Modernizing European Higher Music Education Through Improvisation

Institutions: Oslo

Oslo: The Norwegian Academy of Music

The Norwegian Academy of Music (NMH) is a leading artistic and academic university college with over 700 students. We offer music education founded on research and artistic development work. Our teachers are leading performers, music pedagogues, conductors, church musicians, music therapists and composers.

The school has a long tradition for teaching improvisation, allmost all students, classical and jazz and folk etc, has classes in improvisation. This was implemented already in 1993 and has had a huge impact on the learning environment at the school. The bachelor program in jazz performance was started in 2004 and is actually called “jazz and improvised music”, to signal that we have a broader definition of jazz than only the African-American tradition. Our jazz/improvisation students are constantly challenging the definition of jazz and are collaborating with students and teachers from classical, pop, rock, modern contemporary and traditional Norwegian folk music. Our master program in improvised music/jazz is project-based, each student creates her own plan for the two years at the Academy.

We have a long list of elective programs dealing with improvisation: Traditional jazz for classical musicians, Indian music, Improvisation based on contemporary classical pieces and improvisation in the studio to name a few.

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Articles & Resources

PhD by Njål Ølnes about improvisation and interplay using the theories of Pierre Schaffer to analyze the process

An article about Guro Gravem Johansens Ph D about how to practice improvisation

Ongoing artistic research about improvisation with machines

Completed artistic research project about improvisation

Videos (external links)

Interview with Sidsel Endresen and Torgrim Sollid, the pioneers who started the impro classes at NMH in the 90 ties: 

From an impro class – students working with a choreographer: 

The result of the workshop, the movie “The big Freeze”: 


Key Persons

Professor Sidsel Endresen

Vocalist, has been teaching improvisation for all kinds of musicians at NMH since 1995. Mostly in the free idiom. 


Associate professor Ivar Grydeland 

Guitarist and free-impro musician. Has completed the 3-year Norwegian Artistic research program  focusing on improvised music in small ensembles. Has been teaching improvisation (for all musicians) at NMH for many years. 


Associate Professor Lisa Dillan

Vocalist and improviser. Improvisation teacher (for all musicians) at NMH. 

Associate Professor Mona Julsrud

Singer. Mona is using improvisation in her vocal teaching, she has also created an elective course in voice improvisation. 


Professor Geir Lysne

Composer and conductor. Geir is the artistic director for NDR Big Band, he also works with the Norwegian Wind Ensemble and uses improvisation heavily in his projects with them. He has created large improvisation projects with all the classical wind players at NMH. 


Morten Halle