Founded in 2001, the Peabody Conservatory’s Jazz Studies Department has quickly grown to become one of the strongest and most comprehensive areas of study within the Conservatory. Under the guidance of world-renowned saxophonist and flutist Gary Thomas (Richard and Elizabeth Case Endowed Chair), the department was built upon a philosophy that emphasizes experiential learning. The benefits of this approach are that it emulates the professional working environment beyond the walls of Peabody and also provides the student with the necessary skills to become a lifelong learner.
After an in-depth curricular review in 2003, an expanded set of core courses was introduced in 2004. In addition to the standard Peabody Conservatory curricular requirements and weekly private instruction, jazz-specific course offerings include:
- Jazz Fundamentals (two semesters)
- Jazz Theory/Piano Lab I & II (four semesters)
- Jazz Arranging/Composition (two semesters)
- Jazz Improvisation I & II (four semesters)
- Jazz Eartraining (two semesters)
- Jazz History (two semesters)
The Jazz Studies Department also offers two large performance ensembles, the Peabody Jazz Orchestra and the Peabody Improvisation and Multimedia Ensemble (founded in 2007), as well as numerous small ensembles such as the Peabody Latin Jazz Ensemble.
Department enrollment has expanded greatly over the past decade to the current total of 29 full-time students. The instrumental breakdown of the current student population is five bassists, four drummers, six guitarists, three pianists, six saxophonists, one trumpeter, one violinist, and three vocalists.
Past visiting artists have included John Abercrombie, Tim Berne, Terri Lyne Carrington, Dennis Chambers, George Colligan, Marc Copland, Peter Erskine, Jerry Granelli, Andre Hayward, Conrad Herwig, Tim Miller, John Patitucci, Rufus Reid, Sam Rivers, David Samuels, Lynn Seaton, Marcus Strickland, Miroslav Vitous, Steve Wilson, and Dontae Winslow.
Current students and alumni of the Jazz Studies Department maintain very active schedules in both performance and education, working frequently in Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and New York, as well as internationally. Alumni activities of special note include collaborations with Roy Hargrove and Nnenna Freelon, the Music Center at Strathmore’s Artist in Residence Program, Buffet Crampon USA Performing Artists, Inner Circle Music Recording Artists, and faculty appointments at Peabody, the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, and the University of Tartu.