Musical improvisation in higher education

Musical improvisation in Higher Education: Values, methods and assessment

Team members: Raymond MacDonald, Zack Moir, Nikki Moran, Michael Edwards


A growing body of staff and students within the Reid School of Music are interested and involved in improvisation and see it as an invaluable skill. It is also a practice that promotes developments in many areas of musicianship, and beyond. Despite this, there is currently little formal focus on improvisation as part of the BMus degree programme. However, in September 2014, the music department will be launching a new (undergraduate) MA in music in which it is planned for improvisation to have a very significant place in the curriculum. Additionally, the music department has recently appointed a Professor of Music Psychology and Improvisation (Prof Raymond MacDonald), indicating a serious increase in focus on improvisation within the department.

This research will encompass 15 semi-structured interviews, with individuals involved in the teaching of musical improvisation in higher education (HE) institutions throughout the UK and Europe (including France, Germany, Austria and Norway). With specific focus on course design and assessment, the research team will investigate the values, methods, approaches and assessment strategies of people working in this area, in order to gain a deeper understanding of ways in which musical improvisation is taught, practiced and assessed in HE institutions throughout the countries noted above.

This will allow the research team to develop and contextualise our approach to improvisation pedagogy and will assist in the development of new courses on improvisation at the University of Edinburgh (including ideas for assessment practices), as well as contributing to the wider debate surrounding this area of music education.

Final Project Report

Final project report may be downloaded here