Modernizing European Higher Music Education Through Improvisation

Institutions: Paris

Founded in 1795, the Paris Conservatoire is historically the first institution of its kind, and remains to this day one of the leading music schools in the world. Spanning over two centuries, its history reflects the work of great directors, professors and students such as Cherubini, Berlioz, Fauré, Debussy, Messiaen and their continuators. Each year, new alumni reach the front of the international music scene as prominent creators and performers, testifying to a long-standing tradition of excellence merged with a constant thrive for innovation.

Improvisation teaching at the Conservatoire covers virtually all styles of musical practice through a wide range of creative disciplines.

Jazz & improvised music: leading to 1st and 2nd cycle degrees (equivalent to bachelor’s and master’s), this curriculum trains complete performers, approaching different modes of improvisation as well as a rich repertoire with which to experiment. It also provides general knowledge essential to a fully prepared musician and tutoring for the development of a personal idiom and project. Collective practice plays a key role, and a variety of other subjects such as arrangement, composition, history and analysis are also taught.

Improvisation on the keyboard: this program involves pianists and organists, separately for the 1st cycle of studies (i.e. undergraduate) and jointly for the 2nd cycle (i.e. graduate). In the 1st cycle, pianists are taught to improvise individually and collectively as well as in relation to film, new technology and the performing arts, including theatre, dance and circus; organists are trained in the perspective of their future profession and learn to work with different idioms, forms and harmonic structures. The joint 2nd cycle emphasizes freedom of play, personal invention and proficiency in a wide range of styles, complementing arrangement, composition, accompaniment and conducting skills.

Choreographic accompaniment: a three-year 1st cycle curriculum, it can also be taken as a one-year complementary course to other studies including piano, piano accompaniment, improvisation on the keyboard and percussion. Within a wider set of skills related to dance and ballet accompaniment, students learn improvisation in the specific context and within the particular structures of these arts, developing a personal style.

Generative improvisation: a one-year complementary course, “improvisation générative” designates a form of free improvisation based on interactive listening and musical invention on the instant. Unrelated to a specific style or idiom, it calls on individual and collective memory, connecting with traditional music, jazz, new technology, noise-based vocabulary and contemporary composition.

Other courses involving improvisation include harmonisation on the keyboard, medieval counterpoint & source reading, continuo playing, baroque ornamentation, Indian modal improvisation and monodic harmony practice

For more information, please visit Conservatoire de Paris


Vincent LeQuang

Alexandros Markeas

Santiago Quintans