The primary aim of the Jazz Department is to create a stimulating and inspiring culture for jazz musicians. As well as nurturing individual development, we place a great deal of emphasis on artistic exchange between students and staff, both within the Conservatoire and on the wider public stage: from local venues to international festivals.
Our autonomy means you will follow a curriculum dedicated to jazz performance on a course specifically designed to meet your needs. Because we are able to offer such specialised study, you’ll find yourself learning alongside a body of jazz students who are all highly focused and committed.
We have an outstanding team of tutors, all of whom are highly respected artists in their field. The fact that they come not only from the UK but also from the USA and Europe gives a real breadth and depth to the range of jazz music represented here, as well as greater scope for you to find a suitable mentor to watch over your individual development.
Legendary bassist, leader and composer Dave Holland headlines our international masterclass series and plays a significant consultative role in the development of our courses. He joins us each year to coach ensembles, give bass masterclasses, direct rhythm section workshops and give composition lectures. A public performance is also integrated into his visit.
Birmingham's Jazz Scene
The jazz scene in the Birmingham area is flourishing. We have an exceptionally strong relationship with Birmingham Jazz, the region’s main promoter, and our students enjoy free entry to their gigs for a nominal Birmingham Jazz membership fee. During the last academic year alone, our students have attended performances through this scheme by internationally acclaimed artists such as Joe Lovano, the Fly Trio (Jeff Ballard, Mark Turner and Larry Grenadier), Uri Caine, Jim Black and masterclasses from Dave Holland, Mulgrew Miller, Jeff Ballard and George Colligan.
In addition to the international circuit that Birmingham Jazz brings to the region, the city hosts numerous clubs and venues that support the local scene.
Venues providing a platform for the wider jazz community include the mac Birmingham, Yardbird Jazz Club, The Rainbow, Symphony Hall Foyer, Fizzle, the Glee Club, The Drum, TL’s and the Jam House. Another welcome addition to the scene is the BBC Big Band, now resident at the Birmingham’s newly refurbished Town Hall. All this means you will be able to immerse yourself in a vibrant and energising music scene.
Large Ensemble Jazz
In addition to the main First Study activity of small group jazz, there are three large ensembles for jazz students; Big Band, Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Composers Ensemble. The Big Band concentrates on core traditional repertoire such as Basie, Ellington and Thad Jones while the Jazz Orchestra focuses on contemporary writers and themed projects. For instance, in 2011/12 the Jazz Orchestra will mark the 100th anniversary of Gil Evans through a series of concerts including Skethches of Spain. The Jazz Composers Ensemble is a student lead group formed to rehearse and perform staff and student compositions.
Undergraduate students have an opportunity to study abroad in the first semester of Year 3 through the Erasmus + scheme. Autumn 2011 saw four students move abroad to study with our Erasmus partner conservatoires in Paris, Ferrara, Weimar and Odense. As part of an exchange set up by Cheltenham International Jazz Festival and the Norwegian Embassy, Birmingham Conservatoire jazz students also shared an international platform with students from Trondheim in Norway during 2010 and 2011, and this continues into 2012.
Jazz Courses at Birmingham Conservatoire