Butler University’s School of Music will introduce a Jazz Studies major in the fall designed to help students become well-rounded musicians who can earn a living in music.
The program will include a number of new courses, such as “Career Development in Entrepreneurship for Musicians” and “Jazz Pedagogy Practicum.” Sandy Williams (guitar) and Jesse Wittman (bass) will join the program faculty, and new guest artists will include Indianapolis jazz stalwarts Kenny Phelps and Steve Allee.
“The program will make Butler a viable option for students who want to pursue jazz studies,” said Matthew Pivec, Butler’s Director of Jazz Studies. “If a student knows that they want jazz and commercial music to be their focus, now we can say we have this really strong curricular program.”
Butler had previously offered a jazz minor and concentration. Pivec said he had two major goals in creating the major:
-Offer the most relevant and useful information to help students develop the skills to become successful freelance musicians. “Because that’s what we’re training them to do with this particular degree,” he said. “It’s always going to be about crafting a life and livelihood in music with different possibilities.”
-Create courses that will differentiate Butler’s program from other schools’ offerings. “Career Development in Entrepreneurship for Musicians” is not specifically a jazz course, but it’s important for all musicians, Pivec said. “The students in this degree will be required to take it, and quite honestly, they should want to take it because it’s their livelihood.”
In addition, Butler jazz students now teach in the Butler Community Arts School, which provides music lessons to Indianapolis-area children. That work will become “Jazz Pedagogy Practicum.” “The idea is that getting into the classroom and working with students is probably more important than simply studying pedagogy theories in a classroom,” Pivec said. “It will combine the actual experience of teaching with learning about different techniques and repertoire, so it creates a much more realistic situation for our students.”
The new major will continue to include courses such as Jazz Improvisation, Private Jazz Lessons, Jazz Arranging, and Jazz History. And, like all music students, Jazz Studies majors will take Music Theory, certain components of music history courses, and Keyboard Studies.
Pivec said the new professors will be role models for the students. Williams is a freelance musician who teaches, plays recording sessions, and performs multiple styles of music, as does Wittman.
Allee is a pianist, composer, and arranger who has written and performed for syndicated radio programs (“The Bob and Tom Show”), network television, and movies. He started his career with the Buddy Rich Orchestra at 19, and has released six CDs. Phelps is a virtuoso drummer who leads his own jazz-fusion group and has toured with numerous artists, including Dee Dee Bridgewater.
Even among the most successful jazz stars, everyone does more than just play, Pivec said.
“Our students have to be able to read music well, they have to be able to sight-read, they have to be able to play well in ensembles,” he said. “They have to be able to wear a number of different hats if this is what they want to go into. And they have to understand the business and be willing to be entrepreneurial. I believe this new program will help them accomplish these things and more.”