Jazz BA Honours | Middlesex University London
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Jazz BA Honours

Develop your improvisational skills and rhythmic technique in the finest traditions of jazz.
October 2020
EU/International induction: September 2020
3 years full-time
Usually 5 years part-time
£9,250 (UK/EU) *
£13,400 (INT) *
Course leader
Rob Townsend
Chris Batchelor

Our advanced course will help you develop your technique, skills and experience to launch a professional career in the music industry.

Why study jazz with us

Our BA Jazz is a lively and practical course that mixes performance, improvisation and composition that will help you to develop your own voice. Acknowledging the jazz tradition, you’ll gain an insight into a wide range of music and artists to enhance your expertise and expand your musical repertoire.

You’ll learn to work quickly, effectively and flexibly, building on your already high standard of musicianship by joining a range of ensembles and performing at some of London’s top jazz venues such as Vortex jazz club in Dalston. You’ll also get plenty of support from our team of successful professional musicians who will help you build the contacts and experience you need to launch a career in the music industry.

Our London location means you’ll be in the heart of the capital’s music scene, with access to promoters, labels, concerts, gigs and a wealth of musical opportunities that have facilitated the success of former students including graduates Led Bib, who received a Mercury Prize nomination for their album Sensible Shoes. You can find out more about our graduate success stories in the Careers tab.

Build your hands-on experience while developing your musical talents

You’ll be immersed in talent and get expert teaching, training and plenty of support from our dedicated jazz course lecturers, as well as our wider music staff of leading academics, musicians, composers and producers.

We’ve got world-class facilities that include a concert hall, two performance halls, soundproofed practice rooms, pianos (including two Steinway grand pianos), hybrid analogue-digital sound recording facilities, and a recording studio.

You’ll gain an insight into a wide range of viewpoints from visiting lecturers from the music industry and regular masterclasses led by industry specialists, concert pianists and music agency staff. You’ll also enhance your employability skills with work placements options, and the opportunity to study jazz abroad during your second year, with former students getting a taste of New Orleans, Sacramento and Helsinki.

Our music department’s weekly Concerts and Colloquia series gives you access to some of the industry’s most influential guest speakers, with previous guests including the likes of Geoff Travis (founder of Rough Trade) and Dave Tomberlin (Interscope-Geffen-A&M).

Get the support you need to succeed

When it comes to support, you’ll be matched with a Personal Tutor to get the backing you need. You’ll also get support from our Student Learning and Graduate Academic Assistants who have personal experience in the music industry.

Our BA Jazz degree was one of the first in the UK, and many graduates have gone on to play jazz and other types of music at a professional level, while others have pursued careers as music teachers, instrumental tutors, and music management.

Find out more

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What will you study on the BA Jazz?

Year 1

In your first year you will study Harmony and Theory, giving you a broad knowledge of harmony and jazz notation to inform your practice. In Jazz Performance 1 you will learn the conventions of small band playing and look at approaches to practise and memorising material. Stylistic Studies 1 is "jazz boot camp", where you will develop a jazz vocabulary, as well as instrumental and aural facility by playing patterns and scales through chord sequences. Finally, in Introduction to Ethnomusicology, a module shared with other music courses, you will explore how ethnomusicology deals with diverse world music.

Year 2

In your second year you will begin to develop you own voice by playing your own compositions and arrangements in Jazz Performance 2. You will be given feedback from tutors in weekly sessions as well as composition lessons and instrumental lessons with specialist instrumental staff. Jazz Repertoire is a further study of jazz standards using more complicated chord sequences. By the end of this module you will have learnt more than 30 jazz standards from memory. Harmony and Theory 2 builds on knowledge gain in your first year and Stylistic Studies 2 is an in depth study of Bebop and Hard Bop through performance and analysis.

