A master class with Avishai Cohen
The Jazz degree programme at the University of Music FRANZ LISZT Weimar has been around since 1993. It was established, thanks to the pioneering work of the world-famous jazz trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, and his vision continues to shape the course to this day. As its namesake, Franz Liszt, would have done, the university has encouraged new and cutting-edge music in the fields of composition and interpretation across its 140-year history.
The Jazz course at the University of Music in Weimar has enjoyed success and excellence over its 20-year history. Even in the early 1970s, the UoM was one of Germany’s first universities to offer a degree programme in ‘Dance Music and Light Music’, with a handful of successful East German jazz musicians among its graduates.
In October 2015, the merger of the corresponding fields of education led to the creation of the Department of New Music and Jazz, a progressive department which sees all the styles of jazz, with improvisation as its central element, in direct relationship to the composition of new music.
Bringing the two together creates leeway for innovative ‘hybrid’ forms of composition and improvisation, with the modularisation of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees creating new, integrated structures. Students have greater freedom of choice within their course and can draw inspiration from various sources.
Dovetailing this with the glorious history of the city of Weimar has revealed itself to be the task at hand when it comes to integrating this field of music as a necessary component of cultural development, and not least due to its underlying creative approach.
Decisive points in terms of its development include the amendments to the Degree Ordinances of 1996/7 and 2004, which saw the tightening up pf the specifics of the subjects, particularly in terms of jazz composition and jazz theory. This led to the necessary ancillary measures being taken to give students professional training as jazz musicians and jazz pedagogues who would retain the competitive edge.
These measures laid the groundwork for the substantially elevated potential of students, in terms of achievement, which was subsequently demonstrated by an increase in internal and external success. One could sense a fundamental boost in motivation, an improvement in achievement in elite projects, and better degree results. In this context, successes relating to postgraduate employment, expressed in the form of competitiveness on the labour market, are a particularly cheering endorsement.
The keenness of colleagues at the Department of Jazz to engage in projects under the banner of interdisciplinarity, which has always been the case and has always been put into practice since the start of the Jazz programme in Weimar, has proven itself. As a result, this success has underscored the value of this vision – one of integrating students from the field of classical instrumentation in a contemporary manner.