Class Improvisation: String Improvisation


Ever wanted to know how to take a solo? Even if you play an acoustic instrument not traditionally found in a rock band or jazz group?


This class offers students a chance to connect with their instrument as a tool for individual artistic expression. We will not be bound by bar lines, notational limitations or genres and traditions. We will explore collaborating together and traversing harmonic progressions with awareness. We will spend our time improvising within many different styles such as folk music from our region, Peruvian folk music, jazz, west African and within the framework of transduction. We will play within various structural and non structural dimensions and we will also explore improvising within standard repertoire. Through basic harmonic analysis and imagination we will discover the music’s distinguishing characteristics by articulating the emotional qualities or psychological moods per key and discussing the best way to technically achieve these ideas through the instrument. Be prepared to have fun!



Guest Lecturer: Jennifer Curtis
An improviser, composer, and multi-instrumentalist, Curtis is a member of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and founder of the group Tres Americas Ensemble. She has appeared as a soloist with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra in Venezuela and the Knights Chamber Orchestra; performed in Romania in honor of George Enescu; given world premieres at the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York; collaborated with composer John Adams at the Library of Congress; and appeared at El Festival de las Artes Esénias in Peru and festivals worldwide.
An educator with a focus on music as humanitarian aid, Curtis has also  collaborated with musical shamen of the Andes, improvised for live radio from the interior of the Amazon jungle, and taught and collaborated with Kurdish refugees in Turkey. She joins the Haw River Ballroom’s Culture Mill in Saxapahaw, North Carolina as artist in residence this fall, and will teach at Duke University this spring. She has held her “Musicianship and the Art of Interpretation” workshop for string players at Oberlin Conservatory, San Francisco Conservatory, and Cornell University. She also incorporated its underlying principles into her classes during her tenure as a Visiting Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Fees, Course Credit & Audition Requirement

The applied lesson fee is waived only for music majors, for one area of study only. All applied lessons at Duke are offered by permission of the instructors after competitive auditions at the beginning of the semester. Click to see instructor contact information for auditions.

Group lessons: 

  • MUSIC 101-1 Class Piano, 101-2 Class Voice, 101-3 Class Guitar, 101-4 Class Djembe, 101-7 Class Brass, 101-6 African Dance Percussion; (half hour) 0.25 course credit. Fee per semester: $172.

Private lessons:

  • MUSIC 103-108 (half hour), 0.25 course credit. Fee per semester: $344
  • MUSIC 203-208 (one hour), 0.5 course credit. Fee per semester: $688


  • MUSIC 210-1, 210-2, 210-4, 211-1, 211-2, 213-1, 213-3, 0.5 course credit. There is no additional fee for enrolling in an ensemble.