Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type

Doctoral Essay

Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


Studio Music and Jazz (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Dante Luciani

Second Committee Member

Brian Lynch

Third Committee Member

Sam Pilafian

Fourth Committee Member

Brian Russell


Previously conducted research has contributed to a prevalent view that the study of improvisation is an integral component to a holistic music education. The MENC embraced this view of the importance of improvisational studies in 1994 when it established improvisation instruction as a core standard of music education. However, a multitude of surveys observing music educator practices conducted in the wake of this declaration by the MENC revealed improvisation as a classroom activity lagging behind the other core standards in terms of student practice and teacher emphasis. Findings from these surveys also suggest that many educators lack a requisite background in improvisational studies necessary to teach the subject effectively or make appropriately informed decisions on what improvisational methodologies to potentially reference or include within their general music curriculum. Research further suggested that this lack of improvisational instruction was particularly pronounced within the beginning band setting; a staple of music programs within a majority of school systems. The current study was conducted in an effort to provide an improvisational resource to the middle school music educator as an attempt to confront these observed obstacles to the teaching of improvisation within the beginning band context. The current study sought to identify key strategies to beginning improvisational instruction as gathered from a comprehensive survey of research and published pedagogies. Once these primary approaches were identified, exercises were offered applying these approaches within the context of a beginning band environment. An attempt was made to identify the primary obstacles to teaching improvisation within the general music setting, and research-derived suggestions for circumventing these common concerns were provided along with example exercises. A survey of improvisational pedagogies with potential application within the middle school general music setting was provided as well as an overview of research related to the factors that influence student achievement in improvisation. It was concluded that the six primary applications for beginning improvisation instruction, as conveyed by the research, are; (1) free improvisational exercises, (2) single pitch improvisational exercises, (3) call & response activities, (4) pentatonic improvisational exercises, (5) chord-scale improvisational instruction and, (6) blues-form improvisational exercises. Example exercises were offered applying these approaches to the beginning band setting. The two primary impediments to improvisational instruction within the classroom setting were identified through the research as, (1) a lack of instructional time and, (2) student inhibition when tasked with improvisational objectives. The research provided a series of approaches to mitigating these concerns and exercises were provided applying these approaches to the beginning band setting. Suggestions for future research are provided, including a suggestion that more research is conducted collecting improvisational models for the purpose of providing a range of options for incorporating this neglected subject into most any school music curricula and/or context.


Music; Improvisation; Beginning Band; Curriculum; Pedagogy; Middle School