In recent decades there has been an acute growth in awareness concerning musical improvisation pedagogy among K-12 teachers. For many decades, the increased prominence of school jazz ensembles contributed to an enhanced awareness of jazz improvisation pedagogy. Furthermore, in 1994 the National Committee for Standards in the Arts included improvisation as a core competency of music education. The subsequent 2014 revision of the National Standards continue to include improvisation as a key competency of music creation. Recently, many K-12 music teachers (particularly those teaching traditional ensembles such as band, orchestra, and choir) have questioned how to incorporate improvisation into their class curricula. Research by CSEME professors and fellows has addressed this challenge. More specifically, CSEME research has examined a) the influence of group free improvisation instruction, self-reported improvisation confidence, and risk-taking personality on individual improvisation achievement and confidence, b) the pedagogical approaches of successful university free improvisation teachers, c) the teacher education implications of a university free-improvisation class, d) the differences between identical improvisation tasks performed by middle school students on clarinet and iPad, e) the use of improvisation activities by K-8 improvisation teachers in Illinois, and f) the pedagogical noticing trends and teaching strategies of master high school jazz instructors.

Related publications

Healy, D. J. & Ankney, K. L.  (in press) Group improvisation activities for K-12 ensembles. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Hickey, M. (2015). Learning from the experts: A study of free improvisation pedagogues in University settings. Journal of Research in Music Education, 62(1), 425-445.

Hickey, M. M., Ankney, K. A., Healy, D. J., & Gallo, D. (2015). The effects of group free improvisation on improvisation achievement and improvisation confidence. Music Education Research, 17(2), retrieved from

Healy, D. (2014). Play it one more time Billy, this time with more mistakes: Divergent improvisation activities for the jazz ensemble. Music Educators Journal, 100(3), 67-72.

Hickey, M. (2009). Can improvisation be ‘taught?’ A call for free improvisation in our schools. International Journal of Music Education. 27(4), 1–15.


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