Jazz Performance major

Jazz Performance Major


Core training in jazz revolves around developing a great understanding of improvisational based music, and as such, improvisation is at the heart of our programme.  With a focus on improvisational methods through memory, transcription and analysis, students also advance their instrumental proficiency, and deepen their knowledge of jazz history and theory to provide a well-rounded knowledge of the genre. 

Throughout the programme, the opportunity to perform in recitals and concerts act not only as assessment tools, but preparatory gigs as students develop the skills required to perform as both band leader and band member. Collaborations are a major part of the jazz community, and these are actively fostered within our programme. A benefit of the University’s School of Music is that the students of the jazz, classical and popular music majors have opportunity to work together and learn from each other’s practice.

Performing is often the main career choice for our graduates, however many supplement a successful playing career with roles in teaching, composing, arts administration or management, or academic research. 

Performance teachers

We understand that decisions about where to study music are often based upon the calibre of the teachers and the teacher-student relationship. You can review our available instrument and performance teachers by discipline here. You are invited to contact staff directly with any queries you may have. If your desired instrument is not listed please, contact us.

Our Jazz Performance major is taught by some of New Zealand’s leading names in jazz. Staff are well connected in the industry locally and internationally, and these connections provide exciting learning and performance opportunities for students. Through collectives such as Creative Jazz Club Aotearoa students have the chance to share the stage with their teachers and visiting musicians, performing both original works and music from the jazz repertoire.

Student profile

"At the School of Music, our main focus is the jazz of about the 1940s, so we don't explore Latin jazz as much as swing or bebop. So when I was having a jam with some friends, playing a Latin piece, we struck a bit of trouble. All three of us were playing something which was 'correct', but the piano, bass and drums just weren’t fitting together. Each played a rhythm which worked on its own, but when put together, they weren’t matching up.

"I decided to apply for a Summer Research Scholarship to investigate this; explore the roots and patterns of Latin Jazz with a goal of producing a quick-reference guide book. As jazz musicians, we will be expected to have at least a working knowledge of Latin jazz, so I decided a resource of quick solutions when you're wanting to play Brazilian or Afro-Cuban music would be very beneficial."

Check out Denholm's 2016 postgraduate recital.

Denholm has completed a Bachelor of Music / Bachelor of Science conjoint degree, and is quoted heading into his BMus (Honours) year. 

Degree structure

In the first year you will develop your instrumental technique and improvisational skills through in-depth study of scales, rhythm, harmony and relevant music analysis. In your second year and beyond, you will continue to develop your performance practice through stylistic, interpretive and literary methods. Working in large and small ensembles refines your musical literacy within the context of performance. With repertoire anywhere from the 1920s to contemporary jazz, you will develop your musicianship style, improvisation, composition, arrangement and performance. Advanced studies of theory, arranging and composition allows for a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of music making and will help to fuel your creativity.

You will also take two General Education courses offered by other faculties from across the University to acquire a broader range of skills and understanding, and be exposed to cross-disciplinary research.

You can download a degree planner below, which outlines your course content and programme structure in more detail. You can also find course prescriptions in the University Calendar

If you are planning to undertake a conjoint programme, these course planners below outline the structure of each degree:

Further study

The BMus, and associated conjoint programmes, lead into further study options at the School of Music. Our postgraduate degree programmes encourage initiative, critical analysis and independent thought about music in social, cultural and academic contexts as well as creative excellence. 

Research programmes
Master of Music (MMus)
Doctor of Music (DMus)
Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Taught programmes

Bachelor of Music (Honours) (BMus(Hons))
Postgraduate Diploma in Music (PGDipMus)
Graduate Diploma in Music (GradDipMus)

How to apply

For rank score and grade point requirements for the BMus and associated conjoints, please refer to the entry requirements tab on the following programme page Bachelor of Music

All applicants are required to:

*Your statement of musical background should list all relevant musical training and performing experience (professional and amateur), including involvement in community and extracurricular music activities.  Also include details of any musical prizes/awards you have received. Your referee should be your current instrumental/music teacher who can comment on your musical work and your suitability for study.

Selection will be based on the combined strength of your statement of musical background and live audition.


Get in touch

Creative Arts and Industries Student Centre

Level 2, Building 421
(Architecture and Planning Building)
26 Symonds St
Open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm
Email: info-creative@auckland.ac.nz