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Jazz Improvisation:
Practical Approaches to Grading

"If a panel of eminent leaders met to discuss 21st-century challenges such as climate change and globalisation with the same degree of intelligence, sincerity, and respect for diversity of opinion represented in this study, we would soon see a better world for all. Actually, Professor García's more modestly focused Jazz Improvisation: Practical Approaches to Grading addresses quite complicated problems surrounding the grading of students, particularly the contradictions and vulnerabilities implicit in evaluating creativity.

"How one does this in real life turns out to be a contentious philosophical problem with a surprisingly wide spectrum of responses—including a sophisticated argument for not even trying. (Fortunately, by the time we reach the end we find the job can still be done.)

"Although initially based on the author's original survey material, this is far more than a compilation of responses. García has produced a lucidly written, probing, analytical, and ultimately "practical" resource for professional jazz educators, replete with valuable ideas, advice, and copious references. He presents his own well-honed views in the chapter 'Personal Reflection.'"
Darius Brubeck, Musician, independent academic, and honorary artist-in-residence at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

I am delighted that this book is published by Meredith Music Publications—in paperback and e-book formats!

Click on the photo for larger image and photo credits.

ISBN-10 Number: 1574631446
ISBN-13 Number: 978-1-57463-144-9
UPC Number: 888680650803
Hal Leonard Number: HL 00200478
Aebersold Code: JIPA

The paperback edition lists for $19.95 (subject to change), priced affordably to serve as a text in any number of music education Pedagogy courses, Jazz Pedagogy courses, curriculum-development courses, and assessment courses. It is distributed by Hal Leonard Corporation. If you can, order it from your local music store and support the music business in your community. The e-book is available for as low as $9.99; and as with many e-books, a free preview of the opening sections of the book is available Search for the title in your e-bookstore!


"In day and age of assessing every facet of learning, it is imperative that we are well-versed in a language of evaluation that is understood by students, colleagues, and administrators. Perhaps there is no greater challenge than to sculpt and adapt a definitive measuring tool designed specifically to address the discipline of jazz. Tony has brilliantly achieved this goal and gone far beyond by spotlighting the practices of successful jazz educators across the country (and around the world)."
Tim Lautzenheiser, Vice President of Education for Conn-Selmer, Inc., and President of Attitude Concepts, Inc.

This book emerges after 20 years of my conversations and data-exchanges with jazz educators from academic and "street" backgrounds. Meredith Music is the terrific partner bringing it your way. I know that it will fill an important need in Jazz Pedagogy and Music Education courses as well as for Improvisation instructors in classrooms and private studios around the world.


"Groundbreaking. The comprehensive amount of material García has gathered from leaders in jazz education is impressive in itself. Plus, the veteran educator then presents his own synthesis of the material into a method of teaching and evaluating jazz improvisation that is fresh, practical, and inspiring!"
Janis Stockhouse, Band Director,
Bloomington High School North (Indiana)


What if you teach an Improvisation course for which no grades are needed? How you prioritize your course-content affects how you deliver your instruction—and how your students receive it. The concepts illustrated within this book will provide you a variety of contexts within which you can evaluate how best to assign importance and allocate time to the material you'd like to address within the course.

If grading music students in any creative course for credit is a challenge, how much more difficult is it to grade something as personal and nebulous as Jazz Improvisation? Should students be evaluated on their creativity in soloing or simply on technical skills such as chords and scales? What are the objectives in an improv course, and how can they be graded? The instructors whose responses are presented in this book represent over 700 years of combined experience teaching Jazz Improvisation—over 400 of those years for credit.


"This is a much-needed, comprehensive look at the many facets of assessing and grading jazz improvisation while also offering a variety of instruction-ideas and practices for teaching this art form. This resource very carefully addresses the many questions, frustrations, concerns, and challenges surrounding the academic assessment of this very unique art form. García passionately shares his jazz improvisation teaching experience and that of many fine jazz educators from around the country in this quick and relaxed read. Whether you're a new or veteran jazz improvisation instructor, Jazz Improvisation: Practical Approaches to Grading is an excellent resource!"
Dr. Kate Reid, Director, Jazz Vocal Performance, Frost School of Music, University of Miami

Whether you're teaching instrumental or vocal jazz, this book will provide perspectives regarding the grading process—and the course elements on which you focus your course. Do you have vocalists and instrumentalists in the same class? Horns and drummers? Beginners and more-experienced improvisors? How you grade influences how and what you teach—in turn influencing how you grade.

"Tony García challenges us all to teach and grade what is important, not simply what is easy to grade! In one telling example, he asks his jazz pedagogy students to identify their "Top Ten Peeves" regarding beginning improvisers, then design their curriculum around those points. This amazing resource-book combines his personal insights with input from a large number of highly regarded jazz educators."
Dr. Martin Norgaard, Music Education, Georgia State University School of Music; Author, Jazz Fiddle Wizard Series









"Tony’s book addresses a most important, overlooked area of jazz education. Improvised jazz solos are very subjective and personal. No matter the level of performance, not all listeners will hear the solo the same way.  Tony’s suggestions, along with the many comments, will pave the way for more comprehensive grading. This book should be mandatory reading for all graduating music ed students."
Jamey Aebersold, NEA Jazz Master









"BRAVO. So needed and so well put together. This wonderful and essential publication makes a huge difference and puts these questions that many educators have into a very clear and concise book."
Bart Marantz, Bart Marantz Productions


This book is aimed at current and future music educators who will find themselves teaching jazz improvisation courses without benefit of any guidance regarding how to grade them. Veteran jazz educators with decades of experience rarely find any advice on the subject. Jazz Pedagogy majors at the graduate level rarely address it. Music education programs graduate thousands of undergraduate and graduate students each year who have not been exposed to adequate context from which to grade the subject. Yet improvisation (of any sort) is a U.S. National Standard; and the same challenge of grading this goal of aesthetic expression exists in schools across Canada, Europe, Australia, South Africa, and beyond.

Improvisation is a universally shared topic: it is time we share thoughts as to how to grade it in for-credit coursework.

"This longitudinal research conducted by Professor García serves as a wonderful evaluation tool to help educators measure the growth and improvement of their students. This method will aid in the quality of teaching and learning of jazz improvisation worldwide."
Dr. Ron McCurdy, Professor of Music, University of Southern California

Click on this image to
watch a short video in
which I describe the concepts behind the book.



"In the world of academic instruction there are many books—especially textbooks—that are quite long (and expensive) but have little to say of any substantive consequence. Then there are books that are relatively short but are packed with relevant information and do have something substantive to say. Jazz Improvisation: Practical Approaches to Grading...belongs in the latter category.... [It] is not just for jazz educators who teach improvisation. The philosophical heart of this book is about bringing out the creative best in students, albeit by starting with the fundamentals. It is about approaching each student as an individual learner with varying degrees of talent and intellect compared to others. It is not just about grading, it is about how to be a more effective teacher."
Eugene Marlow, Ph.D., MBA, Marlowsphere Blog (#140)


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