Year 3

In your final year you will study Advanced Jazz Improvisation, working on techniques relating to form, melody, harmony and rhythm. In Stylistic Studies 3 (acoustic post bop and fusions) you will explore post-bop developments in jazz, including the electric music of Miles Davis and John McLaughlin, and European jazz by musicians such as Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor. Un-American Activities, despite its slightly subversive title, is the study of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music, taught by one of the UK's leading specialists in this field. The Jazz Major Project builds on your previous jazz performance modules and leads towards an end of year recital, with composition and instrumental lessons given alongside weekly performance classes. Students can elect to replace this module with an Independent Studies Module.


  • Year 1

    • Introduction to Ethnomusicology (30 Credits) - Compulsory

      The module aims to give an introduction to ethnomusicology, surveying its history, methods, and methodologies, illustrating how ethnomusicology deals with music from around the world including classical, popular and traditional. You are also introduced to a range of skills required for the study and practice of non-Western music through a series of mini-courses on specific musical cultures. Exploring ethnomusicology and the music of non-Western cultures will allow you to develop your understanding not only of the systems and traditions of these types of music, but also of the context of Western music in the world.

    • Jazz Harmony and Theory 1 (30 credits) - Compulsory

      This module aims to give you a broad harmonic knowledge to inform your practice, as well as the practical application of this knowledge and the conventions of jazz notation. For example, four-part realisation of song book harmony e.g. I Remember You and the formal design of common chord sequences such as the II V I and its variations. Through the analysis of standard jazz repertoire, you will examine form and gain an understanding of chord/scale relationships. Practical application is actively encouraged in the weekly lecture/workshop.

    • Jazz Performance 1 (30 credits) - Compulsory

      This module aims to prepare you for further study in jazz performance by giving them a grounding in the conventions of jazz performance through repertoire such as Autumn Leaves, Take the A Train, major and minor blues , simple arrangements, aural analysis and providing broad knowledge of common practice.

    • Stylistic Studies 1 (30 credits) - Compulsory

      This module aims to lay a firm foundation for the further study of jazz through a range of specific musical skills, with a focus on the execution of melodic patterns relating to harmonic sequences, sight reading skills and rhythmic fluency, and an understanding of musical analysis. These analytical skills are then used to examine paraphrase, motivic and formulaic improvisation.

  • Year 2

    • Jazz Harmony and Theory 2 (30 credits) - Compulsory
    • Jazz Performance 2 (30 credits) - Compulsory

      Building on the broad knowledge base gained in the Jazz Performance 1 module, this module aims to develop your command of specialised performance skills. You will also learn about researching, adapting and arranging material for jazz ensembles and this will prepare you for further jazz performance study.

    • Jazz Repertoire (30 credits) - Compulsory

      Building on the broad knowledge base gained in the module Jazz Performance 1, this module is more specialist in its demands. An ability to learn more complicated sequences as blocks of harmony and demonstrate a practical understanding of the harmony of jazz standards through improvisation. Repertoire at this level such as Green Dolphin Street, Body and Soul, will demand an increased level of sophistication and understanding, and will prepare you for further jazz performance modules.

    • Stylistic Studies 2 (30 credits) - Compulsory

      This module aims to use skills and knowledge gained in previous modules for study of later styles of jazz. It enables you to develop your knowledge of the styles and techniques of small group bop and hard bop, an awareness of the roles of instruments in these styles and their inter-relationships, and understanding of the concepts of extended motivic and formulaic improvisation through processes of analysis and pastiche composition. You will also develop your notation and aural skills.

  • Year 3

    • Advanced Jazz Improvisation (30 credits) - Compulsory

      Building on the knowledge gained in the series of Stylistic Studies modules studied in Year 1 and 2, this module aims to provide you with a deeper understanding of the conventions and practice of improvisation in Jazz, to extend your practical improvisation skills and aural awareness, and to provide techniques for the development of musical ideas through improvisation.

    • Stylistic Studies 3 (30 credits) - Compulsory

      This module is a study of post-bop developments in jazz, including the electric music of Miles Davis and John McLaughlin, and European jazz by musicians such as Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor. Through analysis, transcription and critical evaluation of key works, you will examine the broadening of the modern jazz palette as some elements of various cultures rock, Indian classical music, folk music and Western classical music have been absorbed. This module will also give you an understanding of more advanced developments in harmony slash chords and rhythmic concepts.

