Improvisation: Educational Perspectives (1-day workshop)

Improvisation: Educational Perspectives (1 day workshop)
22nd of April
St Cecilia’s Hall
University of Edinburgh
(Admission free but booking essential)


Improvisation is taught and formally assessed in higher education institutions (HEIs) throughout the world, yet there are a number of intrinsic difficulties in teaching and assessing improvisation that may impact on the pedagogical process.  This event is a one-day workshop that will give academics and practitioners working in this area the opportunity to share ideas, practices and methods specifically related to the teaching, learning and assessment of improvisation in higher education.

The sorts of questions and topics we expect to cover include:

• What is improvisation?
• Can improvisation be taught and, if so, how?
• What scope and range can/should HEI curricula include?
• Should improvisation be assessed?  If so, how do we do this effectively?
• Is assessor subjectivity an important concern?  If so, is this more or less problematic than in traditional ‘recital’ assessment?
• Idiomatic versus ‘generic’ issues in improvisation pedagogy.
• Assessing the process of improvisation rather than the outputs.

(NB Lunch and refreshments will be provided so please be sure to inform us of any special requirements when you book [])


Prof Raymond MacDonald (University of Edinburgh)

Improvisation and all that Jazz

Improvisation, as a universally accessible form of creativity, can facilitate innovative artistic collaborations that are both transdisciplinary and cross cultural. This presentation explores these unique features and also poses some key questions that are aligned with improvisation’s growing emergence within higher education. These questions include: what is improvisation; can it be taught and how can it be assessed.

Dr Michael Duch (Department of Music, Norwegian University of Science and Technology)

Composing Improvisation: Composed experimental music as improvisational exercises.

Can improvisation be composed and what is required of the performer? In the 1960’s experimental composers such as Cornelius Cardew and Christian Wolff made musical scores inspired by improvisation. Many of these pieces intended to diminish or blur the boundaries between composer and performer, but also between composed and improvised music.

Dr Paul Kleiman (Higher Education Academy)

Taking a Note for a Walk: Improvising assessment and assessing improvisation

Of all arts-based forms, improvisation provides a particular challenge to assessment regimes based on normative pedagogic discourses and practices. This contribution explores some of those challenges and offers some creative approaches to assessing on the edge of chaos.

Dr Zack Moir (University of Edinburgh)

‘Just like Clarence’ or ‘Just like Jimi’: Issues surrounding creativity, originality and pedagogy in pop and rock improvisation.

This presentation will begin by considering the nature of improvisation in pop and rock music with particular focus on creativity and originality.  The pedagogical implications of such issues will then be discussed by way of understanding the teaching, learning and assessment of improvisation in this idiom.

Dr Philippa Derrington (Queen Margaret University)

Making connections through improvisation in music therapy.

What is the purpose of improvisation in music therapy? How do music therapists improvise? This presentation will look at ways that improvisation is used to engage clients in interactive live music-making and how therapists are trained.