We discuss form. We talk about shape.
  • Melodic development, repetition, contrast. Melodic accompaniment, counterpoint, counter lines.
  • Melodic tools: inversion, expansion, and fragmentation.
  • Rhythmic frameworks: grooves, and rhythmic treatments, odd meters, odd phrase lengths.
  • Harmony! The dreaded cycle of 5ths. Functional harmony versus non functional harmony.
Jazz Improvisation/Theory :: Saturdays 11:30pm-12:45pm

This class deals with the skills, attitudes, and practice of improvisation within the realm of jazz music. We improvise in our daily conversations with those around us. We ask and answer questions and give our opinions about life all the time. We use  language to form improvisations, which helps us communicate with the world around us.

Improvising in jazz is not different. It’s just the LANGUAGE that is different. We must learn the language of jazz, so we can become conversant in our solos, just as we are conversant in our daily lives. This is our goal in this class. Topics will include:

  • The ingredients of the improvisation stew: Rhythm, Melodic language, Harmony.
  • The blues. Clarification of blues forms; defining the blues language and the blues scale.
  • Rhythmic approach to jazz. Following your inner drummer. Thinking rhythm first!
  • The standard. Tackling the basic standard. Discussing form. Discussing typical harmonies.
  • Modal jazz. We will define modal jazz. We will explain the modes, and explore their typical uses.
  • The bebop jazz tune. We will explore a common bebop jazz tune. We will define the bop style.
  • “We Play Requests” week. We will play tunes as requested by students.
Jazz Composition/Arranging – Level 2 :: Saturdays 1:00pm-2:15pm
 The goal of this class is to create an arrangement of new original music for jazz quintet. It will be performed for the public after all classes are completed! We will spend time each week listening and analyzing music written by jazz masters. My goal for students is to become comfortable writing and arranging music. At the end of this class, we will achieve an overall understanding of how to compose for a small jazz group. Topics to include:

  • Contrafact Melodies. Writing a melody on a given set of chord changes
  • Establishing a melodic motif and rhythmic approach. Define your framework!
  • Harmonic clarity. How to write rhythms. Defining form.
  • Arranging your new piece. We will look at the instruments for which you will be writing, and define ranges and practical approaches to writing for each instrument.
  • We will discuss melodic and accompany approaches.
  • The shape of our chart. Where is the high point? How do we start, how do we end?
  •  Writing for rhythm section. Discuss what a rhythm player wants to see in a part. What is the role of the rhythm section in your chart?
  • Dynamics, articulations, road maps, tempo, feel.

Enroll in more than one class and receive a discount!


(tuition is non-refundable unless the class is not held)

Come be a part of an creative, educational experience with us!