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Music, Jazz Studies Specialization, M.M.

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The Master of Music degree program with a jazz studies specialization is an advanced course of study which focuses on individual jazz instruction, improvisation, ensemble work, history and pedagogy. The Jazz Studies program enhances the cultural life of both the university and community, most notably through the MTSU Jazz Artist Series and the annual MTSU Illinois Jacquet Jazz Festival. Each year, several guest artists and clinicians visit the campus to present concerts, perform with student ensembles, and give workshops and master classes. Graduate teaching assistantship opportunities are available to qualified students.

What We're Doing

Kelly Garner

Deciding to attend MTSU was ‘easy choice’ for Jazz History graduate

From teaching and singing backup vocals for well-known artists to owning her own production and publishing companies and recording studio, Kelly Garner has done it all. While teaching at a Nashville university, Garner decided to pursue her master’s degree at MTSU. “MTSU was close in proximity and was also a very fine program in Jazz Studies, so it was an easy choice.”  Her time at MTSU also helped prepare her to audition at the University of Miami where she earned her doctorate. Thinking about her own students and those considering Jazz Studies, Gardner said,  “I would tell any of my students who were interested in the Jazz Studies degree in the Middle Tennessee region that MTSU is the place for them. It is a very fine program with excellent faculty.” 

Shawn Purcell

Graduate says Jazz faculty made ‘huge’ impact on him as a musician

A longtime-friendship and music business connection led Shawn Purcell to MTSU where he earned his master’s degree in music with an emphasis in jazz arranging and composition. Since then, Purcell has gone on to share the stage, record, and tour with some of the top jazz artists including, Terell Stafford, Nicholas Payton, Tim Warfield, Sean Jones, and The Chicago Jazz Ensemble, among many others. Purcell now lives in the Washington D.C.-area, where he is the guitarist for the Navy Commodores jazz ensemble. “The knowledge I gained while attending MTSU has really as a member of the Navy Commodores jazz ensemble, my main professional gig,” he said. “MTSU has a world-class faculty with some of the best musicians on the planet. During my time at MTSU, the members of the Jazz faculty made a huge impact on me as a musician. It was a very inspiring time-period, and I would not hesitate to recommend MTSU to any up-and-coming jazz student. The education they received there will be second to none.”

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  • MTSU College of Graduate Studies

    MTSU College of Graduate Studies

  • MTSU | The University of Opportunities

    MTSU | The University of Opportunities


Alumni from the School of Music teach thousands of students every day in private studios and schools from kindergarten through university levels. MTSU graduates perform in orchestras, military ensembles, and opera companies; appear in clubs and recording studios with the famous and yet-to-be-known; compose music for Hollywood films and commercial jingles; lead professional music organizations; work in the music industry; serve as church musicians; and continually enrich the lives of others. Some continue on to enter prestigious doctoral programs. A sample of potential professional pathways for music master's students:

  • Accompanist
  • Band director/leader
  • Choral/choir director
  • College professor/instructor
  • Composer/arranger/orchestrator
  • Concert promoter
  • Film-TV composer
  • Instrumental performer
  • Instrument repair specialist
  • Instrument sales business owner
  • Music critic/journalist
  • Musical director
  • Product specialist
  • Record company manager
  • Recording technician/engineer/mixer
  • Salesperson/marketer
  • Songwriter
  • Studio musician
  • Private studio owner/instructor
  • Vocalist

Employers of MTSU alumni include

  • Bellevue Middle School
  • Belmont University
  • Cane Ridge High School
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Chattanooga Symphony
  • Cumberland University
  • The Downtown Band
  • Earl Klugh (Grammy winner)
  • EMBRA Artists, LTD.
  • Fairview Middle School
  • Jeff Coffin (Grammy winner)
  • Jonathan Fletcher Music
  • Lipscomb University
  • MEINL Percussion
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • Murfreesboro City Schools
  • Nashville Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Nashville State Community College
  • Northeast Mississippi Community College
  • Old Center Elementary School, Nashville
  • Onks Woodwind Specialist
  • Siegel Middle School
  • Trevecca Nazarene University
  • University of Louisiana-Lafayette
  • University of Northern Colorado
  • Vine Street Christian Church, Nashville


The School of Music’s Masters of Music Degree is offered with seven graduate specializations:

A minor in Music is offered at the graduate level.

