Our spring sale is on! Use promo code SPRING24 at checkout to save 50% on any order!

Jamming the Classroom

Musical Improvisation and Pedagogical Practice

Subjects: Music, Musicology
Paperback : 9780472056361, 190 pages, 6 x 9, October 2023
Hardcover : 9780472076369, 190 pages, 6 x 9, October 2023
Open Access : 9780472903757, 190 pages, 6 x 9, October 2023

Partial funding for this book was provided by CURIE (Carleton University's Open Access Fund).
See expanded detail +

Musical improvisation as a vehicle for teaching, learning, and enacting social justice

Table of contents


Preface – “Stepping into Another World”

Introduction – The Many Classrooms of Improvisation

Chapter One – Solo Dialogics: Autodidactic Methods of Learning to Improvise

Chapter Two – Hearing What the Other Has to Play: Co-Learning through Musical Improvisation

Chapter Three – Music Festivals as Alternative Pedagogical Institutions

Chapter Four – Improv Goes to School: Musical Improvisation and the Academy

Chapter Five – A Force That’s Active in the World: Community-Oriented Pedagogies of Improvisation

Coda: Performance as Pedagogy

Works Cited

Selected Discography of Improvised Music



Drawing on a mix of collaborative autoethnography, secondary literature, interviews with leading improvisers, and personal anecdotal material, Jamming the Classroom discusses the pedagogy of musical improvisation as a vehicle for teaching, learning, and enacting social justice. Heble and Stewart write that to “jam the classroom” is to argue for a renewed understanding of improvisation as both a musical and a social practice; to activate the knowledge and resources associated with improvisational practices in an expression of noncompliance with dominant orders of knowledge production; and to recognize in the musical practices of aggrieved communities something far from the reaches of conventional forms of institutionalized power, yet something equally powerful, urgent, and expansive. With this definition of jamming the classroom in mind, Heble and Stewart argue that even as improvisation gains recognition within mainstream institutions (including classrooms in universities), it needs to be understood as a critique of dominant institutionalized assumptions and epistemic orders. Suggesting a closer consideration of why musical improvisation has been largely expunged from dominant models of pedagogical inquiry in both classrooms and communities, this book asks what it means to theorize the pedagogy of improvised music in relation to public programs of action, debate, and critical practice.


Ajay Heble is Professor of English and Director of the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation at the University of Guelph. In 2023 he was awarded the Killam Prize in the Humanities. 
Jesse Stewart is Associate Professor of Music at the School for Studies in Art and Culture at Carleton University. He is also the founder of We Are All Musicians, an organization dedicated to fostering inclusive music making.

“Coming from two authors who are improvisers themselves, and who have sought out the views and visions of improvising musicians and thoughtful scholars, Jamming the Classroom paves a pathway for honing one’s skills, for evaluating the process by which improvisation develops, and for offering a critical analysis of improvisation and how it is taught/learned. This is scholarship at its best, where in this case the very best minds on the topic are featured in support of themes surrounding improvisation and pedagogical practice.”
—Patricia Shehan Campbell, University of Washington; Carleton University

- Patricia Shehan Campbell

“By highlighting the many ways that people learn and engage with musical improvisation, as well as the potential benefits of musical improvisation for both individuals and communities, Jamming the Classroom serves as a valuable contribution to—and indeed, may rise to the top of—the recent wave of studies that seek to trouble and expand received notions of musical values.”
—David Ake, Frost School of Music, University of Miami

- David Ake