Swing University Single Classes

Can’t commit to a full course? Single classes are now available at Swing University for $45 each.  Please note that discounts only apply to full course registrations, and not for single ticket purchases.


Jazz 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Jazz

Taught by Seton Hawkins

Jazz 101 Week One (October 14) – The Building Blocks of Jazz
Swing University’s Jazz 101 opens with a short overview of the development of Jazz, and its progression. We’ll also go into the building blocks of Jazz: what is Swing, what are the Blues, and what is Improvisation? In this class, we’ll help you to hear song form, and also help you hear how Jazz musicians approach their solos! Closing out, we’ll begin on the history of the music and cultural movements that helped create the conditions necessary to engender Jazz’s birth in New Orleans.
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Jazz 101 Week Two (October 21) – New Orleans and The Great Migration
We say that Jazz was born in New Orleans, but why? What was special about that city, and the people in it? During this class, we will explore the cultural make-up, the unique diversity, and the interplay of cultures you find in New Orleans. We’ll also listen to some of the earliest musical styles to come out of there, and we’ll give you insight into what the very earliest forms of Jazz might have sounded like. As we move along, we’ll get into the era of recordings, and hear some of the first jazz records, and trace the development of Jazz’s solos and structures.
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Jazz 101 Week Three (October 28) – The Jazz Age
Jazz may have been born in New Orleans, but it quickly moves into cities around the nation and takes root. In its earliest days, one of the most crucial cities for Jazz’s development was Chicago, as masters like King Oliver and Louis Armstrong set up shop in the Windy City and set the world alight with their music. At the same time, Jazz musicians see the rising ballroom dance craze, and get on the bandwagon by form dance orchestras heralding the birth of the big bands! Join us as we explore this crucial turning point in Jazz’s history.
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Jazz 101 Week Four (November 4) – The Swing Era
The Swing Era heralded Jazz’s place as the pop music of the day, and some of its finest artists—Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Woody Herman, and more—were also its megastars. But what was the music they were creating? How was it different from earlier styles of Jazz? And how did it change throughout the 1930s? In this class, we’ll explore the greatest artists of the day and listen to how they changed the music.
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Jazz 101 Week Five (November 11) – BeBop
Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, and more built up a new style called BeBop, bringing a new rhythmic vitality and virtuosity to the music. As the big band wave was just beginning to break, BeBop arrived on the scene as an exciting and controversial new approach to Jazz. Its performance style would radically alter the face of the music, and would fundamentally change the way we play it, hear it, and think about it.
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Jazz 101 Week Six (November 18) – Cool Jazz, Hard Bop, Modal Jazz, Free Jazz
As the 1940s gave way to the 1950s, Jazz developed many new offshoot styles. Cool Jazz arrived, seeking a marriage of BeBop and Swing Era music. Hard Bop sought to infuse bop with Blues and Gospel roots. Modal Jazz wanted to rebuild the music’s harmonic system completely, while Free Jazz sought to uproot many (and sometimes all!) of our preconceptions of what this music should sound like! Join us as we explore these many styles, and the innovators who created them.
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Jazz 101 Week Seven (November 25) – Fusions: Latin Jazz, Third Stream, and Jazz-Rock Fusion
From its very beginnings, Jazz was always a fusion of musical styles. However, as the century progressed, Jazz began to work even more closely with other genres, giving birth to many new and exciting styles. Latin Jazz emerged, fusing Jazz vocabulary with Afro-Cuban musical traditions. Third Stream sought to marry Jazz and Classical music, while Fusion looked to the burgeoning rock scene for inspiration. In this class, we’ll cover how these styles emerged, and how they came to reshape Jazz.
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Jazz 101 Week Eight (December 2) – Jazz Today: How the Music Reached the 21st Century
As the 1970s gave way to the 1980s and beyond, many styles recycled and re-emerged, while other styles sprung onto the scene in new and exciting ways. At the cusp of the 21st Century, artists like Wynton Marsalis, James Carter, Amina Claudine Myers, John Scofield, and more were offering unique visions for the future of Jazz, while stalwarts like Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock continued a tradition of relentless questing and innovation in music. A new fusion emerges, too, as Jazz and the burgeoning style of Hip Hop find ways to intermingle their sounds. In our final Jazz 101 session, we’ll examine how styles continued to develop and evolve in the decades leading up to the 2000s.
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The Great American Songbook

