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The Jazz Workshop

Five higher music education partners and five music festivals are working together in this project to develop methodology, compose new music and create new study programs within large jazz ensembles.

The Jazz Workshop focuses on a specific area of higher music education within the jazz genre, large jazz ensembles. The project also aims at establishing better links between education and working life.


Large jazz ensembles, or big bands, historically the most common format for such ensembles, have a long and proud history within the genres roughly one-hundred-year-old tradition as an ever-growing and increasingly influential part of the professional music and art scene. In USA there are several jazz education programs that are built around the traditional big-band line up. In Europe the main focus is on the small ensemble and the soloist. Two reasons for this can be the the one-to-one master-apprentice pedagogical model that has dominated in higher music education and the practical challenge related to operating large ensembles. A third reason can be the traditional big band is perceived as a format that belongs to outdated stylistic ideals.

Today many traditional classical ensembles and institutions such as symphonic orchestras, wind bands, chamber orchestras e.a. are struggling due to economic factors and changes in audience behaviour. As well as being a challenge this creates a window of opportunity: Creating new music and new practices in close relationship with festivals and audiences can revitalize the large ensemble format not only in jazz but in music in general.

Ensemble training is increasingly seen as an important pedagogical tool for the training of transversal skills vital for the musician in the 21st century: Team working, peer-learning and reflective practice are essential and will support musicians to prepare themselves to be reflective practitioners in their future portfolio careers.

The teachers

The teachers involved in this project are all musicians at a high international level and at the same time pioneers in revitalizing large jazz ensembles as an important element in the professional development of the international, professional music and art scene. It is an objective to explore the didactic possibilities of working with large ensembles in an educational context, just as different formats of large ensembles play a very important role in music education within the classical music genre. At the same time, it is important to revitalize the large ensemble format by challenging the traditional big band format.

The project will also develop study programmes for conductors for large ensembles within the jazz genre. This is relevant both for dedicated jazz ensembles and for the many classical ensembles (eg symphony orchestras) that let different forms of "rhythmic repertoire" become an increasingly larger part of their activities. As far as the involved project partners know, there is no conductor education aimed at this type of repertoire anywhere in the world.

The objectives

  • Establish sustainable collaboration between the partners in the areas developed through the project
  • Explore new didactic opportunities and methodologies through work with large jazz ensembles in the education of future jazz musicians
  • Explore and establish relevant blended learning methods for future collaboration between the partners
  • Develop closer collaboration between jazz education and the labour market, represented by important jazz festivals, to improve the working life relevance of the education and the students' entrepreneurial skills.
  • Develop new repertoire for large jazz ensembles
  • Contribute to the revitalization of the role large jazz ensembles have on the professional music and art scene
  • Develop and launch specialized conductor educations aimed at jazz and other rhythmic genres

The project period spans from 1st September 2019 until 31st August 2022 and is supported by the Erasmus+ programme for higher education. 

The Partners

  • The Norwegian Academy of Music (coordinator) (Norway)
  • Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (Great Britain)
  • Conservatorio di Musica Arrigo Boito (Italy)
  • Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg (Germany)
  • Hochschule für Musik Nürnberg (Germany)
  • Oslo Jazzfestival (Norway)
  • Edinburgh International Jazz and Blues Festival Ltd (Great Britain)
  • ParmaFrontiere (Italy)
  • NUEJAZZ Festival (Germany)
  • Elbjazz GmbH (Germany)




Tone Jordhus

Senior Advisor
Academic Affairs and Research
Last updated: 4. December 2019