    • Un-American Activities (30 credits) - Compulsory

      This module aims to use skills and knowledge gained in Years 1 and 2 for study of the interactions between jazz and Afro-Cuban styles, and jazz and Brazilian styles. It enables you to develop your knowledge of some of the styles and techniques of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music, an awareness of their interaction with jazz, and understanding of the concepts of the resulting styles through aural analysis and pastiche composition. You will also develop your idiomatic notation and aural skills.

  • Year 3 optional modules - choose one module from the following:

    • Independent Project (30 credits) - Optional

      This module develops further knowledge, understanding and skills in an area of study that particularly interests you, whether arising from previous learning or enabling you to pursue an interest not other otherwise catered for in taught modules. Because of the diversity of Independent Projects, the specific aims will vary according to the nature of the project and will be defined by you in your proposal, subject to the approval of the Module Leader.

    • Jazz Major Project (30 credits) - Optional

      Building on the knowledge base gained in the Jazz Performance 2 module, this module aims to consolidate and extend the specialised performance skills already established. You are expected to apply these creative skills and to accept responsibility for researching and developing your performance material. This is done in combination with learning about jazz composition for small ensembles, and exploring the relationship between composition and performance in jazz.

You can find more information about this course in the programme specification. Optional modules are usually available at levels 5 and 6, although optional modules are not offered on every course. Where optional modules are available, you will be asked to make your choice during the previous academic year. If we have insufficient numbers of students interested in an optional module, or there are staffing changes which affect the teaching, it may not be offered. If an optional module will not run, we will advise you after the module selection period when numbers are confirmed, or at the earliest time that the programme team make the decision not to run the module, and help you choose an alternative module.

  1. Overview
  2. Teaching and learning
  3. Assessment and feedback
  1. UK & EU
  2. International
  3. How to apply
  4. Interviews and auditions
  1. UK & EU
  2. International
  3. Additional costs

How can the BA Jazz support your career?

The performance, composition and arranging aspects of the course see our students go on to play jazz and other types of music at a professional level. Graduates have become professional musicians across jazz and other genres, as well as music teachers and instrumental teachers, or taken management roles within the music industry.

Middlesex BA Jazz graduates

Led Bib was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2009 - all five band members are former Middlesex students, nominated for Mercury Prize 2009

Gail Brand (trombone) is a band leader with several CDs under her own name, a regular contributor to BBC Jazz on 3 and a qualified music therapist, practicing in the area of adult and child learning difficulties and dual diagnosis at the Guildhall School of Music and drama

Kelly Dickson (vocals) recorded in New York 2003 with George Garzone

Amanda Drummond (viola) is playing in Courtney Pines Europa, and also in Jason Yarde's Acoustic Bombastic

Ruth Goller (bass) is a member of award winning Acoustic Ladyland and leader of Madame Ruth

Hans Koller (piano) has recorded with Bill Frisell, Steve Swallow and Steve Lacy and is in post at Birmingham Conservatoire

Michael Olatuja (bass) is currently based in New York and playing in Terence Blanchards band

David Oliver (keyboards) is a member of the globally successful UK soul band Mamas Gun

Jack Pollitt is a drummer who has recorded and performed with Beyonce Knowles, Ed Sheeran, Pharrell Williams, Beverly Knight, Fran Healy, David McAlmont, Shapeshifters, David Arnold, Sam Brown, Brian May, James McCartney, Nigel Godrich, Dennis Rollins, Ola Onabule, Nelson Rangell, and many more. He has also played on many film and TV soundtracks, and in the West End. Jack is a member of the globally successful UK soul band Mamas Gun.

Jon Shone (keyboards) is currently musical director for One Direction

Holly Slater (saxophone) was awarded the British Telecom Rising Star in Jazz award in 1996 and now lives in New York where she teaches at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music.