Taught by Will Friedwald

The Great American Songbook Week 1 (October 10) – Duke Ellington
Edward Kennedy “Duke” (1899-1974) was at once the greatest bandleader in all of jazz and among the most remarkable composers and songwriters in any genre of American music. His musical output (which includes significant contributions from his musical partner, Billy Strayhorn) was divided between instrumental compositions, most written for specific members of his orchestra, and “full-on” songs with lyrics; however, the boundary between them was always rather fluid, in that many melodies conceived as instrumentals eventually evolved into songs that singers could sing. This program will feature the Ellington band itself, including the band’s own singers (especially Ivy Anderson, Herb Jeffries, and Al Hibbler), as well as the band in collaboration with such legendary guest stars as Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett, as well as legendary artists from outside the band, such as Nat King Cole and Peggy Lee. This show will feature such classic songs as “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me,” “Satin Doll,” “Mood Indigo,” “In a Sentimental Mood,” and dozens of others. Find out why we love him madly!
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The Great American Songbook Week 2 (October 17) – Hoagy Carmichael
Jamie Aderski, Director of Improv, The PIT (People’s Improv Theater), will share how theatrical comedy improv was created, its key principles, with demonstration examples.
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The Great American Songbook Week 3 (October 24) – Harold Arlen
Harold Arlen (born Hyman Arluck, 1905-1986) started as a pianist who doubled as singer in early jazz and dance bands in his native Buffalo. Though, like most of his fellow great songwriters of the era, he was white and Jewish, Arlen had a special affinity for jazz and black performers from the very beginning of his career. The great blues singer Ethel Waters famously called him “the blackest white man” whom she’d ever met. Arlen began his career writing for African American singers, dancers, and musicians at the Cotton Club in Harlem, and went on to write some of the greatest Afro-centric Broadway shows ever produced, including St. Louis Woman, House of Flowers, and Jamaica. Along the way, he cultivated special relationships such quintessential American divas as Lena Horne and Judy Garland. You’ll hear such classic melodies as “Over the Rainbow,” “Stormy Weather,” “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “When the Sun Comes Out,” “One for My Baby,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” and many others.
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The Great American Songbook Week 4 (October 31) – Johnny Mercer
John Herndon Mercer (1909 – 1976) originally wanted to be the next Bing Crosby – he even followed in Crosby’s footsteps in the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and landed a movie role early on – but by the time he got to Hollywood, it was clear that his big chance was as a lyricist. He established himself as the perfect wordsmith for both Hoagy Carmichael and Harold Arlen, because, like them, he loved hot jazz and had a distinct affinity for the blues. Mercer’s lyric wit was distinctly American, and a true product of the American South; nearly all of his classic songs are at once funny and sad at the same time. The Songbook never had a greater master of telling stories and using words to paint pictures in the listener’s mind, as such masterful texts as “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Sante Fe,” “Sky Lark,” and “And the Angels Sing” demonstrate. We’ll also hear such priceless songs as “Too Marvelous For Words,” “Jamboree Jones,” “Moon River,” “The Days of Wine and Roses” and many others.
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The Great American Songbook Week 5 (November 7) – Jimmy Van Heusen
Like Carmichael, James Van Heusen (born Chester Babcock, 1913-1990) spent nearly all of his life writing songs in Hollywood, and never devoted much energy to Broadway or musical theater. The centerpiece of his career was the personal and professional relationships that he enjoyed with the three-all time greatest male singers of the mid-20th century, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and particularly Frank Sinatra. Yet, like Arlen and Carmichael, Van Heusen also had a unique gift for writing harmonies and melodies that were beloved of jazz musicians, especially in the modern jazz era – a period when virtually every bebop pianist recorded “It Could Happen to You” and “Like Someone in Love.” Van Heusen’s music is more popular than ever in the decades since his death, and “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” and “Come Fly with Me” are still heard on dozens of movie soundtracks and TV commercials every year.
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The Great American Songbook Week 6 (November 14) – Singing The Blues
In this final session, we look at the other great source of inspiration for the great jazz singers and musicians – beyond what is usually defined as the Great American Songbook – to what might be described as “The OTHER Great American Songbook”: namely, the blues. This two-hour session will be a crash course on the blues as a musical form, and will illustrate how the parameters of the blues are much wider and more all-inclusive than is generally believed. Here, we’ll cover all aspects of this remarkable American music, which has been a wellspring of inspiration for jazzmen for over a century, from the original urban or “vaudeville blues” (Bessie Smith), to the delta blues (Robert Johnson), the country music blues (Jimmie Rodgers), the rhythm and blues of the ‘40s (Louis Jordan), the big band blues (Count Basie, Duke Ellington) and the sophisticated, majestic blues stylists who represent the apogee of the music (Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, Joe Williams). We’ll hear such masterpieces of the form as “St. Louis Blues,” “Goin’ to Chicago,” “Got My Mojo Workin’,” “Early in the Mornin’,” “Ev’ry Day I Have the Blues” and lots more.
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Chick Corea

