A study of jazz from its African and European roots through its emergence at the turn of the 20th century as a unique and distinctive American art form. This course immerses students in a journey through time, placing jazz within larger cultural and historic contexts as various styles are studied along with their primary innovators. Sixty streaming audio tracks and other materials are used to provide students with a better understanding of how jazz developed. Special topics include women in jazz and contemporary trends.


  • Improved critical and analytic skills

  • Awareness of the lineage of developments on your instrument or voice and composition/arranging in jazz.

  • Awareness of the history of jazz in terms of its place in American cultural, as well as its political, economic and social fabric.

  • Ability to identify and discuss stylistic trends in jazz through recognition of performance and compositional characteristics.

  • Awareness of the important innovators throughout jazz history and know why they are considered as such.

  • Understand how, where and why jazz developed as it has.

  • Understand issues of race and discrimination in America as they relate to jazz music, musicians and their evolution.

  • Understand how the evolution of recording technology impacted on jazz and its development.

  • Understand the musical styles and cultural practices (including African) that influenced the evolution of jazz.

  • Improvement as a performer and composer/arranger based on a deeper appreciation and understanding of diverse jazz styles and performers. (measurable only through self-reflection)

  • Preparation to teach the course.

  • Improvement as a jazz ensemble director/teacher and public presenter who has acquired a deeper understanding of styles, performance practice and its place in the larger American fabric.



Richard (Rick) Lawn has received several significant composition grants from the National Endowment of the Arts and, as a member of the Nova Saxophone Quartet, has recorded on the Musical Heritage Society, Crystal and Equilibrium labels. The Sea Breeze record label issued Unknown Soldiers, a CD recorded by the Third Coast Jazz Orchestra that features his compositions and arrangements including his arrangement of “Donna Lee” recorded by Bobby Sanabria’s New York Latin Big Band on his 2001 Grammy-nominated CD.  In fall 2011, Lawn’s Philadelphia-based little big band Power of Ten released Earth Tones, featuring his original compositions and arrangements. The CD received coast-to-coast radio play and favorable reviews. Publishers of his music include Kendor Music, CL Barnhouse, Walrus Music, Concept Music, Alfred Music, EJazzlines, Warwick Music, Dorn, LawnWorks Publications and UNC Press, among others. Lawn’s books The Jazz Ensemble Director's Manual (in its 4th edition), Jazz Theory and Practice (in its 2nd edition, including interactive ear-training software) and Experiencing Jazz (now in its 2nd edition) have become staples among jazz educators and students.
Lawn’s performing experiences outside of his own ensembles include extended engagements with Lionel Hampton, Chuck Mangione, the Rochester Philharmonic, and the Austin Symphony, among others. He has performed in back-up orchestras for Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Joe Williams, Natalie Cole, Marian McPartland, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Dianne Schuur, Rosemary Clooney, Aretha Franklin and a host of others. Additional information about Lawn can be found at www.RickLawn.com.
Lawn is the former Dean of the College of Performing Arts at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he is now professor emeritus and part-time faculty member teaching jazz history online. He was formerly affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin, serving as founding director of jazz studies, chair of the Department of Music, and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

VanderCook College of Music - (312) 225-6288