The subject Ensemble is an important part of your curriculum. You will have at least two hours per week of ensemble lessons, with students at master’s level (podium option) taking part in an extra ensemble. You can also play in a second ensemble by taking some of the optional courses.
In order to ensure that you encounter a range of pedagogical/musical perspectives and a broad spectrum of styles during the course of your study, each ensemble will have a different teacher each semester. Specialised ensembles will be offered as optional subjects, such as ensembles focusing on free improvisation, contemporary jazz, cross-over, standards, own composition, etc.
There are also numerous possibilities in terms of instrumental combinations, and you will be provided with the opportunity to learn to play in duo as well as getting the chance to take part in the annual Big Band project, directed by Bert Joris.
In order to mirror professional practice as closely as possible, the lessons (or parts thereof) at master’s level are organized around projects entitled “Breathing”. Weekly attendance is no longer required. These projects always conclude with a performance in the concert hall Rataplan (Borgerhout).
To ensure a close link with the profession, many high-profile artistic projects are organized each year. These may or may not be in collaboration with other disciplines, with international partner institutions or with professional organisations.
Each year the jazz department organizes two interdisciplinary improvisation projects with dance students and a “Breathing” project together with students of media, writing and performance art. There are also regular collaborations with students of classical music, and you will get the chance to take part in projects with film or in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp. Finally, each year you can take part in the interdisciplinary project week, Common Ground.
Projects for jazz ensembles:
As well as interdisciplinary projects, each year projects are organized for jazz ensemble, vocal ensemble, and big band. These projects offer you the opportunity to play on interesting stages, both in Belgium and abroad: De Singel, De Singer, Flagey, BOZAR, CC Muze, Hnita hoeve, CC De Kern, Rataplan, Jazz Middelheim, Porgy en Bess Terneuzen, Jaffa Jazz Festival Tel Aviv, Harmos Plural Festival Porto, and Jazz’s Cool Rome.
For the concerts at the Jazz Middelheim Festival and the Jaffa Jazz Festival Tel Aviv, an international coach is recruited each year. This allows jazz students to be directed by and to perform with a musician from the international jazz scene. The list of coaches is impressive, and includes names such as Mark Turner, Peter Evans, Dave Douglas, Greg Cohen, Andrew Cyrille, Jasper Hoiby, Chris Cheek, Avishai Cohen, Adam Nussbaum, Billy Cobham, and Mark Giuliana.
In addition to both coaching projects, in 2017 a third project will be added, which will be directed by the American trumpeter, Ambrose Akinmusire. Students will get the chance to perform the music from Akinmusire’s latest album “The Imagined Savior is Far Easier to Paint” on stage in Flagey, De Singel, and Porgy en Bess Terneuzen.
To celebrate the 25th birthday of the jazz department, a big band with an international line-up will be put together in April 2018, in collaboration with the conservatoires in Amsterdam and Maastricht, and with the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki. This will be directed by the teacher, Bert Joris, with none other than Joshua Redman as guest soloist. The Antwerp Jazz Orchestra will play arrangements of the music of Joshua Redman, to be written by former pupils of Bert Joris. Performances will take place in De Singel, in CC Muze Heusden Zolder and in the Centre Culturel Virton.
Music projects and placements within professional ensembles:
As part of the curriculum, each student is expected to organize and perform his or her own musical project [LINK] once a year. The content and development of this are completely free in terms of genre, setting, and location. Students must take care of the organization, communication and promotional aspects themselves. Placements within professional ensembles are also a rich source of practical experience (your own professional projects or projects in collaboration with BJO, aSCT, Zonzo Compagny, Collectief STAU, Rat Records, etc.) and count as part of the study programme.
As a supplement to your study programme, a number of masterclasses are organized each year, both for ensembles and for all individual instrumental groups. Recent masterclass teachers have included: John Scofield, Joey Baron, Joshua Redman, Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier, Nasheet Waits, Peter Martin, Dave Douglas, David Liebman, Magik Malik, Hilmar Jensson, Jozef Dumoulin, Yaron Herman, Fay Claassen, Jesse van Ruller, Joost van Schaik, Brice Soniano, Mark Ducret, John Hebert, Marcin Wasilewski, Harmen Fraanje, Aaron Parks, Serge Lazarevitch, Vijay Ayer, Nelson Veras, Michel Hatzigeorgiou, and Kenny Werner.