Jazz and Improvisation Ensembles

Jazz and Improvisation Ensembles

Berkeley's outlet for jazz, including the Nu Jazz Collective

Background image: a student performs jazz

The Jazz and Improvised Music Initiative (JIM)


Under the direction of Myra Melford, JIM was created by and for UC Berkeley music students. Its primary purpose is to support studies in jazz and contemporary improvisational music. JIM strives to increase the number of concerts, master classes and coaching sessions with world-class musicians, to provide new instruments and audio equipment, along with establishing an endowment. JIM allows students to study, perform and collaborate on a variety of approaches to improvisational music by creating a thriving community of musicians. Since its founding in 2009, JIM has created the Berkeley Nu Jazz Collective, which recorded a CD of original student compositions at Fantasy Studios, produced an innovative collaboration between improvisers in food and in music, presented master classes with drummer Allison Miller, guitarist Nels Cline, and the progressive jazz group Kneebody, among others, and held concerts with renowned musicians Denny Zeitlin, Taylor Eigsti, Matt Wilson, Mark Dresser, Art Lande, Paul McCandless, Ben Wendel, Dan Tepfer and Michael Formanek.

A student drumming during a jazz performanceCourses


Students, both graduate and undergraduate, interested in the performance, composition, arrangement, and critical studies of Jazz & Contemporary Improvised Music have a number of opportunities to pursue their interests. All except Music 128 culminate in performance usually at the end of the semester. Participation is by permission of the instructor. All courses are open to both majors & non-majors.

Music 116 Improvisation in the Jazz Tradition
A systematic study of jazz theory including scales, chords, keyboard voicings, solo transcription, and tune study approached through playing, singing, listening, writing, improvization, analysis, and small ensemble playing. Contact: ben.goldberg.music@berkeley.edu

An advanced 8 – 10 piece ensemble of improvisers, explores a range of repertoire including music by innovative jazz composers of the 1960s – today, as well as original student compositions and arrangements, and experimental practices in improvisational music.  Activities include repertoire study and practice, listening, transcription, analysis, arranging and performing/recording. More info on Nu Jazz.

MU168E Individual Lessons in Jazz and Improvised Music
Intermediate or advanced instruction in the performance of jazz and improvisation. A directed program of study including participation in department-sponsored or UC Jazz ensembles, workshops, and special projects where applicable. Will include instruction and/or coaching, individually or in groups. Each student’s studies will lead to some kind of public performance. The student’s program will be worked out in consultation with the faculty in charge of the course. More info on lessons.

students take part in a jazz performance