Applicants must

  • hold (or be about to receive) an undergraduate degree in music;
  • have an acceptable grade point average in all college work taken (at least 3.0);
  • depending on specialization, either do an audition or submit an audition audio or video-recording; submit scores and recordings of compositions; submit written samples of scholarship; or submit a 30-minute video-recording demonstrating teaching ability;
  • complete entrance examinations in music history and music theory to plan initial course of study;

For complete curriculum details, click on the REQUIREMENTS tab above.


MTSU's School of Music offers an undergraduate major in Music leading to Bachelor of Music (B.M.) degree in the following concentrations:

Undergraduate minors in Music, American Music Studies, and Music Industry are also available. 

Teacher licensure

Students seeking a license to teach music in the public schools must complete

  • a major in Music following the concentration in either Instrumental Music Education or Vocal/General Music Education K–12,
  • a minor in Secondary Education,
  • the General Education Program, and
  • additional teacher licensure requirements.

Music, Jazz Studies Specialization, M.M.

Chris Combest, Program Director
(615) 898-2476

The School of Music offers a Master of  Music degree with specializations in collaborative piano, conducting, jazz studies, music composition, music education, musicology, and performance.

Please see undergraduate catalog for information regarding undergraduate programs.

Admission Requirements

Admission to the Master of Music degree program requires

  1. an earned bachelor's degree in Music from an accredited university or college;
  2. an acceptable grade point average in all college work taken (at least 3.00).

Application Procedures

All application materials are to be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies.

Applicant must

  1. submit application with the appropriate application fee (online at Once this initial application has been accepted, the applicant will receive directions on how to enter the graduate portal to be able to submit other materials.
  2. submit official transcripts of all previous college work;
  3. submit three letters of recommendation.

Additionally, those seeking a specialization in jazz studies must complete an audition. Applicants who do not pass the audition may be allowed, at the discretion of the faculty, to be admitted as non-degree seeking for one semester and must register for MUAP 5020 - Private Instruction. They must re-audition at the end of their first semester of study. Students who do not pass the audition on their second attempt will not be admitted to the program.

Degree Requirements

The Master of Music degree in Music with a specialization in jazz studies requires completion of 32 semester hours.

Candidates must

  1. complete the curriculum with 70 percent of the total degree hours at the 6000 level (see Curriculum section below for specifics);
  2. successfully complete both written and oral comprehensive examinations no earlier than the student's last semester of study. Comprehensive examinations may be repeated once.

Additionally, those with a specialization in jazz studies must establish proficiencies in music history and music theory*.

*NOTE: Diagnostic examinations in music theory and music history will be scheduled during the first week of the first semester of study. Students who do not pass the diagnostic examinations should consult with the graduate coordinator to plan how to meet the requirements. Additional courses may be required to satisfy these proficiency requirements.

Curriculum: Music, Jazz Studies

The following illustrates the coursework requirements.

Core Courses (9 hours)


  • MUS 6620 - Bibliography and Research

    3credit hours

    Survey of bibliography and problems and methods of research. Analysis and evaluation of research in the arts.

  • MUTH 6050 - Analytical Techniques

    3credit hours

    Prerequisite: MUTH 5010 or permission of instructor. Skills and procedures of musical analysis as they apply to all periods through analysis of representative compositions. Evaluation of work from all standpoints: craftsmanship, expression, and stylistic correctness.

  • MUS 6630 - Music Seminar  3 credit hours  

    MUS 6630 - Music Seminar

    3credit hours

    Prerequisite: MUS 6620. Study and research of a topic in music determined by the instructor.

Specialization Courses (14 hours)


  • MUAP 668_ - Private Instruction, 3 credit hours
  • MUAP 669_ - Private Instruction, 3 credit hours
  • MUAP 670_ - Private Instruction, 3 credit hours
  • MUAP 6670 - Graduate Recital  3 credit hours  

    MUAP 6670 - Graduate Recital

    3credit hours

    Prerequisites: Completion of MUAP 6682 for the collaborative piano specializations; MUS 6030, MUS 6060, and MUAP 6709 for the conducting specialization; the appropriate courses from among MUAP 6681-MUAP 6688, MUAP 6691-MUAP 6698, and MUAP 6701-MUAP 6708 for the jazz studies and performance specializations; MUAP 6140, MUAP 6150, and MUAP 6160 for the music composition and music composition for contemporary media specializations; and permission of the appropriate music faculty in all specializations. One-hour private lesson per week in the selected performance field and recital preparation until recital completed. Those specializing in collaborative piano may take course three times.