Taught by Adam Birnbaum

Chick Corea Week One (October 15) – Chick Corea: The Early Years
We open our Chick Corea course by exploring the early years of Chick Corea: his earliest musical experiences and influences, and his formative apprenticeships with Blue Mitchell and Sarah Vaughan.
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Chick Corea Week Two (October 22) – Chick Corea: Classic Works
In Week Two, we look at the rise of Chick Corea as one of the most remarkable new voices in Jazz. Pianist Adam Birnbaum will explore Chick’s classic early works like Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, as well as his work with Miles Davis.
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Chick Corea Week Three (October 29) – Chick Corea in 2019
Chick Corea’s incredible music continues to this very day. In the final week of class, Adam Birnbaum will look at the extraordinarily diverse projects Chick Corea has taken on over the years, and looks at his most recent works.
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Gospel Music

Taught by Damien Sneed

Please note this class is sold out.

Gospel Music Week One (November 5) – Concise History of Gospel Music
The first night of this three-part course will concisely cover the history of Gospel Music from its beginnings in blues with the father of gospel music, Thomas Dorsey, to the contemporary gospel music figures present today.

Gospel Music Week Two (November 12) – Gospel Music Psalm Tones (Schools and Sounds)
The second week in this three-part series will deal with the various psalm tones (schools/sounds) of gospel music around America that have shaped what Gospel Music is today, such as James Cleveland, Mattie Moss Clark, COGIC, and the Clark Sisters.

Gospel Music Week Three (November 19) – Gospel Music Styles: Traditional to Contemporary
Closing out our Gospel Music course, Damien Sneed will compare the differences in various Gospel Music styles by highlighting the various theory techniques used in each varying style.


Jazz in Europe

Taught by Ben Young

Jazz in Europe Week One (October 16) – Getting Acquainted
Week One of Jazz in Europe opens with the rise of Jazz in Europe. In Jazz’s early years, Europeans served as some of the music’s earliest fans and advocates for Jazz as the 20th Century’s premier art form. The rise of Hot Clubs, of shows and tours by American artists, and the emergence of seminal artists like Django Reinhardt will be covered.
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Jazz in Europe Week Two (October 23) – We Can Do It Ourselves
Week Two covers explores the rise of a European Jazz scene, as artists throughout a number of countries adopt the style and achieve excellence in it. Join Ben Young as he explores the lives and music of a tremendous range of European innovators in Jazz.
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Jazz in Europe Week Three (October 30) – Is There a European Flavor in Jazz?
In Week Three, Ben Young explores the cabaret scene, the emergence of composers like Kurt Weill, and discusses where uniquely European takes on Jazz tradition emerge.
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Jazz in Europe Week Four (November 6) – Now, Nationalism and Internationalism
Closing out the Jazz in Europe class, Week Four looks at the impact of labels like ECM, FMP, and ICP in driving European approaches to Jazz, and their impacts on the world’s music scene.
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