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Abstract

This essay examines how jazz educators construct methods for teaching the art of improvisation in institutionalized jazz studies programs. Unlike previous studies of the processes and philosophies of jazz instruction, I examine such processes from a cultural standpoint, to identify why certain methods might be favored over others. Specifically, jazz education is treated as a fusion of two distinct historical and cultural forces: those of musical academia, and of the jazz community. I argue that methods of teaching improvisation reflect a dual identity, in which these two cultural traditions sometimes exert an uneven influence upon the learning environment. Improvisational curricula, pedagogical methods, and evaluative strategies all reflect this dual influence, and the tensions they engender impart a powerful influence on the ways in which students and teachers interact with each other, with the institution, and with the larger community of jazz performers.

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