Femi Temowo (guitar) is a solo artist and session player and was Musical Director for Amy Winehouse

Stian Westerhus (guitar) is a solo artist who also works with Nils Petter Molvaer and Sidsel Endresen

Dave Whitford (bass) is highly in demand as an upright bass player and has worked with many of the top names in the music world including Bill Frisell, Maceo Parker, Steve Lacy, Paul Carrack, Marc Copland, John Taylor, Dave Liebman, The NDR Big Band, The BBC Big Band, Mike Gibbs, Jack Bruce, Evan Parker, Kirk Lightsey, Ed Thigpen, Billy Hart, Kenny Wheeler, Josh Roseman and Gilad Atzmon.

Jason Yarde (saxophone) won the 2010 Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Composers

Chris Batchelor
Course leader and acclaimed jazz trumpeter

Chris is a trumpet player, composer and bandleader who has featured as a versatile soloist in many highly regarded groups on the European jazz scene. He has played alongside international stars such as Michael Brecker, Sam Rivers, Hermeto Pascoal, Tim Berne and Uri Caine. In November 2009 he was selected to receive the prestigious Paul Hamlyn Award for Composers.

"There's a very healthy scene amongst younger players in London and the Middlesex courses are part of that. We have a distinctive approach where students have the opportunity to study things like Afro-Cuban music and Fusion. When they come to Middlesex they get the chance to play day and night and develop their individual voices. Because of that they come out with a distinctive edge and style"

Rob Townsend
Course leader and acclaimed jazz trumpeter

Rob is a saxophonist and composer. He has played alongside international jazz artists such as Randy Brecker, Sam Rivers and Eddie Henderson as well as working with rock/pop stars Rick Wakeman, Robbie Williams and Jamie Cullum. Rob also records and tours internationally with Steve Hackett and James Taylor, and writes and produces music for film, TV, computer games and other media.

Nikki Iles
Jazz lecturer

Nikki is one of the most in demand jazz pianists in the UK. Playing highlights in the last couple of years include Julian Arguelles Octet, Kenny Wheeler Big Band, Anglo Canadian Project with Kenny Wheeler and Norma Winstone, Tony Coe and Tina May, The Printmakers with Norma Winstone and Mike Walker, and Renga with Rufus Reid. Nikki is also a composer and bandleader, and developed and edited the ABRSM Jazz syllabus.

Stuart Hall
Jazz lecturer and admissions tutor

Stuart Hall mainly plays guitar, but also double and electric bass, violin, ud, kemence, mandolin, banjo, viola caipira, tres, bouzouki, gimbri, lap steel, mandola, a bit of pedal steel and various other gratuitously obscure string instruments. He has played with (amongst many others) Hermeto Pascoal, Django Bates, Steve Arguelles, John Dankworth, Cleo Laine, Lol Coxhill and Tim Berne as well as on countless Hollywood film scores.

  • Binker-Golding-profile

    Binker Golding

    Jazz saxophonist

    Binker Golding is one half of the MOBO-winning jazz duo Binker and Moses. He grew up in Enfield, north London, and graduated from the BA Jazz degree at Middlesex University in 2007.

    I might have become a jazz musician without going to university, but then again I might not have. I certainly wouldn’t have been as good a musician. I couldn’t have learned what I did just turning up to jazz clubs and jam sessions. I learned so many things in the classrooms at Middlesex.

    "It was right up my alley in the sense that there was a good balance of both academic and practical content. Some teachers were geared towards the practical knowledge, playing instruments and communicating through music. Other teachers were more about what was on the paper and the analysis of music – the nitty gritty of how a piece of music is put together and what is going on inside a musician’s head.

  • Led-Bib-profile

    Mark Holub

    Band leader, drummer and composer for Led Bib

    Mercury-nominated improv jazz band Led Bib formed in 2003 while students on the BA Jazz degree at Middlesex University. Signed to Cuneiform Records, the band released their sixth album in 2014.

    Our formative year and a half was at Middlesex, even after that, we would go back and rehearse in the practice rooms. Soon after we finished Middlesex we started to get some press interest.

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