Glenn Alexander

Course Information

Current undergraduate courses

Advanced Theory: Jazz Theory and Harmony

In this course, we will study the building blocks and concepts of jazz theory, harmony, and rhythm. This will include the study of the standard modes and scales, as well as the use of melodic and harmonic minor scales and their respective modals systems. It will include the study and application of diminished and augmented scales and their role in harmonic progression, particularly the diminished chord as a parental structure. In-depth study will be devoted to harmony and harmonic progression through analysis and memorization of triads, extensions, and alterations, as well as substitute chords, re-harmonization, and back cycling. We will look at polytonality and the superposition of various hybrid chords over different bass tones and other harmonic structures. We will study and apply all of the above to their characteristic and stylistic genres, including bebop, modal, free, and progressive jazz. The study of rhythm, which is possibly the single most important aspect of jazz, will be a primary focus, as well. We will also use composition as a way to absorb and truly understand the concepts discussed.


Guitar Class

This course is for beginning acoustic or electric guitar students.


Jazz Colloquium

This ensemble will meet weekly to rehearse and perform a wide variety of modern jazz music and other related styles. Repertoire in the past has included works by composers Thelonius Monk, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Herbie Hancock, as well as some rock, Motown, and blues. All instruments are welcome.


Jazz History

Jazz music of all styles and periods will be listened to, analyzed, and discussed. Emphasis will be placed on instrumental styles and performance techniques that have evolved in the performance of jazz. Skills in listening to and enjoying some of the finer points of the music will be enhanced by the study of elements such as form, phrasing, instrumentation, instrumental technique, and style. Special emphasis will be placed on the development of modern jazz and its relationship to older styles. Some topics: Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, roots and development of the Big Band sound, Fletcher Henderson, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, lineage of pianists, horn players, evolution of the rhythm section, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Bill Evans, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, be-bop, cool jazz, jazz of the ’60s and ’70s, fusion and jazz rock, jazz of the ’80s, and modern trends. The crossover of jazz into other styles of modern music, such as rock and R&B, will be discussed, as will the influence that modern concert music and world music have had on jazz styles. This is a two-semester class; however, it will be possible to enter in the second semester.


Jazz Performance and Improvisation Workshop

This class is intended for all instrumentalists and will provide a “hands-on” study of topics relating to the performance of jazz music. The class will meet as an ensemble, but the focus will not be on rehearsing repertoire and giving concerts. Instead, students will focus on improving jazz playing by applying the topic at hand directly to instruments, and immediate feedback on the performance will be given. The workshop environment will allow students to experiment with new techniques as they develop their sound. Topics include jazz chord/scale theory; extensions of traditional tonal harmony; altered chords; modes; scales; improvising on chord changes; analyzing a chord progression or tune; analysis of form; performance and style study, including swing, Latin, jazz-rock, and ballade styles; and ensemble technique. The format can be adapted to varying instrumentation and levels of proficiency.


Jazz Vocal Ensemble

No longer do vocalists need to share valuable time with those wanting to focus primarily on instrumental jazz and vice versa. This ensemble will be dedicated to providing a performance-oriented environment for the aspiring jazz vocalist. We will mostly concentrate on picking material from the standard jazz repertoire. Vocalists will get an opportunity to work on arrangements, interpretation, delivery, phrasing, and intonation in a realistic situation with a live rhythm section and soloists. They will learn how to work with, give direction to, and get what they need from the rhythm section. It will provide an environment in which to learn to hear forms and changes and also work on vocal improvisation if they so choose. This will not only give students an opportunity to work on singing solo or lead vocals but also to work with other vocalists in singing backup or harmony vocals for and with each other. And it will serve as a great opportunity for instrumentalists to learn the true art of accompanying the jazz vocalist, which will prove to be a valuable experience in preparing for a career as a professional musician.


The Blues Ensemble

This performance ensemble is geared toward learning and performing various traditional, as well as hybrid, styles of blues music. The blues, like jazz, is purely an American art form. Students will learn and investigate Delta Blues—performing songs by Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Skip James, and others—as well as Texas Country Blues by originators such as Blind Lemon Jefferson and Chicago Blues beginning with Big Bill Broonzy and moving up through Howlin’ Wolf and Buddy Guy. Students will also learn songs and stylings by Muddy Waters, Albert King, and B.B. King and how they influenced modern blues men such as Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and pioneer rockers such as Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jimi Hendrix.


Previous courses