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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Thomas Nelson

First Committee Member

Harriett Arnold

Second Committee Member

Ruth Brittin

Third Committee Member

Bruth Torff


In seeking to further exploration on the relationship between jazz improvisation and creativity, this study describes the pedagogical beliefs and practices utilized by jazz educators for the teaching of improvisation as a creative process. Improvisation has been an integral feature of the jazz performance tradition for well over a century. However, the field of creativity studies has only recently come to recognize improvisation as a site for the creative process. While the jazz performance tradition has traditionally operated with a more collaborative and community-based pedagogical model based on various playing opportunities such as apprenticeships and participation at local jam sessions, the growth of jazz courses and degree programs has raised questions on the efficacy of current teaching practices within academia. The following central research question guided this study: What is the relationship between jazz improvisation and creativity? A qualitative methodology served as a theoretical underpinning for framing two supportive research questions: (1) What pedagogical beliefs do jazz educators hold in how they conceptualize improvisation as a creative process? (2) What are the pedagogical practices utilized by jazz educators in teaching improvisation as a creative process? This study utilized Moustakas’ transcendental, phenomenological research design and defined the phenomenon as the process of teaching jazz improvisation. Seven expert jazz educators situated in a variety of teaching contexts throughout Northern California were selected as participants using purposeful, snowball sampling strategies. Twenty themes emerged and were organized through four features of improvised music found across a variety of genres: creative, spontaneous, social, and accessible. These findings challenge de-socialized ways of teaching and learning creativity and add to the knowledge base on the teaching beliefs and practices of jazz educators within the fields of creativity, jazz, and music education. In providing valid data through semi-structured interviews, observations of the participants in a teaching context, and documents such as syllabi, student handouts, and music recordings, this study is intended to inform jazz educators and academics of the importance of collaborative, fully-immersed learning opportunities for the development of the skills needed for jazz improvisation.





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