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.

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. Fine out more about Pitt's Jazz Collection.

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.

Find out more about Jazz Studies at Pitt.

Jazz Studies Faculty

Nicole Mitchell Gantt (aka Nicole Mitchell), is the Williams S. Dietrich II Chair of Jazz Studies and a Professor of Music at the University of Pittsburgh, where she works to continue the visionary legacies of her predecessors Geri Allen and Nathan Davis. As an award-winning composer and flutist, Mitchell makes music that interacts freely between the realms of jazz, creative music and Western new music. A former president of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), her notable honors include the Doris Duke Artist Award (2012), the Herb Alpert Award (2011) and the Champion of New Music Award (American Composers Forum, 2018). For over 20 years, MItchell’s critically acclaimed Black Earth Ensemble (BEE) has been her primary compositional laboratory with which she has recorded ten albums and performed at festivals and art venues throughout Europe, Canada and the U.S. As a composer, Mitchell has been commissioned by the French MInistry of Culture, the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, the Newport Jazz Festival, the Art Institute of Chicago, the French American Jazz  Exchange, Chamber Music America, the Chicago Jazz Festival, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and the Chicago Symphony’s MusicNow. As a flutist, she has developed a signature language of improvisation that have awarded her the repeated title of “Top jazz Flutist” from Jazz Journalists Association and Downbeat Magazine from 2010-2019. Her research centers on the powerful legacy of contemporary African American culture, its ongoing expression of resistance and resilience, its intriguing dialogue with the African diaspora and its transformational impact on culture throughout the globe. Currently, Professor Gantt is completing a creative nonfiction book entitled “the mandorla papers,” an expression of her concepts about intercultural music dialogue and coexistence.

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.