University of Pittsburgh

Jazz Studies

PhD in Jazz Studies

The PhD Concentration in Jazz Studies at the University of Pittsburgh produces jazz scholars and academic leaders through rigorous training in jazz research, composition, and performance. The curriculum is both demanding and yet flexible enough to accommodate individual skills and interests, and prepares degree recipients to enter the academic marketplace with the best available preparation for researching, publishing, teaching, and leading programs in Jazz Studies. Jazz Studies combines elements of ethnomusicology, musicology, performance, composition, and theory of various styles of jazz music.

Under the leadership of internationally acclaimed pianist, composer, and educator Geri Allen, the University of Pittsburgh is recognized as one of the premier Jazz programs in the country. Each year Pitt hosts the annual Jazz Seminar and Concert, which showcases the world's foremost jazz performers in a week-long series of free educational seminars culminating in an all-star concert. Davis retired from Pitt in 2013.

Pitt is also home to the University of Pittsburgh-Sonny Rollins International Jazz Archives, which houses important original manuscripts, recordings and related memorabilia. The Jazz Archives also include The International Academy of Jazz Hall of Fame, which each year inducts a new Jazz great into the Academy.

The William R. Robinson Recording Studio is the latest addition to the Pitt Jazz family. This state-of-the-art multi-track digital recording facility is both studio and classroom, offering students hands on experience in the latest recording techniques and technology.

Geri Allen is a pianist/composer/educator, Guggenheim Fellow, and Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. She received the very first Lady of Soul Award for jazz, and was also the first woman, and youngest person to receive the Danish "Jazz Par Prize." Her work is featured in The Lisa Gay Hamilton Peabody Award winning film, Beah: A Black Woman Speaks, and on Andy Bey's Grammy nominated American Song.

Allen received an NAACP Image Award nomination in 2011 and also performed in A Theatrical & Musical Celebration Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., MLK: A Monumental Life, for the statue unveiling in Washington, D.C. She also serves as musical director for the Mary Lou Williams Collective.

Michael C. Heller is an ethnomusicologist and Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Pittsburgh. His research focuses on the post-60s jazz avant garde, musician-organized collectives, sound studies, and archival theory. In 2016, his first monograph Loft Jazz: Improvising New York in the 1970s (University of California Press) received the H. Earle Johnson Publication Subvention from the Society for American Music. The study examines issues of musician agency and organizing strategies amid a period of disruptive urban post-war restructuring in New York City. An experienced archivist, Dr. Heller has also worked in and/or processed numerous archival collections including the Erroll Garner Collection at Pitt, the Ruben Blades and Stephen “Lucky” Mosko Collections at Harvard, and the privately owned Juma Sultan Archive.

Aaron J. Johnson is a historical musicologist and Assistant Professor of Music and the University of Pittsburgh.  He is an accomplished jazz musician who has performed and recorded on the trombone, bass trombone, tuba, and bass clarinet with such outstanding musicians as Reggie Workman, Charles Tolliver, Steve Turre, Frank Foster, Oliver Lake, Howard Johnson, Muhal Richard Abrams, Jimmy Heath, Wallace Roney, and Wynton Marsalis, as well as Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, and Jay-Z. Dr. Johnson's research interests include music and communications media, the structure of the music business, music and technology, film music, funk, and music information retrieval (MIR). He is in the process of writing a book on jazz and radio in the United States.

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