Modernizing European Higher Music Education Through Improvisation

Institutions: Lucerne

Improvisation Ensemble with Magda Mayas

Lucerne: University of Applied Sciences and Arts

Non-Idiomatic improvisation at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Switzerland

The Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts offers a Bachelor’s Degree with specialisation in Non-Idiomatic Improvisation as well as a Minor in Improvisation from autumn 2020.

The Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts is at the forefront in the field of non-idiomatic improvisation in Europe. It builds on decades of experience in research, knowledge transfer, methodology and performance. The main focus being on bringing together forms of improvisation coming out of Jazz, classical and other musical traditions.

Since 1990, the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts has held many international conferences (Internationale Tagung für Improvisation) including presentations, seminars, workshops and concerts. It also participates actively in international networks and projects within the field.


Thinking silent matter is a short video about the Improvisation program at Hochschule Luzern - Musik. In this teaser you can see the program’s coordinator Magda Mayas working and performing with the Improvisation Ensemble at the school’s festival Szenenwechsel in February 2020.


Bachelor's Degree

As part of this specialisation, students are encouraged to develop a personal musical language that does not necessarily follow conventional approaches. This programme incorporates various forms of improvisation, such as conceptual, free and tonal improvisation. Furthermore, students explore improvisational concepts and playing techniques and also study the culture and playing styles of non-European improvisational music.

In addition to their main instrumental disciplines in either the Classical or Jazz profile, students are trained in improvisation and attend the Improvisation Ensemble course. In both courses, students work on content from the expertise of a variety of teachers. The Improvisation Ensemble course is led by teachers from different musical backgrounds, the focus being to play in a collective, both in free improvisation and through an exploration of post- and mid 20th century concepts and models of experimental jazz and new music. Students are generally encouraged to attend other courses with similar content offered within the regular programmes. All these courses include a live performance at least once per semester.

Apart from these two courses, the students follow subjects according to their chosen profile.

Minor Improvisation

In the fall semester 2020, Hochschule Luzern – Musik starts offering the new Minor in Improvisation and continues to build on the long standing specialization in this area, offering students from both the classical and jazz profiles diverse possibilities to further knowledge, experiment and experience. Individual lessons in improvisation will be part of the course, which also inccludes the new and exciting module Reflective Listening Studies. We also debut Joint-Modules with our European partner institutions in the area of improvisation, starting with the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo. Furthermore, students will be able to choose from different offers such as the well-established “Step Across the Border” and the “Hear and Now” courses. The Lucerne faculty in improvisation includes prolific musicians such as Christian Weber, Charlotte Hug, Urban Mäder, Jan Schlegel, Hans-Peter Pfammatter, Gerry Hemingway, Marc Unternährer and Thomas Mejer. The minor continues to develop the expertise that has been built by a strong network of professors and alumni in Lucerne.

Master's Degree in Music and Art Performance

This unique Master's Degree programme provides specialised training for students seeking to develop and perform their own artistic ideas beyond conventional musical profiles.

Students have a large degree of freedom in realising their study aims. The focus is on developing a personal musical idiom by means of improvisation, composition and performance, and on genre-crossing and interdisciplinary activity. At the same time, this Master’s Degree programme presents students with challenges in line with their interests and abilities. They are encouraged, or even obliged, to reflect on, formulate and, in performance-related projects, give expression to their own artistic approach.

Link to homepage »

Concerning Improvisation at HSLU »

Link to research (in German) »


Magda Mayas

program coordinator - improvisation

Improvisation Faculty:

Gerry Hemingway

Charlotte Hug

Magda Mayas

Thomas Mejer

Urban Mäder

Hans-Peter Pfammater

Jan Schlegel

Marc Unternährer

Christian Weber