Fall 2018


The History of Jazz Violin: Prehistory to the Swing Era

Though sometimes considered an anomaly in jazz, violinists have been central to its development, creating some of its most exciting, innovative music. We’ll discover the reasons for this disconnect, meet the influential musicians and find out how their music reflects the social, racial, technological and musical influences of their times.

We will trace the violin’s evolution from the eras of African prehistory, slavery and the pre-jazz period to the birth of the blues. We’ll see how jazz violin was shaped by two early 20th-century personalities, Will Marion Cook and James Reese Europe, and by later soloists such as Joe Venuti, Stéphane Grappelli and Eddie South. We’ll also explore the cross-fertilization of jazz and classical music. Throughout, we’ll enjoy vintage recordings as well as demonstrations by the instructor.

Note: Back by popular demand. This is a more in-depth exploration of themes from A History of Jazz Violin, from fall 2017.

Interested in more courses on jazz violin? See The History of Jazz Violin: From Swing to the Present.

Currently not available for registration.

What will I learn?

Week 1: Race, Technology and Cultural Integration

Week 2: African Pre-History and Slavery, Pre-Jazz Beginnings up to the Chicago World’s Fair (1893)

Week 3: The Blues, New Orleans and the Uptown/Downtown Divide (1890-1910)

Week 4: Two Huge Personalities: Will Marion Cook and James Reese Europe (1910-1925)

Week 5: The Great Soloists: Joe Venuti, Stephane Grappelli, Eddie South, The European Connection and Henry Ford (1923-1935)

Week 6: The Classical Connection—Cross Fertilization: Dvorák, Debussy, Ravel, Copland, Gershwin, Ellington and More

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

Look at other courses in