  • Two ensembles (Jazz Ensemble or Jazz Combo) 1 credit hour each, 2 credit hours

Guided Electives (9 hours)

Three courses to be selected from the following:

  • MUHL 5530 - History of Jazz  3 credit hours  

    MUHL 5530 - History of Jazz

    3credit hours

    Study of the history and literature of jazz music including African roots, developments, and aspects of style periods, and the contemporary state of jazz. Listening and analysis.

  • MUPD 6330 - Jazz Pedagogy and Program Administration

    3credit hours

    In-depth study of materials and techniques for teaching jazz at the high school and college level. Rehearsal techniques and identification of and solutions to performance problems. Study of the development and implementation of a successful jazz studies program including educational jazz festival administration.

  • MUTH 5280 - Advanced Jazz Arranging

    3credit hours

    Prerequisite: MUTH 4170. Advanced analysis and arranging for various combinations of instruments and voice for small and large jazz ensembles. Periods, performance practices, stylistic features, and artists.

  • MUTH 6060 - Advanced Improvisation

    3credit hours

    Explores the art of improvisation. Emphasis on advanced harmonic and melodic principles and on the development of a personal style. Listening and analysis of solos by great jazz artists and in-class performances of student projects and improvisations.

Proficiency Courses Determined by Placement Examination (0-6 hours)

Either or both of these courses may be required based on the results of the student's diagnostic examinations in music history and music theory:

  • MUTH 5010 - Theory Survey  3 credit hours  

    MUTH 5010 - Theory Survey

    3credit hours

    A review of musicianship skills and knowledge of musical theory to the degree necessary for the candidate to pursue work at the graduate level. Does not count toward the M.M. in Music. S/U grading.

  • MUHL 5070 - Music History Survey  1 to 3 credit hours  
    (3 credit hours)(3 credit hours required)  dotslash:(3 credit hours required) title:(3 credit hours) 
    (3 credit hours required) 

    MUHL 5070 - Music History Survey

    1 to 3credit hours

    Review of music in history and culture to degree necessary for candidate to pursue work on graduate level. Does not count toward the M.M. in Music. May count toward satisfying proficiencies for the Master of Music. S/U grading.

Our adjunct faculty bring outstanding professional experience to our programs. Many are industry leaders with decorated careers and honors. Importantly, they are innovative educators who offer hands-on learning to our students to prepare them to enter and thrive in a dynamic, and oftentimes emerging, industry and professional world. They inspire, instruct, and challenge our students toward academic and professional success.

General Application Procedures

  1. Submit through the University’s Application tool (button below):
    1. Submit application with the appropriate fee
    2. Submit official transcripts of all previous college work
    3. Submit three letters of recommendation.
  2. Email directly to the program coordinator of interested area
    1. Additional Requirements (video links, papers, compositions, etc)
  3. By the February 1 deadline
    1. Complete a Student Application (if interested) for a Graduate Teaching Assistantship

Additional Requirements: Audition

Please submit Percussion requirements to and all other Jazz Studies Area requirements to

All Pitched Instruments Requirements (includes jazz guitar, double bass, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, and piano)

The audition will consist of an assessment of the following:

  1. Performance of major scales and modes, harmonic minor scales, melodic minor scales and modes, chromatic scale, half/whole diminished, blues scales, and dominant bebop scales. All scales must be prepared in all 12 keys and played the full range of instrument/voice.

  2. Arpeggios: major, minor, augmented, and diminished triads; major 7th, dominant 7th, minor 7th, minor 7th b5, diminished 7th chords; all in root position, twelve keys, two

  3. Sight-reading skills

  4. Three songs, one each from lists 1 and 2 & 3 below, all memorized (melody and chords). Play the melody (acoustic bass players must play melody arco), comp one chorus (guitar and piano only), walk one chorus (bass only), improvise one chorus, and play the melody again.

