Fall 2018


The History of Jazz Violin: From Swing to the Present

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 explore how jazz violin, and jazz in general, evolved from the 1930s to the present. Starting with swing, western swing and bebop, and moving through modern jazz, free jazz and fusion, we’ll see how music trends and technologies influenced jazz violin. We’ll sample musicians from Stuff Smith and Jimmie Rodgers to Ornette Coleman and Jean-Luc Ponty. We’ll finish by dipping into the new generation of stylists and asking if there’s such a thing as post-racial jazz. 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: Prehistory to the Swing Era.

Currently not available for registration.

What will I learn?

Week 1: Stuff Smith, Claude Williams and Harry Lookofsky; Swing to Bebop (1930-1950)

Week 2: Western Swing; Jimmy Rodgers to Mark O’Connor

Week 3: Modern Jazz, The Birth of The Cool, and the Third Stream (1950-1959)

Week 4: The Violin and Technology (1917 to the present)

Week 5: Free Jazz and Fusion; Ornette Coleman to Jean-Luc Ponty (1960-1980)

Week 6: Post-Racial jazz? The New Generation (1990 to the present)


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

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