    LIST 1

    • Scrapple From The Apple
    • Half Nelson Blues For Alice Ornithology

    LIST 2

    • Have You Met Miss Jones
    • All the Things You Are Stella By Starlight Lady bird

    LIST 3

    • Body and Soul
    • In A Sentimental Mood I Can't Get Started Round Midnight

Drum Set – Jazz Studies Graduate Audition Requirements

  1. The applicant should submit a screening video which will be reviewed by the faculty to determine your invitation for an on- campus audition. The applicant will be notified regarding the results of the viewing prior to their requested audition date. On-site auditions are for applicants who have passed the screening video audition. All applicants shall provide a copy of their audition repertoire to be included with the screening recording DVD recording. Here is how you should format your video:
    1. At the beginning of the video, state your
    2. State the degree that you are
    3. Announce the title and composer before each
    4. Double check your dvd on various players to assure that everything is in
    5. All videos must be unedited and without artificial audio
    6. Please note that the DVDs will not be
    7. Please include a 2-3 minute statement to comment on why MTSU School of Music interests you and what you hope to accomplish while attending this

      The applicant can send their video to:

      School of Music Prof. Lalo Davila
      Murfreesboro, TN. 37132

      The screening repertoire is the same as for the live audition. If you advance to an on-campus audition, you may choose to change your audition repertoire, but this is not required.

      If you would be unable to schedule a live on-campus audition if you advance, then at the beginning of your screening recording state your name, and the degree and major you seek, and that this is your "screening and final percussion audition video”.

  2. The student must also contact Dr. Joseph E. Morgan, Graduate Coordinator, for possible additional requirements. His email is

  3. The student will also provide three letters of reference prior to their

All applicants must perform various styles and sight reading on drumset. It is suggested that you bring an additional DVD of performances with a jazz combo or big band. The applicant will be asked to demonstrate:

  • Soloing in various settings: trading fours, filling, and improvising over an ostinato
  • Perform a fast tempo bebop melody on the drum set (Blues For Alice, Ornithology, Scrapple From the Apple)
  • Knowledge of the jazz idiom, traditional and modern, at various
  • Proficiency in rock, funk, and fusion
  • Knowledge of various Afro-Cuban styles including Cha-Cha-Cha, Bolero, Songo, Afro-Cuban 6/8, and Son
  • The student will also be asked to perform the following styles: Bossa Nova, Samba, and Partido Alto.
  • They will be asked to read drum charts of diverse
  • The student will probably perform with a play-a-long recording (provided) as part of a sight-reading process.
  • The student will demonstrate good knowledge of jazz vibes and concert 

For those graduate students seeking Graduate Assistantships, a drum set solo (and experience in drum set instruction) is mandatory.

Jazz Voice Audition Repertoire

  • Perform selections from each of the following categories and perform, memorized. Please provide the faculty panel with the lead sheets and/or arrangements that you are using. The student is responsible for accompaniment at the audition, in the form of an accompanist or backing
    • 2 – 3 standards from the American Songbook, demonstrating different styles/tempos.
    • 1 blues
    • 1other selection of your choice that demonstrates your abilities. A classical or “latin” tune may be chosen to demonstrate ability in those
  • Provide the faculty with a professional resume and a list of memorized jazz
  • A jazz theory diagnostic exam may be required.
  • Complete all other MTSU application materials, including reference letters and transcripts


Proficiency Courses Determined by Placement Examination (0-14 hours)

Either or both of these courses may be required based on the results of the student's diagnostic examinations in music history and music theory:

  • MUTH 5010 - Theory Survey  3 credit hours 
  • MUHL 5070 - Music History Survey  1 to 3 credit hours

Online or Hybrid Programs at a Glance

This program is available .

For More Information or Explore Your Options​

Contact your department / program coordinator or advisor for more details about the program OR work one-on-one with your advisor to explore your options.

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The Online Advantage​

With over 25 years of experience in online teaching and learning, MTSU Online offers students access to innovative, high-quality programs. Designed with students in mind, our courses allow maximum flexibility for those unable to participate in person. ​

Resources and services for online students are available from MTSU Online or contact us at

Contact Information

Director of Graduate Studies
Dr. Chris Combest

Who is My Advisor?

Director of Graduate Studies
Dr. Chris Combest

Mailing Address

School of Music
Middle Tennessee State University
MTSU Box 47
1301 East Main Street
Murfreesboro, TN 37132

College of Graduate Studies
Middle Tennessee State University
MTSU Box 42
1301 East Main Street
Murfreesboro, TN 37132

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